The year 2017 was a busy one for the YWCA Banff. In February, the organization received a $241,422 donation through a historic partnership with the Rotary Club of Canmore in support of their Higher Ground Project. The donation will support the development of the Higher Ground Program to establish a purpose-built emergency shelter and transitional housing solution in Canmore, geared towards helping vulnerable Bow Valley residents overcome domestic violence and abuse, and mitigate the risk of homelessness.
As a year of incredible strides drew to a close, Connie MacDonald, CEO of YWCA Banff, received a call from Ron and Norma Westcott, a Calgary-based couple who had recently sold their Canmore hideaway and were interested in reinvesting a portion of their proceeds back into the community. After hearing about YWCA Banff from their real estate agent, they were eager to meet with Connie to understand what priorities were in the organization’s pipeline.
Like many before them, Norma and Ron were “Banff-ed” after moving west to Calgary from Toronto in 1979. They were wooed by their newfound proximity to the mountains and the adventure that surrounded them each time they would visit the Rockies. As they settled into life out west and their family began to grow, they began searching for a rural refuge away from the city that they could easily escape to throughout the year. Ron and Norma had grown up in Quebec and Ontario respectively, and found themselves craving a retreat similar to the cottage countries where they would vacation in Eastern Canada. The Westcotts purchased a home in Canmore in 1990 and, alongside their children, began establishing roots in the community. They were enamored by the mountain lifestyle and made frequent journeys along the Trans-Canada to enjoy outdoor adventures in Canmore and the surrounding area. As their roots in the Valley took shape, so did their commitment to the well-being of the community that was bringing their family so much happiness. The Westcotts became generous donors to the Banff Centre, while also supporting several women’s organizations back in the city, including the YW Calgary.
Norma and Ron have consistently given back to their communities by supporting grassroots organizations that work to improve housing and income security for families in order to break the cycle of poverty. Norma had been a key member of the Junior League of Calgary – an organization dedicated to developing the potential of women and improving the community – where she enjoyed helping get new social initiatives off the ground. For Ron and Norma, donating to an organization was not simply a matter of providing funds, but a careful selection process with the intention of contributing to a project that resonated with them and that they believed in. As their children grew up, the Westcotts found themselves spending less time in the Bow Valley and more time with family in other parts of Canada. After years of forming lasting memories in the Rockies, they no longer saw the need to maintain their mountain getaway.
Ron and Norma visited Connie at YWCA Banff in November of 2017 to learn about the organization’s mission. They were impressed by the scope of the YWCA’s work in housing and violence-prevention and felt confident in their path to a thriving, equitable Bow Valley. Their discussion with Connie focused largely on the YWCA’s Higher Ground Project and its plan to expand prevention programming, direct services, crisis response, emergency shelter and transitional housing for Bow Valley women and their children. The priorities of Higher Ground resonated with the Westcotts and their belief in stability as a critical part of a woman’s path to regain an independent, violence-free existence. Ron and Norma felt strongly that providing a secure environment for primary caregivers rebuilding their lives following trauma was an opportunity to begin dismantling a cycle of abuse and poverty. Confident in Higher Ground’s capacity to change the pattern of violence in the Bow Valley, the Westcotts decided to make a sizeable donation to the YWCA targeted at bringing the project to fruition.
The Westcotts would like to see their donation fund the community research necessary to make Higher Ground a successful, ground-breaking enhancement of the region’s support services. Connie and the rest of the team at the YWCA Banff are deeply grateful for the couple’s generosity, and inspired by their commitment to leaving the Bow Valley better than they found it.