West Island Community Shares celebrates 20 years of helping residents, groups in need

West Island Community Shares is celebrating its 20th anniversary, hoping to break its own fundraising record.

Charity plans to raise $1.3M to support West Island non-profit agencies, residents

Francis Michaelson serves up the beans at the West Island Community Shares community breakfast fundraiser Thursday morning in Pointe-Claire. (Shari Okeke/CBC)

An umbrella organization dedicated to supporting community charities and non-profit agencies providing a vast array of services across Montreal's West Island is celebrating its 20th anniversary, hoping to break its own fundraising record.

West Island Community Shares is holding a community breakfast fundraiser this morning in Pointe-Claire to kick off its annual campaign — with the goal of raising $1.3 million.

The organization started in 1998 as a way to help local non-profit groups and residents in need in a part of Montreal island that —  despite being perceived as a collection of affluent suburbs — has pockets of poverty.

For AMCAL Family Services, an organization dedicated to helping families in crisis that has benefited from the fundraising efforts of West Island Community Shares since its first year, the financial support is essential.

"It's crucial for us," said Sophie Dalbec, executive director of AMCAL Family Services. "And it can go to programs, services and our building maintenance."

West Island Community Shares now gives a helping hand to a total of 41 non-profit groups that provide a range of services, including food banks, youth and family services, volunteer organizations and mental health services.

This photo was taken at last year's breakfast fundraising event to kick off the annual fundraising campaign. (Shari Okeke/CBC)

The organization benefits 60,000 people in West Island communities, 36,000 of whom are children and teens.

"It's just such a good feeling to know that we have this recurrent funding year after year and something we can count on," said Dalbec.

Bringing community together

What first started out as a way to provide support to those who need it most has blossomed over the years, with the organization breaking its own fundraising record earlier this year.

In its first year, West Island Community Shares raised $102,000 for eight community groups. Last year, the organization raised $1.2 million, some of which was raised during CBC Montreal's annual Sing-In charity drive.

West Island Community Shares announced the organization raised $1,215,000 during its last annual fundraising campaign. (CBC)

West Island Community Shares and CBC work together on an annual Christmas charity drive, which is called Light up our community. This will be CBC's second year supporting the organization.

For Dalbec, the extra help from West Island Community Shares also gives community organizations such as AMCAL the chance to focus on providing frontline services to residents instead of focusing on raising money.

"It's just favoured stronger support and stronger relationships in the community," said Dalbec.