Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Past - and Future - of Social Profits in Fort McMurray

This is a banner year for many local social profit organizations. This year the SPCA celebrates 35 years in our community, as does the United Way. The Wood Buffalo Food Bank (formerly the Fort McMurray Food Bank) celebrates 30 years of service, and I suspect there are others that have been around for just as long, or even longer. These milestones are worthy of celebration, and of recognition - but they are worth far more, too, because these organizations form the backbone of our community. These non-profit groups have changed and evolved just as this region has done, changing themselves as we have changed, and riding the same waves this place has ridden for decades. And the reason they have done this and survived - and thrived - is because of their leadership.

Over the past two years I have had the honour and the pleasure of meeting many of the individuals who currently operate the non-profit organizations in our community. I have met their executive directors, their staff, and members of their boards. I have met those who have served these organizations previously, and I have always noticed one thing - passion and commitment to meet their mandate.

Without strong leadership, past, present, and future, the organizations in our social profit sector would not survive. Without leadership open to change and growth, the qualities that most define this region, these groups would falter. Even the name for the non-profit sector has changed, and I welcome the concept of referring to it now as "social profit" or "community benefit" to truly reflect what they do and who they are. They are engaged in the industry of community benefit, and profiting us socially - and we should be deeply grateful that they are.

I have so many stories now of how local social profit organizations touch lives, from the wee ferret we adopted last year from the SPCA to the patrons at the Centre of Hope who kindly share their thoughts with me to the clients at the food bank. I see how these organizations, and those who run them, touch all of our lives in one way or another. They have touched my life deeply in the past two years, and I am beyond proud to be associated with them and the people who operate them. I am, in fact, honoured.

I have a very fundamental belief about life. I believe that we as a society are only as strong as our social profit sector, because I believe in the end societies are judged by how they care for the most vulnerable. We are not judged by how we treat the wealthy, or how big our houses are, or what cars we drive. We will be judged and remembered by how we treat those who can fall through the cracks, and those who are too easily forgotten or overlooked. Our strength is not found in government or industry or commerce, although those things are vital, too. Our true strength, though, is found in the strength of individuals and organizations who ensure that history will remember us kindly because we met our mandate to care for others. There is where our true strength, and the true story of our community, lies.

So, as so many organizations celebrate anniversaries this year I say congratulations - but more than that I say thank you. I thank them for all they do every single day, without fanfare and parties. I thank their employees and their board members for their passion and commitment. I thank those who choose to work with these organizations, who have done so in the past and stewarded them through so many changes, and who will guide them in the future. And I thank them for being the backbone of our community, because in the end they are who we truly are. When someone asks me about my community I always speak about our social profit sector, because if someone wants to define Fort McMurray I think that is truly where we need to begin - with our backbone, and with our heart.

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