Rotary Club of Canmore Supports YWCA ‘Higher Ground’ Project



I ask myself, what would Wendell say?” That was Bruce Keith, Rotarian and former President of the Rotary Club of Canmore, at a Jan. 4, 2017 club assembly meeting called to decide on the disposition of the proceeds of the sale of Canmore Rotary House.  I never met Wendell. He died in March of 2011, shortly after I joined the club in November of 2010, but this story starts with him and the legacy he left behind. I


n Feb. of 2009 the club approved the acquisition of a newly built 2 bedroom condo, to be jointly owned and operated with the Calgary SCOPE Society. The idea was brought forward by Frank Kernick, another Canmore Rotarian, the developer of Spring Creek Mountain Village in which the condo was located.  The plan was for Rotary and SCOPE to each raise and contribute $200,000 towards the purchase of the condo, with Spring Creek to donate the remainder. Wendell stepped up to chair the fund raising effort of behalf of Rotary and worked tirelessly to that end. It was a hugely successful campaign and the deal to acquire the property closed November 30, 2009 with both Rotary’s and SCOPE’s share paid in full. 

It took more months of planning effort by Rotarians to furnish the facility, establish the partnership with SCOPE, establish partnerships with community agencies and to create the operational program for what became Rotary House. Its primary objectives were to provide safe haven and respite for victims/families fleeing domestic abuse; victims/families of crime and trauma; and victims/families of serious injury and accidents. SCOPE’s plan was to use the facility for respite for their clients, family and caregivers. 

Fast forward to Sept. 2015 when Canmore Rotarians were asked to approve the sale of their half of Rotary House to SCOPE. A comprehensive review by the Rotary House Committee,  indicated that Rotary’s utilization of the facility, in large part due to the shared ownership and utilization model, was only 21-22%. Our committee recommended that we proceed with the sale. SCOPE had both the need for additional capacity and the resources to buy the other half of Rotary House. The club approved the sale to SCOPE and at the end of the process netted $241,422.00.  

Then came the big question of how the club would reinvest these funds in the community. In November, 2015 I was asked to chair a committee to explore this question and come up with recommendations for the club to consider.  The committee established a Terms of Reference and Project Plan which included extensive consultation with Rotarians, community organizations and community leaders to determine what were the needs and opportunities that could benefit from investment of these funds. A final step in our process was to undertake a competitive application process among a short list of prequalified community initiatives that would benefit the Bow Valley. Based on the committee’s work and detailed evaluation, we recommended that the funds be allocated to the YWCA Banff for their project: “Higher Ground Women’s Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing”. We also recommended that these funds be set up as a matching grant pool of funds so that individual Rotarians, community members, and community organizations be given the opportunity to make contributions to this project and have their contributions matched from the Rotary House proceeds funds, effectively doubling their impact. Both of these recommendations were overwhelmingly endorsed by the club membership on Jan. 4, 2017.


The YWCA Banff has plans to make the Higher Ground project a reality by 2020. In summary, it will be a purpose built facility located in Canmore to provide services to the Bow Valley, in the words of YWCA Banff CEO Connie MacDonald as she was addressing the Rotary Club of Canmore on Feb. 22, 2017, “a place of refuge amongst the chaos” for women and children facing an abusive domestic situation. This is an ambitious project, estimated to cost in excess of $3.2 million but as Connie also said: “if we care enough we can make it happen”. 

The long term relationship between the Rotary Club of Canmore and YWCA Banff was formalized at the club meeting on Feb. 22, 2017 by signing a Letter of Agreement  at the Feb. 22 club meeting, regarding not only the funding that Rotary will be providing for the project but also the longer term working relationship between us.   The Canmore Rotary Club Charitable Foundation (CRA Registration No. 86371-5520-RR0001) has established a dedicated account to accept contributions which will be matched from the Rotary House proceeds funds. Contributions can be made electronically through ATB Cares at the following link: Cheques made payable to the Canmore Rotary Club Charitable Foundation with a notation that it be dedicated to the Higher Ground project will also be gratefully accepted.  Donations directly to the YWCA Banff in support of the Higher Ground project will also be accepted through various channels (; 403-760-3218) and will be fully eligible for matching funds from the Rotary Club of Canmore. 

So now back to Bruce Keith’s question: “What would Wendell say?” Bruce, I think I know the answer to that question. There is no doubt in my mind that he would say: “Well done my friends and fellow Rotarians!”

Submitted by Hans Helder
Chair Rotary House Proceeds Committee
Rotary Club of Canmore