When Howard Courtney was asked by the Town of Innisfil to become a founding member of the Innisfil Community Foundation (ICF), along with a couple of other volunteers who he respects and admires, he was excited to get that call.
Formed in March 2020, ICF offers financial grants and partnerships to organizations working on sustainable solutions to systemic issues such as poverty and hunger.
"It was an easy answer. The goal to put this foundation at arm's length from the municipality, as a foundation to receive and distribute funds independently from the influence of the Town of Innisfil seemed both wise and prudent,” said Courtney, who's currently serving as the vice-chair of the ICF board of directors.
Courtney also recently retired as pastor of Innisfil Community Church, where he served for 43 years.
While focused on adding value to the grant-making process, Courtney enjoys witnessing how funding decisions are made at the philanthropic table.
“It is just wonderful to hear these on-the-ground charity soldiers defend and describe their programs and services," he said.
Courtney particularly enjoys attending the ICF's charity check-in roundtable event, where local charities are brought together to discuss challenges and opportunities to collaborate in the future.
“In these gatherings, each charity is given an opportunity to highlight some of their activities in a single on-site forum. Watching these charity leaders networking together is one of the greatest moments," he said.
Courtney said it has been amazing to see local charitable agencies utilize the funds funnelled through the ICF to serve the needs of Innisfil residents.
That’s the case with Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre's Rapid Access to Addiction Medication (RAAM), a Barrie clinic that helps bridge service gaps to offer immediate and free help for people struggling with high-risk substance use and addictions. The clinic was granted $10,000 by the ICF to help expand the outdoor space for group therapy, which will help RAAM provide the best quality of care for community members seeking to break the addiction cycle.
According to the ICF, more than 50 Innisfil residents were treated at the RAAM Clinic in 2020, and that number continues to climb due to our region’s growing opioid crisis.
“We live in a community filled with a variety of challenging issues, including youth mental health issues, but where generous and caring people love to volunteer and confront these issues imparting help, positivity, and support where needed," said Courtney.
In the wake of challenges that increased the demand for support by many locals in need over the past few years, Courtney sees the ICF plays an impactful role in addressing community issues.
“Big changes come with the accumulation of many small steps that have been and continue to be taken,” he said.
Courtney noted that volunteerism has been an integral part of his life since he was a youth.
“One does not have to look very far before discovering open opportunities where you can make a difference in other people's lives," he said. "To see the impact of your efforts is both rewarding and invigorating.”
Often, said Courtney, it just takes a little time and energy to make the world a better place for someone.
“I have found myself rewarded frequently with the kind words of the community, both those in leadership roles and people on the street," he said.
However, as Courtney remarked, volunteering comes not only with satisfaction but also with some sacrifices.
“There are times that volunteers are required to adjust their own schedules for the sake of serving others," he said.
Also, Courtney says, there are times when volunteers find themselves in uncomfortable positions, such as at public events that they are not accustomed to, with people they do not know, and alongside people who are very different from them.
“These may be hurdles that we must overcome as volunteers," he said.
For more information on the Innisfil Community Foundation, visit www.innisfilcommunityfoundation.ca.