Former Canal Flats resident Arnold Ellis

$2M donated to community foundation

The Columbia Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) is poised to continue its work in the community for years to come.

The Columbia Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) is poised to continue its work in the community for years to come now that a former Canal Flats resident has left approximately $2 million to the foundation in his will.

“It’s a huge deal for the foundation,” CVCF vice-chair Dr. Don Miller said. “It’s nice to see the community get better, and that’s our mandate.”

The donated funds come from the estate of Arnold Ellis, who passed away at the age of 85 in Cranbrook in January. As directed in his will, the money is intended to help those seeking education or training at any level — whether it be in the trades, at technical schools, college or university — and who require financial assistance that is not otherwise available.

Ellis had formerly set up what is known as the Arnold Ellis Scholarship Fund in 2004 with a small donation, and upon receipt of his estate assets, the fund will now exceed $2 million.

“It’s for anything that has to do with education, we’ll interpret that as liberally as we can just to spread it around,” Miller said. “It won’t just all go to the high school, or the college; we’ll be liberal with what we can find.”

The way the community foundation works is the principal donations are never actually used. Instead, interest made from investment of those funds is doled out to community projects, organizations and individuals throughout the course of the year. The CVCF has two application cycles, and after receiving applications the volunteer board of directors determines where to allocate their yearly funds. Prior to this donation, the CVCF had around $800,000 on hand, which in a good economic climate would allow them to spend about $20,000 per year. With this new donation, Miller estimated they’ll be able to increase their yearly funding by $50,000, allowing them to focus on a wider breadth of community-based initiatives.

“The foundation is in a position of doing some very good work with the community, as it has in the past,” said CVCF board member Emile Morin. “This gives us even greater room for growth and involvement in the community. I think it’s a wonderful thing that he did.”

Beyond allowing the foundation to give away more money each year, there are other benefits from the donation as well. One of the bigger challenges for the foundation over the years has actually been getting enough applications for funding, and Miller said that with the publicity that this donation brings he hopes that the number of total applications grows. Another potential bonus is on the administrative side. The foundation does keep a small percentage of accumulated interest in order to pay for administrative fees such as advertising and office space, and former foundation chair Seona Helmer said that the board might look into hiring a part-time employee to help take some of the burden off of the volunteer directors. The board already plans to set up a committee solely for the purpose of distributing the Ellis funds, and are looking for additional board members to join the foundation to help with that process.

“(The donation) will raise awareness and our profile in the community, and it will also give us the administrative flexibility to grow, that we haven’t had,” Helmer said. “It’ll be a real great boost for the board.”

The CVCF was formed in 2000, and estimate they have given away over $250,000 since that time. Past recipients include the Columbia Valley Food Bank, Pynelogs, the Columbia Valley Arts Council, ICAN, and the Invermere Hospital Auxiliary. For more information on the CVCF, including application forms, visit their website at

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