In November of 1991 Norm Cook introduced the concept of a Community Foundation for Coquitlam to Gordon Fulton. The two concluded that it was a very valuable project and set out to find others who might be interested in starting a Community Foundation. The ‘Original 6’ consisted of Bill Brown, Brian Canfield, Norm Cook, Ted Nikiforuk, Larry Rose and Gordon Fulton. The first meeting took place on January 15, 1992. While Gordon was not at the first meeting of the ‘Original 6’, the 5 who were there voted Gordon to be the person to address the Coquitlam Council, the School Board and the Chamber of Commerce to seek their support and commitment to provide a statutory representative to the Foundation Board.
Brian Canfield provided significant financial contribution to fund the six founders in their early efforts to establish the Foundation. This helped cover a variety of administrative costs. Brian also led a number of very helpful strategic planning sessions.
Larry Rose accompanied Gordon to these representations and to give any necessary public relations assistance. By February 28, 1992, the ‘Original 6’ had the support to file a petition for a Private Bill with Victoria to establish the Foundation. On May 14th Norm and Gordon appeared before the Parliamentary Reform, Ethical Conduct, Standing Order and Private Bills Committee in Victoria of which Mike Farnworth was a sitting member. The Bill was sponsored by the M.L.A Dr. Barbara Copping and supported by John Cashore.
On June 5, 1992, the Act to incorporate the Coquitlam Foundation received Royal Assent and the Coquitlam Foundation was now in place. The founders were subsequently joined on the Board by the three statutory representatives and members at large to make the Foundation’s first board:
- Gordon Fulton, Chair
- Gerri Wallis, Vice-chair
- Norm Cook, Secretary
- Ted Nikiforuk, Treasurer.
- Mayor Lou Sekora
- Louella Hollington, the School Board Chair
- Gayle Carter, the past president of the Chamber of Commerce
- Jean Aussant
- Dr. Crosby Johnston
- Bill Brown
- Brian Canfield
- Larry Rose
Bill Leclair and family established the first fund, the Raymond A LeClair Scholarship Fund, under the umbrella of the Foundation which gave the Foundation a lot of credibility in the early days. Gerri Wallis played a significant role in organizing very successful and unique fundraisers often partnering with the Coquitlam Public Library. Gordon Fulton held all of these early activities together through his very able chairmanship.
By 2008, the Coquitlam Foundation’s level of activity necessitated a move from the volunteer-driven model of the past; staffing support was required. With the active support of then Mayor Maxine Wilson and Board Chair, Colleen Talbot, the foundation undertook the ‘Kickstart Campaign’ to raise funds to hire a part-time executive director. The development community was very generous and sufficient funds were raised for the first two years of part-time staffing. Colleen Talbot played a significant role for many years, stepping in to Chair the board when the position was vacated. In the fall of 2008, Laurel Lawson was hired as the first executive director of the Coquitlam Foundation.
Under the leadership of the Board and Ms. Lawson, the foundation grew by about 10% each year thereafter; an increase that was evident in the capital base as well as the development of a number of new funds.With this success, the Board effectively grew the level of contributions to the community. In the harsh economic climate of the times, the foundation Board ‘dug deep’ and gave more than ever before.
By 2009, at least $50,000 was being gifted to the community in grants and awards each year. In 2010, the Coquitlam Foundation was nominated for the Not-for-Profit of the year award by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce. With only a half-time staff person and volunteer efforts driving its operation, the foundation was honoured to be among a list of some of the largest and most generously staffed service organizations in the Tri-Cities. Ms. Lawson remained with the Foundation until July 2011, when health complications from an accident the previous year required that she take time to more fully recover. Dale Clarke assumed the position of Executive Director on August 1, 2011. Four years later, Ms. Clarke moved onto new challenges, and Jill Cook assumed the role of Executive Director on Aug. 1, 2015. Cook came to the foundation with a wealth of experience, having been executive director of the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce (2006-2009), the Coquitlam Heritage Society (2009-2014), and the Crossroads Hospice Society. Following Cook’s retirement in November 2016, Coquitlam resident Dwight Yochim, a Registered Professional Forester with an impressive leadership record in business and charitable organizations, was named the new Executive Director.
The Foundation passed the $3 million milestone in capital in 2017. The policy of the Foundation has been to grow capital, while at the same time addressing its statutory mandate of meeting the needs of the residents of Coquitlam. The Foundation has made well over a million dollars in community grants, bursaries and scholarships since its inception.