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This is a Community Striving for High Ideals

Re-opening Celebration
From left to right: Mark Bisset, Margaret Pomeroy, Bruce Duncan, David Homer, Don Scott (hidden!), Frank Steeve, Dorthea Hangaard, Kristi McKechnie, Errin Reilly, Ken Thomson

Running a charitable venture may be among the hungriest of business pursuits.

You have no widgets to sell; you can’t ratchet up sales by improving your product line. Your customers are your employers, so you hope to get it right every time. Good will is, after all, easily transportable.

Success doesn’t necessarily translate into more resources, but it always translates into more work. The rules of supply and demand don’t apply in the same way. We work to supply a “demand” that may not be valued in economic terms, even if it should be.

This is in no way a lament; rather it is offered as background to support a basic truth: in good times and in bad, charities depend on their community for survival.

And for that reason, charities like The Couchiching Conservancy are blessed to call this community home.

At this time of the year, with all the emphasis on giving and good will toward our fellow humans, it’s nice to reflect back over the legacy of giving this little community has generated. Collectively, when you consider all the volunteer time, the support from businesses and the gifts of individual donors, the dollar figure must be many millions. And the causes supported read like a list of the highest aspirations of humanity: equality, good health, education, support for the least among us, homes for the homeless, space for the displaced, cultural enrichment, environmental balance.

I always find this living aspect of my community heartening. I take refuge in it whenever I muster the wisdom to pay attention.

I can offer the Conservancy as one example of the importance our community plays in the success of local charities. An astonishing 66 businesses supported our cause with either cash or services in 2016. That number becomes even more impressive when you think of the number of charities and worthy causes knocking on the door of these entrepreneurs. One business leader told me he receives upwards of 10 requests a week.  I happen to know he responds to a great many of them.

An astonishing 66 businesses supported our cause with either cash or services in 2016.

In addition to the business community, there are the thousands of people who volunteer to make their community a little stronger. We have more than 350 people volunteering in various capacities for the Conservancy. They help us protect land, monitor properties, build trails and bridges, put up signs, clean up messes, fight invasive species, educate the public about our work, teach children about the natural world around them, carry out citizen science projects, and a hundred other things. In the last 12 months we estimate well over 5,000 hours have gone into various tasks to help us achieve our goals.

Then there are our donors: people from every walk of life who believe that our salvation lies in protecting the land, water and air upon which we depend. They put their hard-earned dollars behind us to make sure that the wild spaces we love so much will be here for future generations.

This powerful community base of businesses, volunteers and donors is crucial to attracting support from further afield. Last year, more than 41 foundations, government agencies and other organizations invested in The Couchiching Conservancy’s vision for the region. Again and again, we used the support or our community as proof that our work matters, that it is worthy of further support. This is a great gift to our organization, and I know it’s repeated again and again across the charitable sector.

So to all of you who supported an area cause, and particularly to those who made it possible for The Couchiching Conservancy to protect more land, protect more species at risk, help private landowners achieve their stewardship goals, and offer broad access to the wild lands in our region, thank you.

May you all prosper in the healthy community you’ve worked so hard to build.

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Mark Bisset is the Executive Director of The Couchiching Conservancy a non-government, charitable land trust that protects wild spaces for future generations.