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  • Doug Townsend


The heart and soul of Rotary’s involvement in the Kingston community and in every other Rotary club worldwide lies in using the funds that we raise locally. You are probably familiar with a number of our own projects, especially after you have read a number of these Reflections, but what many of you won’t know is that we also assist smaller charities, helping them in their own service projects. These projects also address important local needs for children, or health initiatives, or food insecurity, or the environment, to name a few.

There is never a shortage of worthwhile projects. Each club has a different approach, but the Cataraqui-Kingston Rotary Club is typical. Twice a year, we publicize upcoming dates and criteria for funding requests. What is the mission and structure of the requesting organization? What is the project and how does it fit with Rotary’s objectives? Who will benefit? What other fundraising resources are being used and what is requested from Rotary to bridge the gap? Is this truly a one-off project or simply a part of annual budgeting?

Every club member is asked to help raise funds and this process provides any member with the opportunity to help decide on the disbursement of those funds. We eliminate requests that do not meet the published criteria or Rotary objectives, then discuss and eventually vote on the allocation of available funds to favoured projects. Cheques are usually handed out within two weeks with no further red tape. Through this program, our club has distributed more than $250,000 in the last decade, usually in individual grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

These funds are used for charitable causes, but not necessarily restricted to registered charities. The emphasis is on one-off projects, but a few organizations bring unique and interesting projects to us every two or three years. A list of repeat organizations would include H’Art Studios, Loving Spoonful, Lunch by George, The Mess Art Studio, Almost Home, Kingston 4 Paws Service Dogs, and many others.

Following the Cataraqui club’s lead, the Rotary Club of Kingston launched its annual Community Outreach Grants program in 2015 with an initial budget of $10,000. Since that time, over $100,000 has been granted to organizations and groups to launch or build programs and projects that make a difference in our community.

The Kingston club’s Community Outreach Grants committee is made up of about 20% of the club members in order to bring diverse opinions to the table. Every January, there are on average 30 applications from not-for-profits, community groups, and schools to be reviewed. Once the decisions are made, all successful groups are invited to a March celebratory club meeting to receive their cheques and make a brief presentation about their organization and the impact that the grants will have on those in our community who will benefit. These meetings are truly emotional, inspirational, and informative!

The grants programs for both the Cataraqui and Kingston clubs are an effective way for Rotarians to reach out to community organizations, learn more about the clients they serve, and better understand the need for these innovative high-impact, low-cost programs and services.

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