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Byron Shire
July 19, 2024

Local philanthropy steps into the limelight

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Pictured are Ed Ahern, Karen and Louise Neiderer with NRCF chairman John Callinan. Photo supplied
L-R: Laim Reynolds, George Alpen, Leeanna Jenkins, Nick Thom and Alex Vanhonk from Byron Bay Herb Nursery which secured the major grant this year from NRCF for bee box building. Photo supplied

Paul Bibby

Australia may be ‘the lucky country’, but when it comes to sharing some of that luck through philanthropy we’re lagging behind our English and American cousins.

Yet for 12 years, the Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF) has sought to reverse that trend by encouraging wealthy locals to help those in need.

And if the organisation’s philanthropy celebration on August 31 was anything to go by, they’re heading in the right direction.

The event, held at Rockinghorse Studios in Coorabell, was packed with well-to-do locals willing to do good and dig deep.

NRCF’s chairman John Callanan said, ‘From very humble beginnings, and with a zero bank balance, we have since given out 211 grants to 87 different community organisations totalling just under 1.2 million dollars.’

‘Last year, we gave away in excess of $200,000 to about 25 different community organisations.’ 

Mr Callanan said that the help was badly needed.

‘We [the northern rivers] are above state average in almost all areas of disadvantage, be it unemployment, homelessness, youth suicide, grandcarers, disabled, Indigenous disadvantage, substance abuse… the list goes on.’

Managed trust

The NRCF helps those in need by pooling donations into a trust and then investing the money.

The profits from that investment are then donated to local charities and community organisations. 

‘We are the bridge between those who are most vulnerable in our community and those who have a commitment to giving and helping others,’ Mr Callanan said.

‘And because we are a community foundation whose funds are invested in perpetuity… the NRCF will always be here.’

Donors speak out

Traditionally the donors to NRCF have sought to remain anonymous, but this year local beer brewers Stone & Wood have spoken openly about their support, including a significant donation they will provide in the coming weeks.

‘The reason we support NRCF is because we know that our money is going to go to the most needy,’ said Stone & Wood’s creative and community manager Jasmin Daly.

‘We always chose to be anonymous because we didn’t want to beat our chests about donating, but we’re hoping that by stepping forward it will encourage others in the community to give.’

Among the speakers at the event was prominent Australian philanthropist Rachel English.

Millennial social conscience

Ms English told The Echo she believed more Australians were embracing philanthropy, especially young people.

‘There’s a greater social conscience among Millennials,’ Ms English said.

‘The generation that’s coming through are much more engaged with what’s going on in the world I think and as they come through I think we’ll see much more giving from them.’

Hundreds of dollars were raised during the course of the evening through a silent auction. Food and wine was donated by Red Ginger, ‘Pan the Man’ (aka Sacha Meier), Stone & Wood, and Fox Creek Wines.

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