Sunday, July 21, 2024

United Way Bruce Grey Continues to Explore Best Option for Fire Fund Surplus

Letter to the Editor

Editor,

On Wednesday, November 25, the Board of Directors of United Way Bruce Grey met to discuss the remaining funds raised to support the victims of the August 10arson fire in Owen Sound. As of Friday, November 27, the United Way has distributed over $175,000 to help those affected by the fires. Currently, United Way holds approximately $90,000 in additional funds.

For the past several weeks, United Way has sought feedback from the community on what to do with any surplus funds. We would like to thank all those who have contacted us so far for their insight, and encourage the community to continue to provide your input. While we continue to consult with you and seek important legal guidance, United Way would like to provide an update on our progress to date.

First, United Way is still distributing funds to those affected by the fire. We continue to engage with the fire victims individually, to bring them up to date and encourage further qualifying requests for funds to address additional unmet needs.

Second, as part of our commitment to equity and transparency in managing the community’s donations, we would like to take this opportunity to clarify our legal obligations in the management of the Fire Fund. As a Registered Charity with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), United Way issued charitable receipts for qualified donations to the Fire Fund. As such, we have a CRA-mandated responsibility to ensure that all donations are applied to a charitable purpose, defined by CRA as the relief of poverty, the advancement of education, or the advancement of religion.

It is for this reason that all fund requests were carefully scrutinized, and that funding for the fire victims has largely been limited to replacing personal property and addressing urgent and emergency needs following the fire. Simply dividing the surplus funds among the victims would not be permitted under the CRA definition of charitable purpose.

Additionally, all money raised for the Fire Fund is considered directed donations and must be used for its original purpose. In Ontario, the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT) is tasked with protecting the public’s interest in charities. This includes ensuring that donations are used for their stated purpose, unless otherwise approved by the OPGT.

United Way Bruce Grey is committed to distributing all donations to the Fire Fund in a manner that is equitable and transparent, and in compliance with the laws of Canada and the province of Ontario. In addition to our ongoing public consultations, we continue to consult with both the Canada Revenue Agency and the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee about our available options. Forthcoming input from these regulatory agencies and the community will guide United Way’s final decision about the surplus funds.

Once again, we would like to thank the community for its generous donations, trust in our organization, and patience as we continue with this process.

Dave Myette, Board Chair

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