June 16th, 2024

Voting open until Nov. 10 for Field Law Community Fund applicants

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on October 25, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

In 2020, 37 volunteers spent more than 3,000 hours making thousands of COVID masks, scrub bags and ear protectors for first responders, gowns for a healthcare aid training class, and tuques for homeless and low-income people.

That small group of dedicated volunteers made 2,639 projects, many of which may not have been completed without a donation from Field Law, a law firm with offices in the Alberta cities of Calgary and Edmonton, and in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. The donation to the Stitch It Forward Society of Lethbridge was only one of many donations Field Law gave to various organizations in 2019 through its community fund program.

The program has provided a total of $685,000 over the past nine years to more than 100 community-focused initiatives, and will provide another $75,000 this year.

“We are proud that this is the Field Law Community Fund Program’s tenth year of operation,” says Jeremiah Kowalchuk, Field Law managing partner.

Of the $75,000 in funding available this year, a total of $30,000 will be available for successful Northern Alberta applicants, $30,000 for Southern Alberta and $15,000 for Northwest Territories.

In 2019 The Stitch It Forward Society of Lethbridge received $5,000 to help rent space where members could meet and make items needed in the community, such as chemotherapy hats, altered clothing for physically disabled people and heart pillows for hospital patients. With the pandemic hitting in 2020 and meeting together no longer possible, the society used the money to pay for their storage unit and purchase supplies.

This year, Field Law received 130 applications from organizations and individuals with “pay-it-forward” ideas for their communities, and residents of Alberta and Northwest Territories are again being asked to vote for their favourite community initiatives. Voting is open at fieldlawcommunityfund.com until Nov. 10, after which a panel of judges will factor in the votes to help determine the winners and how much money they receive.

Kowalchuk says winners are chosen based on both votes and a judging panel because smaller, grassroots initiatives may not have the same size networks as some of the larger organizations, and incorporating the judging panel helps give them a fair shot at funding.

“The voting period is an important part of the process of the Field Law Community Fund Program. We want to hear from the public where help is most needed, so that we can do our part to help make our communities stronger through the great work of our many applicants.”

Rather than leaving the giving strategy strictly up to members of the firm, they decided to get input from voters on which projects in their communities they would like to see supported financially. Once the voting period closes, the panel of judges will review the applications, using criteria which includes community impact, clarity of the application, originality and online votes received.

Kowalchuk says one of the benefits of the funding program is that it helps the law firm give back to the community in a meaningful way, while simultaneously generating more positive attention for local causes and initiatives through traditional and social media.

“The public vote component provides participants with a public platform by exposing their projects to an audience they might not otherwise have been able to engage with. We had over 136,000 page views from 50,000 visitors in 2021. This new audience could turn into supporters, volunteers or donors for these initiatives, so even if they aren’t successful in receiving funding, they could receive the help they need to bring their projects to life.”

Included among the southern Alberta applicants this year is Lock It Up! Services, a business that offers the vulnerable population in Medicine Hat both casual cash employment, as well as long and short-term storage for their belongings.

The Pathways Wellness Society is another applicant, and provides a “pre-detox” program with workshops for people who are still using substances and have mental health issues. The Society partners with the Lethbridge John Howard Society and Kindness to Others Society, and all three benefit as they strive to help people from each organization.

CPAWS Southern Alberta is also applying for a donation to help protect nature through education, engagement, and collaboration with Albertans. CPAWS wants to host in 2023 a series of Indigenous-led nature walks to engage Albertans in land-based learning and conservation through an Indigenous lens. During the walks, titled Land-based Learning in Mohkinstsis (Calgary) and Sik-Ooh-Kotoki (Lethbridge), elders and knowledge keepers will bring their perspectives on nature and conservation to participants and direct them to continue taking care of the environment.

To vote for an initiative, log onto fieldlawcommunityfund.com and click on “vote” then click on the links for northern Alberta, southern Alberta or Northwest Territories. From there choose an initiative then click “vote.” Voting closes Nov. 10 and winners will be announced Dec. 7.

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