Looking back, moving forward
WITH the 10 year anniversary of the 2009 Black Saturday fires approaching, the Into Our Hands (IOH) community foundation board is reflecting on its big achievements and planning its future impact. The Into Our Hands Community Foundation was formed to continue the recovery process after the devastation of the 2009 bushfires. The foundation’s role is to build community throughout the Alpine, Indigo and Wangaratta municipalities and surrounds by making grants, facilitating charitable giving and undertaking community leadership and partnership activities. IOH’s executive officer, Sarah Thompson, has worked with donors and charities for the past 15 years, but has only been a part of IOH since this year. “The idea of giving locally and the comfort of knowing that all money raised in our communities goes back into worthy projects within our communities really resonates,” she said. IOH chair, Loretta Carroll, said she was introduced to the concept of philanthropy and community foundations by the foundation’s patron Alan Brown, who this year was awarded A Member of the Order of Australia for his community involvement in growing philanthropy. “Community foundations encourage innovation and flexibility at a local level, they attract and harness many possibilities to allow change which can lead to amazing growth and unlimited opportunity, and they also make it easy for people to contribute to a pool of funds which is used to support local charitable projects through purposeful grant-making,” she said.
“The foundation was launched in 2013 with a focus on community ownership and keeping decisions in the hands of local people, and we also felt it was important to build strong collaboration and trust between our local communities and government bodies. “Establishing the foundation brought many community groups together - we ran training sessions on communication and collaboration and project management to assist locals in identifying projects and networking with other communities to get best bang for buck.” Two of the bigger impact stories the foundation would like to share and look back on include an investment at the Old Beechworth Gaol and planting the seeds for future community leadership. In November 2016, the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship (ACRE) led the $2.7 million community buy back of the Old Beechworth Gaol and at this time, the Into Our Hands Foundation supported ACRE with a strategic grant of almost $50,000. This funding provided ACRE with the organisational capacity and planning resources crucial for the project - it allowed ACRE to plan, engage and work with the community to make a case for further investment in the site and its potential for the region. Loretta believes it is critical to encourage local giving and a community foundation is a good fit for regional communities to develop ways to create a fund or a mechanism to raise funds for a variety of needs. “Our grants enable local groups to grow their ideas and utilise the wonderful range of local skills and expertise within their own community to help manage these projects which intern promotes resilience and community wellbeing,” she said. In 2016 IOH Community Foundation provided grant funding to support a scholarship place in the Alpine Valley’s Community Leadership Program (AVCLP) which exists to enhance the leadership capacity in North East Victoria and the broader region. In 2018 Maria Berry was the first IOH scholarship recipient, as she had a strong background in aged care and support and a passion for advocating for the rights of older people , preventing and raising awareness about elder abuse and ensuring care, compassion and kindness are core elements of care strategies with older people. Maria describes participation in AVCLP as ‘life changing’, and since graduating she has established new committees locally to improve quality and style of care for older people and is also working to improve the capacity of the local, North East aged care providers . More recently, Maria was a plenary speaker for the fifth National Elder Abuse Conference which was widely reported and covered by local and national news and radio media and these engagements have led to more discussions about her work with SBS, Celebrate Aging, National Radio Sydney and Council on the Aging and Senior Rights Victoria. Committee member Tammy Atkins said communities can’t always wait for or expect government to step in when they need a hand. “It’s up to us to help ourselves and that’s why it’s exciting to be part of Into Our Hands as it pivots into its next role of being donor driven and puts its focus toward generating local funding to support the economic viability and sustainability of our small towns,” she said.
◆ FEELING PHILANTHROPIC: Into Our Hands Community Foundation chair and founding member Loretta Carroll is reflecting on almost 10 years of philanthropy.
◆ BEFORE AND AFTER: Into Our Hands Community Foundation chair and founding member Loretta Carroll’s property before and after the 2009 Black Saturday fires.