This year is the Winnipeg Foundation's 90th anniversary and to kick off celebrations they are having community festival on Sunday at the Manitoba Museum.
In a city without a huge number of corporate head offices, the Foundation is an unsung hero, doling out millions - over $20m in 2009 - to community projects, organizations, scholarships, capital campaigns etc. across the province. You've probably been involved with a few of them and not even known it. To see the funds that they administer or manage check out their website or the 17 page listing in their 2009 annual report !
Here is a little background on the Foundation:
The Winnipeg Foundation is Canada's first community foundation. It began in 1921 when William Forbes Alloway, then 51, provided a cheque for $100,000 (about $1.25m in 2010 dollars) to kick start the fund. In the accompanying letter he wrote: "I owe everything to this community and I feel that it should derive some benefit from what I have been able to accumulate."
Alloway circa 1925 (source)
Alloway was a Winnipeg pioneer. Born in Ireland, his family settled in the Montreal area when he was a toddler. He came to Manitoba in 1870 as a militiaman to quell the Riel's uprising and settled in Winnipeg. He held many jobs including policeman, veterinarian, tobacconist, auctioneer and transportation supervisor. He also had a couple of stints on city council.
In 1879 he partnered with Henry Champion to form what would become Canada's largest private bank with two locations on Main Street. In 1919 the bank was sold to the Commerce Bank of Canada and Alloway became a very rich man.
At the time of his donation the Winnipeg Free Press wrote:
"Mr. Alloway's full-handed debt of loyalty to the welfare of the city of which he is one of the oldest citizens will provide a continuing agency of practical good....The example he has given is one for other citizens to follow. The spirit shown means even more than the amount given."
Since that day people have donated to the Foundation. In 2009 they established 148 new funds, the most created in a single year. (Source).
W.F. Alloway Canadian Dictionary of Biography
History and Timeline Winnipeg Foundation
Alloway and Champion Historic Buildings Committee