Coquitlam is a city known for its community spirit. Its parks and playgrounds are alive with families, and its events draw visitors from throughout the region. To help support the many organizations, programs and activities that keep the community strong, the city created the Spirit of Coquitlam Grant in 2002, funded by a portion of the provincial gaming revenue that the city receives for hosting Hard Rock Casino Vancouver.
“There’s no question that cities that host a casino benefit tremendously, both by the facility itself, but also by the revenue it generates,” says Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart. “Last year we received about $7 million. Almost all of that went directly to amenities and infrastructure in our community or to grants to local community organizations.”
Since the Spirit of Coquitlam Grant was created, more than $8 million has gone to over 200 community groups for events, celebrations, equipment and more—all with the goal of contributing to the vibrant and diverse community.
One of the grant recipients is the Coquitlam Firefighters Charitable Society. This non-profit organization annually fundraises approximately $50,000 for local organizations like Muscular Dystrophy Canada, the B.C. Professional Firefighters Burn Fund, and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. In 2013, they launched a nutritional breakfast and snack program, which aims to relieve poverty in school-aged children by providing much-needed meals and snacks in elementary schools—ensuring all kids get the food and energy they need for learning.
Members of the society include firefighters, dispatchers and prevention officers who volunteer their time to serve and protect the community even when they’re off the job. The group is a familiar presence around town with barbecue events, food hamper collection, raffles, and an annual charity gala that fundraises even more money for many of the local charities, groups and individuals they support.
“The Spirit of Coquitlam grant is very important to us,” says James Anderson, Director of the Coquitlam Firefighters Charitable Society. “We were able to fully stock our charitable trailer, and with that trailer we can go into communities and supply all the things we need for barbecues or any type of public event.”
The grant is not a one-size-fits-all situation for the city. It invites applicants from different areas, including arts and culture, neighbourhood groups, environment and parks, sports, and more. “Community groups do tremendous work, and their work is made much more powerful by the funds they get from casino grants,” Mayor Stewart notes.
The grant program has supported several popular events that draw thousands to Coquitlam from across Metro Vancouver and beyond. One of the most highly anticipated is the annual Festival du Bois celebration, which highlights the francophone heritage of the city’s Maillardville neighbourhood. It features francophone, folk and world music and dancing, classic foods like pea soup, tourtière and sugar pie, and talented artists and craftspeople.
Another event that has received grant support is the B.C. Highland Games and Scottish Festival, operated by the United Scottish Cultural Society. The annual event takes place at Lafarge Lake in Coquitlam, and draws singers, pipe bands, kids’ activities and more. Many local residents volunteer every year to help out, adding to the spirit of inclusion and involvement.
“Money provided through the Spirit of Coquitlam Grant program is crucial for paying for tents, stages, bathrooms—you name it,” says Mike Chisholm, Executive Director of the B.C. Highland Games and Scottish Festival. Chisolm adds that the evidence for the benefits of the Spirit of Coquitlam Grant are on display any time the community gathers. “The fact that people are here having fun, people are enjoying themselves—that to me is the greatest accomplishment.”