It’s been around so long the phone number on one of the original brochures doesn’t have an area code. No website was listed and no email address was given.
Even founding father Mike Coleman forgets when it all began.
Thank goodness for the internet.
According to government records online, the Cowichan Foundation was registered as a non-profit charity on Jan. 1, 1983.
Since then it has quietly supported a number of Cowichan-area causes, including many in Ladysmith. It focuses mostly on education, arts and culture, namely in the form of scholarships and bursaries.
And it’s time to shine a light on just what the foundation is all about, according to Coleman.
“We’ve been under the radar but we do some very good work,” he said. “We have some very long-time supporters who contribute annually, which is very supportive,” Coleman noted.
The foundation has six $1,000 memorial awards at Vancouver Island University as part of it’s annual contribution to help post-secondary students from the Cowichan Valley, in addition to other educational-related awards totalling upwards of $12,000 annually to Vancouver Island University students alone.
“We decided delibertately not to do high school graduation ones because there’s lots of funds for those. There’s less funding available for post secondary,” Coleman said. “This is restricted to Cowichan area students attending university, most of it goes to VIU, either in the Cowichan campus or Nanaimo but we also have funds that are going to students at UVic and UBC and so forth.”
Most of the bursaries are named after long-time supporters, Coleman noted, listing:
Dr. Owen Gloster (iconic doctor, philanthropist, longtime Cowichan Foundation president);
Art Mann (community leader, United Church stalwart, Freeman of Duncan);
Dennis Alphonse (longest-serving Chief of the Cowichan people);
Don Morton (former Reeve and Freeman of North Cowichan); June Gillespie, whose bequest significantly increased the assets of the Cowichan Foundation and;
Roger Stanyer, a longtime labour leader from the Cowichan Valley, whose impact in his field was provincial and national, and who early saw the significant potential of the Cowichan Foundation and was one of its original board members.
In 2016 the Rollie Rose Award was also created to honour the past president of the Cowichan Foundation. Rose is a former Mayor of Ladysmith and former publisher of the Ladysmith Chronicle. There’s even a Michael G. Coleman, QC Award now, too.
The awards make a huge different to recipients, as confirmed by their thank you letters and cards.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to study and this bursary enables me to focus more on my studies and less on my financial worries,” wrote one recipient.
“I am a ‘mature’ student (have been out of high school for 10 years) and the scholarship has taken the edge off of the financial burden,” wrote another.
“Being a student can be trying at times, but success becomes easier with a network of support. Thank you very much for your support,” wrote a third.
Coleman keeps all of the thank yous on file.
“The letters are really quite moving,” he said. “It’s very expensive to be a student and this extra cash makes a world of difference.”
And it’s not just students the foundation helps.
“We do some other things as well,” Coleman said.
The foundation also supports Cowichan Wheels, the E.J. Hughes Legacy Project, and managed the grants and donations that were received for the purpose of restoring the historic Kinsol Trestle.
To learn more, visit cowichanfoundation.com