Growing a Thriving Community

The Jill Ackhurst Social Action Fund

Jill Ackhurst was a leader in the Whistler Community. She dedicated herself to community development and embodied a hands-on approach to resolving social issues in the Sea to Sky Corridor.

JA2She was chair of Whistler Community Services and an active Rotarian. Jill worked on tobacco reduction programs, aboriginal health care, and issues affecting youth. For Jill, the entire globe was her community. Together with her husband Peter, she planned a home for street children in Tanzania.

Here in Whistler, Jill had an idea to create a “welcome to the community” dinner for the new workers that arrive in town each November. Jill noticed that many young people who arrived for employment didn’t know that there was a real community of local people in Whistler. All they saw was the village and fellow workers and they never met the locals who have made Whistler their home. The “Jill Ackhurst Welcome Dinner” mixes newcomers with locals and has become an annual tradition in Whistler. It has grown into a whole week of welcome activities.

Jill AckhurstIn 2003 Jill died of cancer at the age of 57 years.

The Jill Ackhurst Social Action Fund at the Community Foundation of Whistler was created in her memory. The fund was created with donations from Jill’s family, Whistler Community Services Society, Mountain Law Corporation, the Whistler Village Church, and the Rotary Club of Whistler Millennium.

This endowment fund supports projects that identify and resolve community health and social issues. Donations to this endowment fund are invested and the income generates annual grants that support initiatives in the community.

Since the fund was created it has supported programs for at-risk youth, brought First Nations culture to youth, supported women’s health education, provided emergency  housing, funded a suicide awareness and prevention program, funded mental health awareness programs, and most recently it has supported an anti-bullying program at the Whistler Waldorf School.

The Jill Ackhurst Social Action grant program is overseen by an advisory committee. Recently, the fund commissioned a community needs survey by Whistler Community Services. We wanted to gain some insight into current social issues affecting the community. WCSS surveyed a variety of local social service providers. The survey, while only preliminary in nature, identified inadequate mental health services, a lack of affordable and safe childcare, and transportation for those of low income as among the top social issues in the community. The report can be downloaded here.

Jilla