In every community there are people who get things done. These people, like Janice Wing, provide the leadership and support that a community needs to grow and develop.
Wing was born in Calgary, and the married mother of three grown children has resided in Innisfail since the mid 1980s.
Her community involvement and development as a community leader began, as it often does with women with a family, by volunteering at the Innisfail school her children attended.
It wasn’t long before she was the school’s business manager. Before that she picked up a diploma in geology at the University of Alberta and SAIT and worked in the oil and gas industry.
Now she is chief executive officer of the Red Deer & District Community Foundation, started in 1989 (Mayor Morris Flewwelling was a major force in its formation). Wing became a board member in 1997 and CEO in 2001.
“We’re a centre for philanthropy, and it’s a lot more than just writing a cheque. We are not a government foundation, we are a public foundation to build capacity for growth through endowments,” she explains. “Working with donors we set up permanent funds (legacy funds that survive in perpetuity), but also non-permanent funds where donors can direct grants to a huge range of projects in the community.”
In its early days the Foundation’s first projects included making every playground in Red Deer wheelchair accessible or providing then very expensive computer technology to community organizations.
“Now we’ve become more strategic, addressing what an organization needs for professional development, although we still do lots of straight grants, funding events like Open Doors and bringing in professional development. We especially respond to new needs in the community.”
The Foundation, which invests and grows the millions of dollars it manages, contributes between $300,000 and $350,000 into community projects annually in arts and culture, environment, sports and recreation and other areas. It doesn’t fund individuals (although it does fund scholarships), but funds projects through registered charities or organized bodies, like the Red Deer Public Library.
“Because we are able to focus on the whole community, we realize the whole community relies on each other for support.”
Wing says she is so passionate and positive about the Foundation “Because I live in the whole community and so do all of us. We are so lucky to live in a country and a community like this where things like growth and sustainability are so important to us.
“I love my job, I love the organization, I love the potential of the Foundation. In a perfect world I would continue to see it grow. It’s exciting. We get to work with philanthropic people, who have great knowledge and we get to translate that into action. We have a lot of amazing people in Red Deer.
“One of the benefits of working in the community foundation world and being able to work with a broad range of agencies, when I get together with my colleagues across Canada and internationally, is that you learn communities are identical. You also learn that people who live in communities want the best for their children, for the next generation and to create a place that they call home.
“Red Deer is unique and our history has caused us to be unique because we have people here who are very passionate about ensuring there is care and equity for folks. We have strong and open lines of communication and we work hard at it. It doesn’t happen by accident.”
She also holds a variety of volunteer positions, including chair of the board of governors of Red Deer College over the last year (she’s been on the board for seven years) and she sits on the community services panel in Innisfail.
“I would never ask someone to do something I wouldn’t do myself. I’m also not afraid to roll up my sleeves to get things done and I’m lucky to live in a place where I’m not the only one who feels that way,” she says.
“Some of us are silly enough to keep putting our hand up when something needs to be done.”