The VIATEC Foundation Announces its first Grant Recipients
VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA – June 5, 2018 - The VIATEC Foundation, which launched with a flourish at the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council Awards in 2017, has made its first donations to causes in the region. “We were overwhelmed by the initial outpouring of support from Victoria’s tech community, translating into over $166,000 in initial pledges. In the ensuing months, we have recruited an amazing team to the VIATEC Foundation Committee and developed a framework for giving that will support our community in areas of need that are important to Victoria’s technology ecosystem”, commented Mark Longo, Chair of the VIATEC foundation committee and long-standing member of the VIATEC Board of Directors.
Cheques totalling $40,000 have been made out to The Mustard Seed Street Church, the Food Rescue Project and the University of Victoria-based James, the Robotic Butler Program. “The Foundation Committee looked at a broad range of needs in the community, we looked for projects that were innovative and, in this first year, fit with themes that resonate with our membership,” said VIATEC Board Chair and foundation committee member Rasool Rayani.
The newly minted foundation, which in its first year is working in partnership with the Victoria Foundation, was established by VIATEC to connect Victoria’s technology sector to the broader community. The foundation offers a mechanism for the tech sector to harness its collective charitable efforts to maximize the impact of the sector’s donations.
Longo said they expect the foundation to attain charitable entity status within two years, but for the time being will carry out activities using the back office and charitable status of the Victoria Foundation. “The Victoria Foundation has been an excellent partner to us in launching our fund. They have the infrastructure in place to manage the permanent component of our fund and to process donations and charitable receipts seamlessly,” remarked Longo. “It is such a pleasure for the Victoria Foundation to be working with a vibrant organization of the stature of VIATEC. Their sound grant decisions are based on community needs,” said Sandra Richardson, chief executive of the Victoria Foundation.
The first round of grants includes $10,000 for the Mustard Seed food bank, $15,000 for the Food Rescue Project and $15,000 for James, the Robotic Butler.
“VIATEC has a long history of supporting the Mustard Seed food bank and last year (VIATEC chief executive) Dan Gunn took on a challenge to do stair climbing in support of additional fundraising. To amplify that effort the foundation chose to offer matching support for the money raised,” said Rayani. Gunn raised nearly $5,000 for the Mustard Seed, and the foundation more than doubled that amount with an additional donation of $10,000.
The Mustard Seed will also benefit from the $15,000 grant ear-marked for the Food Rescue Project as it operates that program’s food security distribution centre. “The Mustard Seed Street Church is incredibly grateful for the continued support of VIATEC. This donation will go toward the completion of the commercial processing kitchen at the Food Security Distribution Centre and we couldn’t be happier,” said Derek Pace, interim executive director of the Mustard Seed Street Church.
“As a member of the Food Share Network we have had the incredible opportunity to be the operational lead on the Food Rescue Project. This fresh, healthy, rescued food is then redistributed to individuals and families in need, through 43 agencies to an estimated 35,000 people.”
But Pace noted that even their efforts result in some waste with as much as eight per cent of the rescued food going to animal feed or into the waste stream.
“This kitchen project will give us the opportunity to take still useable food and turn it into delicious, ready-made meals,” he said, adding it will go a long way in their goal of reducing waste by half.
Rayani said the support of the Food Rescue Project was a natural fit for the new foundation.
“This program supports the entire region and assists the homeless, lower income households and students,” he said.
The Food Rescue Project is the flagship of the Food Share Network, which helps 35,000 people annually who experience food insecurity.
The program diverts high quality food, which may otherwise end up as waste, to those in need.
Food Share Network co-ordinator Brenda Bolton said adding a commercial kitchen that will be available to non-profit agencies in the region makes a huge difference.
“We anticipate a further reduction in food entering the waste stream and are excited about access to a commercial kitchen, employment and training programs for low-income individuals and the products that will be developed using fresh fruit and vegetables,” she said. “The Food Rescue Project is feeding 35,000 people through the collection of over one million pounds of high-quality fruit, vegetables and dairy products.”
Bolton said the need continues to grow. “In 2016, an estimated 20,000 residents used food banks and meal programs to get enough food,” she said, adding nearly 30 per cent of those accessing emergency food resources are children.
The VIATEC Foundation held a donor appreciation event at the food security distribution centre on June 4th and donors witnessed first-hand the amazing potential of the centre to reduce food insecurity in the local community.
The University of Victoria-based James, the Robotic Butler Program, is also addressing a significant and growing need.
The program, housed at UVic’s School of Public Health and Social Policy, is developing robotic technology to increase the independence and quality of life of disabled users and offer assistance to caregivers and healthcare professionals working with disabled people.
Program lead Nigel Livingston, a professor at the School of Public Health and Social Policy, said the grant will have a significant impact on the program.
“First, in accelerating our research. It is also very significant and important to us that VIATEC has recognized the potential of our work. Having this type of recognition is important to other potential supporters,” he said. “Currently almost one in seven Canadians live with a disability.”
The program has already developed a sophisticated prototype of a mobile platform that can either move autonomously or be controlled by a user.
The platform can accommodate a suite of interchangeable modules that perform specific tasks like opening doors, pushing buttons, positioning trays and carrying groceries.
“The grant of $15,000 toward James the Butler Project supports professor Nigel Livingston’s cutting-edge work. It demonstrates the use of new research and technology playing a strong role in healthcare regarding people with physical disabilities,” said Richardson. “It enables people to focus on their abilities rather than disabilities.”
Donations can be made to the VIATEC Foundation Fund at https://victoriafoundation.bc.ca/make-a-donation/ or by sending a cheque payable to the Victoria Foundation—with the memo line of “VIATEC Foundation Fund”—to Victoria Foundation, #200 - 703 Broughton Street, Victoria BC, V8W 1E2.