Marking National Volunteer Week (April 2018)

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As I write this, it is National Volunteer Week in Canada. According to Volunteer Canada’s website:

National Volunteer Week (NVW) is a time to celebrate and thank Canada’s 12.7 million volunteers….

Volunteering is often seen as a selfless act; a person gives their time, skills, experience, and passion to help others, without expecting anything in return. And while volunteering is a form of service, many volunteers will tell you that “you get more than you give”. From opportunities to develop new skills, to finding deep and meaningful personal connections, the magic of volunteering is that it creates social and economic value for all.

In the spirit of this celebratory week, I want to acknowledge the volunteers whose efforts support the mission of The Manitoba Law Foundation to advance legal knowledge, foster excellence within the legal profession and facilitate community understanding of the justice system through funding programs and initiatives that promote and enhance these commitments.

By statute, the Board of Directors of The Manitoba Law Foundation consists of five persons appointed by the Minister of Justice, including a Chair and Vice-Chair, as well as three individuals appointed by The Law Society of Manitoba, one appointed by the Manitoba Bar Association and the Dean of the Faulty of Law at the University of Manitoba. Current Board members are: Garth Smorang, Q.C. (Chair), Lori Ferguson Sain (Vice Chair), Monica Adeler, Terumi Kuwada, Janna Cumming, Jack Cram, Bill Gange, Barry Effler, Karlee Blatz and Dean Jonathan Black-Branch.

Our Board members meet at minimum four times each year (or more often) to oversee administration of the investments and revenues of the Foundation, monitor the work of the Executive Director, develop and maintain appropriate policies with respect to the Foundation and to make decisions on all applications for grant funding. They do so conscientiously, efficiently and with enthusiasm, spending many hours each year reviewing board agenda and grant application materials.

While the monetary value of their collective contributions to the work of The Manitoba Law Foundation would be challenging to quantify, the outcomes of their efforts are much easier to see. During many years of low prime rates and the resulting reduced revenue to the Foundation, the Board was able to maintain operating grant levels for organizations that depend on Foundation funding in order to continue delivering valuable justice services. Doing so required careful budgeting and fiscal management, and necessitated reductions in the Foundation’s Reserve for Future Grants but resulted in stability of funding to those grant recipients.

Currently, as interest rates begin to move upward, the Board will need to make strategic choices in terms of replenishing the Reserve, building up current grantee capacity and funding new initiatives.  How these challenges will be addressed is yet to be determined, but there is no doubt that this group of volunteers is well-prepared for the task.

As a still relatively new Executive Director, I am immensely grateful to the Foundation’s Directors both for their support and their contributions to the work of The Manitoba Law Foundation.  I hope that the next time you come in contact with one of them, you will take a moment to ask them about their work on behalf of the Foundation and to thank them for their efforts to advance justice in Manitoba.

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