Rowing together for the London community

Penny Jensen had just moved to Ilderton, Ontario when her husband passed away. Although her daughter lived close by, Jensen was a long drive from many of her closest friends, and decided that it was time to make some changes.

“I just thought I should do some things that I haven’t done,” she says. Jensen had watched for years as her son Matt competed as a part of Canada’s national rowing team, and had always wondered what it would be like to get into a boat herself.

“They move the boats so quickly and it’s such beautiful movement. I googled ‘learn to row’ and I thought, ‘I should just take the classes!’”

Not only is rowing great exercise, it involves a lot of teamwork. Because of this, Jensen has become close friends with two other women who also came to rowing a little later in life. She has now been a part of The London Rowing Club for eight years, and she has gone from a beginner, to a competitor, to treasurer of the group.

“I guess I’m just a person who believes that if you’re going to belong to something you should just help out. Be a part of the solution and not just the problem.”

Part of the problem Jensen refers to is that organizations like community foundations are unable to grant to groups or organizations that do not have charitable status, and that leaves a lot of local sport organizations without the resources they need to provide quality programming.

The solution is a unique partnership between London Community Foundation and the True Sport Foundation. The community foundation can offer financial resources alongside True Sport Foundation’s operational know-how to support sport activities centered around the values of fairness, excellence, inclusion and fun.

“Local sports groups have been so grateful for what we’ve been able to facilitate through the partnership with the True Sport Foundation,” says Lori Runciman, Director of Grants with London Community Foundation. “It’s a really neat connection.”

“Getting a clear message out to donors who might not know about community foundations or the values and principles of True Sport is important,” says Runciman. “This is where they can best support their sport organization of choice.”

Scott Matthews of the London-based Western Rowing club is already seeing some of the benefits of the partnership.

“With the True Sport Foundation partnership, all the money is going towards fostering values-based sport which is important to the organization,” says Matthews. And with rowing, these donations can go a long way.

“What people don’t realize in a sport like ours is that the equipment stays in use for decades. That piece of equipment we may have purchased with the assistance of a donation in 20 years, it’s still going to attract people and be useful.”

More than just helping facilitate contributions, the partnership between community foundations and the True Sport Foundation helps local sport groups say ‘thank you’ to their benefactors.

One way of showing appreciation to those who give is to provide tax receipts for their contributions – something that the True Sport Foundation is able to do as a charitable organization. This in turn helps encourage greater giving and fosters healthy community development. More contributions mean more boats, and more boats mean servicing more of the community.

“I was rowing this morning with one of the National Team coaches and he made a comment that there seems to be a real vibrant group growing here. We couldn’t do that without the new equipment,” says Matthews.

For her part, Penny Jensen agrees. “I think when I saw how big the high school program was, and how much they got out of it and their dedication, it really teaches you discipline and prepares you for the future and to commit to something.”

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