6 groups that made a difference in our communities in 2012

People are the cornerstone of our communities in Southern Georgian Bay, and we can lay claim to having some of the best within our midst. In each community, small groups of people quietly but persistently go about making a positive impact. In many cases, no one person can be singled out – it is a team effort. This year, in our sixth annual Salute to Grassroots Heroes, On The Bay honours six local groups made up of extraordinary people from all walks of life who have banded together to make a difference that will be felt in our communities for years to come. We should all be proud to call them our neighbours and friends.

 

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STANDING, LEFT TO RIGHT: Yvonne Hamlin, Simon Heath (with daughter Evening Martin), Kate Fleming, Linda Coulter, Cecily Ross, Fran Breithaupt, David Wilson. SEATED, LEFT TO RIGHT: SueAnn Wickwire, David Bruce Johnson, Cheryl MacLaurin, Sara Hershoff, Paul Vorstermans. NOT PICTURED: Miriam Vince, Nanci White, Suzanne Steeves.

PURPLE HILLS ARTS & HERITAGE SOCIETY

The Community Shapers

Creative risk-takers, inventive fundraisers, passionate community builders, the 15 board members of the Purple Hills Arts & Heritage Society (PHA&HS) bring to the table a dynamic breadth of talent and skills. In championing community through local culture and heritage, they set a unique example of how a not-for-profit group can have its fingers on the creative pulse and become a successful driving force for community identity and economic development. The challenges of interpreting an arts and heritage mandate in today’s daunting climate of changing landscapes and shifting demographics only serves to strengthen the visionaries in their midst. The current directors are focused on enriching community identity and helping generate economic development. The arts and patrimoine of the area are simply the tools of these creative community shapers.

At 350 members, the society itself is the single largest community organization in the area and thanks to a dynamic leadership, savours a well-deserved reputation for ‘getting things done’. Along the way it has managed to galvanize loyalty in generations of its volunteers and audiences alike. “People here are really emotionally attached to the village,” says Cheryl MacLaurin, the personable and hard-working president of PHA&HS and a full-time resident herself, and PHA&HS is one way they can funnel that energy and support. The numerous ways in which PHA&HS interprets “promoting the arts and preserving the heritage of the area” enhance the lives of those in the community both measurably and immeasurably. “That’s a really important role they have to play,” notes Bill Mann, chair of the society’s Gift Of Music Program, “to stir the cultural pot. And to create community self-awareness of who it is and what its past has been.” Under the energetic leadership of the board, PHA&HS is focusing on impacting economic development “by doing things that put Creemore on the map a little more and draw a little more attention to it.” The recent launch of the Creemore Festival of the Arts (a new two-day arts event designed to replace the former PHA&HS Studio Art Tour) showcased a broad sweep of the arts within a family-friendly environment.

The economic spin-off to local businesses was considerable and the community’s identity as an arts centre was successfully pinpointed on the maps of tourists. “Tourism is becoming a more important source of income and we hope, by events like the new Creemore Festival of the Arts, to draw attention to the area to help this,” explains MacLaurin. Fundraising, community dinners, sponsorships, awards and programs – the many ways PHA&HS enriches the community are both measurable and immeasurable. “I wish every small- to medium-size town in Ontario had such a group,” enthuses Mann. “I think it lubricates the soul. It’s wonderful that in our town it’s a group that focuses on culture and art. All too often in a small town it can get ignored.” For long-standing board member Sara Hershoff, it’s personal. “I think what’s kept me going,” maintains Hershoff, also publisher of the Creemore Echo, “is the potential for the organization to make an active difference in the community. It gets stuff done. It isn’t just about arts and heritage, but about supporting community through arts and heritage so that we get the most benefit for everybody in our community.” She sums it up perfectly. “It’s all about being a community and not about being a society.”

BY Nancy Falconer

 

 

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LEFT TO RIGHT: John Metras, Dave Hyma, Paula Zubek, Julie-Ann Smedley, Doris Saunders, Teri Band, Paul Roberts.

GEORGIAN BAY CLUB FOUNDATION

The Visionaries

Vision, leadership and drive are the powerful qualities that set the Georgian Bay Club Foundation apart from others as one of this region’s top performers among not-for-profit organizations. Committed to “giving back to the community by supporting local charities who have both contributed to and raised the standard of the ‘health and well-being’ of this area,” its members have, in its nine-year history, donated over $820,000 locally to hospitals, health clinics, and schools. An arm of the private member golf enclave, the Georgian Bay Club, the GBCF directors are a focused, hardworking team of full-time residents and weekenders, led by president and local business woman Paula Zubek, owner of Copper Blues. “This region is very, very generous,” notes Zubek, “but also overburdened with charities, I think. So if you can feel at the end of the day like you’ve given a substantial amount of money to someone, and know that with that they’re going to move forward and in turn help all of us, especially with the hospitals and the clinic, it’s just a nice feeling to be able to hand money over to someone who has a goal to make life here better.”

