Lacombe named most giving community in Alberta for sixth straight year

A picture of Lacombe's 50 St. at night. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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For a sixth straight year, Lacombe was named the most charitable community in Alberta.

According to ATB’s Feb. 12 edition of The Owl, Lacombe residents gave more than twice the provincial average of $480 per donor with a median of $1,000 per donor in 2017.

The news came as little surprise to City of Lacombe officials, who have proudly boasted the accolade for several years and are more than happy to continue to do so.

“Lacombe’s charitable giving is a well-known, well-established fact,” said Lacombe Deputy Mayor Don Gullekson.

“We have a strong tradition of generosity and volunteerism in our community. Our residents are engaged and aware of the myriad of issues facing our region, and indeed, the world, and want to do their part to alleviate suffering.”

It isn’t hard for the city to point out some known individuals who embody that generous spirit. There’s former Lacombe resident and Edmonton’s newest Queen’s Bench Justice, Gaylene Kendall, who has a long history of volunteerism in the community. There is also the Lacombe and District Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Citizen of the Year Stephen Schultz, who not only volunteers his time to help students better the community through several environmental initiatives at Lacombe Composite High School – the greenest school in the country last year – but fosters that same mentorship and volunteerism amongst those students.

On a higher profile, there’s multiple award-winning country artist Gord Bamford, who began the Bamford Foundation which provides supports to many central Albertan organizations and causes, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lacombe and District.

It is a little harder, however, for economists to pinpoint the real reason behind why Lacombe consistently ranks at the top.

Rob Roach, the director of insight on ATB Financial’s economics and research team, told the Lacombe Globe it was “a bit of a mystery.”

He looked at a number of factors such as the city’s age profile, income and the mix of organizations in the community and while he said he doesn’t know for certain the real cause, he speculates some of the community’ generosity may be due to the concentration of Seventh-day Adventist groups within Lacombe.

“Income is often a major indicator. Albertans, as a group, tend to give more than other Canadians because we tend to make more on average, but Lacombe is middle of the pack within the province,” he said. “I think what’s going on in Lacombe is Burman University and a couple of other charitable organizations related to the Seventh-day Adventists are kind of concentrated in that area.

“Naturally, there may just be a larger community giving to those charities in Lacombe.”

While the median amount given per donor is usually what’s reported, he said another way to look at the information is the overall average. In 2017, Lacombe had 2,800 taxpayers who claimed a charitable receipt on the taxes, which added up to about $10.6 million, or an average of $3,773 per donor.

In a smaller place where there’s only 2,800 total donors, he said, it only takes a few people donating locally to the university or those Seventh-day Adventist affiliated groups to push the median average up enough that it would affect the statistics more than it would in a larger community with more donors.

One such organization just may be the Lacombe-based A Better World Canada, which endeavours to improve quality of life for those in third world countries. It began as part of the College Heights Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1990, but received its own charity status in 2016 and does not require any religious affiliation from their volunteers and donors.

Ironically, A Better World’s website says they have “over 2,800 people who have turned their vacation into humanitarian service and have spent time at our project sites,” – practically the same number as those in the community who filed charitable receipts.

“It still means people are giving, but it might help explain some of the difference in Lacombe of why it is a little higher,” he said. “Or it could be folks in Lacombe are just a little more generous, too.”

While older people tend to give a bit more, he said, Lacombe’s age profile was not that much older than other places who gave different amounts, and therefore perhaps isn’t as strong of a factor.

Other cities above the provincial average included Lethbridge ($700 per donor), Wood Buffalo ($600 per donor) and Wetaskiwin ($600 per donor).

Canada-wide, the median average was $300 per donor, with Steinbach, Manitoba as the highest with $2,160 per donor.