Why I Give: Because a dollar in the right hands can go a long way

By Ilka Bene

Like anyone, I work hard for my money. When I donate to charity, it’s important I know that my money will work hard for my community.

Stretching a dollar to squeeze the most out of every cent is a specialized skill; employees and volunteers who work in the not-for-profit sector are unbelievably talented at this. As I’m a long-time volunteer—including 18 years with the Boys & Girls Club both locally and provincially—I’ve seen first-hand how foundations strategically spend donated funds to give as much support as possible to those in need. Here’s how I look at it: donating money to a charity is a great thing to do—it’s akin to adding much-needed funds to their chequing account. Donating to a foundation is more like contributing to an RRSP, which is a long-term investment that makes the future more secure. When I donate to a foundation, that’s my money working hard. It’s there for the long haul.

I became familiar with the First West Foundation and the Employee Giving Campaign in 2013 when Island Savings merged with First West Credit Union. As part of the merger, the Foundation established the Island Savings Community Endowment—an opportunity for Island Savings employees to continue supporting very local causes on Vancouver, Pender and Salt Spring Island. Another endowment was created in 2014 to honour the enduring legacy of our former president and CEO, Rod Dewar, when he left the organization. This was my first contribution directly through the Foundation.

I’m also an avid supporter of the Canadian Red Cross, the Canadian Cancer Society, the BC Cancer Foundation, and the Heart & Stroke Foundation—all charities that are doing outstanding work. I have friends and family who have volunteered or worked with these organizations directly, but I also know of lives that have been touched by their accomplishments.

I’ve always felt that compassion and caring for others is part of our ethos as Canadians and as First Westers. To those who are looking to make a difference, I recommend getting involved as a volunteer—give your time, expertise and knowledge in support of others. But there are sometimes things you can’t do that a dollar in the right hands can, such as researching cancer treatments, counselling a grieving teen or delivering relief to flood victims. When you donate to causes you believe in, you become part of the solution.