“For me it’s about giving back to the community,” echoes Teri Band, secretary and in-coming vice president of the foundation. “When you play and live in a community you should try and give back to the community.” Currently the lead contributor to the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital Foundation’s ‘Age of Care’ campaign, the GBCF was quick to take on a leadership role in pledging $500,000 to the hospital’s ‘new age’ vision. “There isn’t anybody who would argue with the fact that hospitals and clinics are probably the most needy of large amounts of dollars,” notes Paul Roberts, treasurer for the foundation. “Equipment and capital items don’t get support from government.” Making thoughtful investments in community needs is how one recipient describes the GBCF’s largesse. “They see what can be in the community and they want to invest in visions of a great community as opposed to just putting a band aid on a problem somewhere,” observes Jory Pritchard-Kerr, executive director of the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital Foundation. “When you’re talking about putting $3.5 million into electronic medical records, not everybody understands how important this is. It’s very much an intangible concept, and GBCF got it. They saw that as a small rural hospital it will set us apart and put us at the top of our game.”

For current directors John Metras, Dave Hyma, Julie-Anne Smedley, Teri Band, Paul Roberts, Marilynne Day-Linton, Carole Boivin, Bill Vomvolakis and Paula Zubek, the goal is to fundraise that final $180,000 to reach the $1 million mark in donations for the foundation’s 10th anniversary next year. “We just want to be able to raise that $180,000 this year,” enthuses Band. “I think, for all those who have worked on the foundation over the last 10 years, to have hit the $1 million mark – wow! How cool!” It takes vision to get there – something this talented group knows all about. Through their focus on health and wellbeing, their foundation is helping to build a better community for all of us.

BY Nancy Falconer

 

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BACK ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: Paul Sajben, Al Wallace, Barb Wallace, Bud Christensen. MIDDLE ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: Sally Sajben, Deb Mobbs, Glenn Grossett, Sue Christensen. FRONT ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: Nancy Franks, Bill Franks, Sue Vasey.

COLLINGWOOD CINEMA CLUB

The Film Buffs

On the first three Mondays of every month, from September to May, the lobby of Collingwood’s Galaxy Cinemas is transformed. Smiling faces are there to greet each and every ticket holder – often by name – for three showings of a quality Canadian or international film. Hugs, hellos and handshakes abound. Small groups gather before entering the theatre. It’s like old home week, for film buffs. The enthusiastic “greeters” are the directors of the Collingwood Cinema Club (CCC) – Bud and Sue Christensen, Bill and Nancy Franks, Sue Vasey, Glen Grosset, Al Wallace and Tom Lepoidevin. This small but dedicated volunteer board does the work of 20 people – viewing as many as 50 films at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and Sudbury Film Festival, choosing which films to show, handling subscriptions, communication and marketing … and, of course, personally greeting as many as 1,000 filmgoers for showings at 4, 6:30 and 9 p.m. three Mondays per month during the “season.” The club also mounts two annual film festivals in December and May, presenting two films a day over the course of a weekend, with two showings per day. “We make a lot of friends,” says board chair Bud Christensen. “It’s amazing how many names you get to know. The interaction with them is great, and we just love to hear their comments afterwards.” But by far the most important and rewarding ‘job’ for this non-profit board is giving its proceeds to Hospice Georgian Triangle – a total of $180,000 over the past 17 years, with the donation for the past few years coming in at over $20,000 annually. In addition, the CCC’s subscription form allows members to make individual gifts to Hospice, and this nets the charity another $10-12,000 per year to help those in our communities who are living with an incurable illness.

“Hospice has been our charity of choice for 15 years, and we certainly understand the need of Hospice,” says Christensen, himself a Hospice volunteer who provides personal and emotional support to those facing end of life. “We try to run as efficiently as we possibly can so we can give as much as possible to Hospice each year. For me personally, as a Hospice volunteer, I see it every day, the people I call on, what they’re going through and the wonderful work Hospice does. Hospice makes a huge difference in the community.” Bruce West, chair of Hospice Georgian Triangle, says the contributions from the Cinema Club and its members go directly toward funding the Susie Newton Suites in Collingwood, which provide respite care for patients in order to give their families an often much-needed break from caregiving. “The Cinema Club’s donations cover 40 per cent of the cost of operating the Susie Newton Suites,” says West. “Without that support, the availability of the suites would be greatly reduced.” It’s a win/win: Hospice gets much-needed funding, and Cinema Club subscribers get to see world-class films without having to travel to Toronto. “I think for anybody who loves film, there couldn’t be a better way to volunteer,” says Sue Vasey. “The films we get are the ones that the people in this area wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see. We try to choose films that transform the way people see the world.” And through the passion, hard work and generous spirits of these extraordinary volunteers, the CCC is transforming our world here at home.

BY Janet Lees

 

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LEFT TO RIGHT: Patti Norberg, Deb Erler, Karen Poshtar. NOT PICTURED: Sharon Johnston, Nancy Dice, Dora-Lynn Davies, Karen Porter.

FRONTLINE BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION

The Silent Partners

Their motto is ‘Pink Ribbons Not Red Tape’ and their foundation is every inch the compassionate silent partner for many local breast cancer patients battling financial demons. The six board members of Frontline Breast Cancer Foundation – Patti Norberg, Sharon Johnston, Dora-Lynn Davies, Debra Erler, Nancy Dice and Karen Poshtar – along with the six members of the advisory board, are remarkably of one mind in their impassioned support for local breast cancer patients experiencing adverse financial conditions. They know that for many in this region, the impact of a breast cancer diagnosis has an insidious ripple effect: 16 per cent of breast cancer patients will lose their jobs while undergoing treatment; 17 per cent will be unable to return to their original salary; 27 per cent take on debt just to cover treatment costs. And equally stark: treatment on average lasts 38 weeks but employment insurance benefits end after 15 weeks. “Everybody knows somebody affected by breast cancer,” notes foundation chair Patti Norberg. She admits that when she first moved to Southern Georgian Bay, she had never heard of FBCF – but she had heard of Titz’n Glitz, the foundation’s famous and fabulous fundraiser.

“I really liked the idea that the money raised stays in the community, because there are people in the community needing this help,” she shares, adding, “The whole thing has a positive impact and I feel strongly about that.” One hundred per cent of the funds raised by the biannual Titz’n Glitz event stays undividedly in this community, quietly and discreetly earmarked for breast cancer patients in need of interim financial assistance. It’s the foundation’s practical, tangible way to help assuage some of the stress for those on an overwhelming journey. “We live in a community that has a lot of people that work for an hourly wage and live paycheque to paycheque,” emphasizes Karen Poshtar, chair of the foundation’s volunteer committee. “Having an emergency fund is not possible when you’re making $12 an hour at the Mountain or in a restaurant. That’s what we’re all about – short-term temporary financial help so these people don’t fall through the cracks.” Cracks like the ‘here-and-now’ costs of living expenses, child care, transportation, therapies, and personal care. Without this help, some breast cancer patients will not get to their treatment; some will lose their homes; some will not get the drugs that could save their lives. As Audrey Kemp, a member of the foundation’s advisory board and one of the original directors from ‘before the charity was a charity,’ empathizes, “Just to have to pick up the phone and have to ask for money is a very, very hard thing to do when you are already sick, already depressed. They’re stressed, they’re scared. Once they realize your heart’s on your sleeve, that you’re out there pulling for them, it becomes a whole different ball game.” From a financial silent partner role to hardworking organizers of the Titz’n Glitz fundraiser, these women wear their hearts on their sleeves 24/7, and our community is a better place to live because of them.

BY Nancy Falconer

 

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LEFT TO RIGHT: Cathy Cunliffe, Alice Doucette, Marlene Scoranno, Flo Walker, Paula Davidson, Wendy Sherk, Joan Sherk, Brenda Sigouin, Claudia Bardes, Linda Pollard, Jo-Ann Hatherly, Beth Dea.

WASAGA BEACH LIONESS CLUB

The Servers

Bingo players in Wasaga Beach know them well, as the friendly women who run the canteen, selling homemade sandwiches, hot dogs, coffee and 50/50 tickets. But the players – and the rest of the community – may not be aware that this quiet, under-the-radar group of women have hearts as big as the largest jackpot. They are the members of the Wasaga Beach Lioness Club, and through their volunteer efforts at Friday night Bingo, they help support 24 area charities and non-profit groups. In the past year, the club has donated $5,000 to the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital Foundation, bringing the total to date to over $15,000 – significant for a relatively small service club made up of only 25 women, 13 of whom sit on its board. “The Lioness Club members have taken a leadership role and we are very grateful,” said Debbie Kesheshian, personal giving officer for the CG&M Hospital Foundation. “They are making an actual difference in people’s lives.” While the hospital foundation is one of the club’s major fundraising recipients – “It affects every single one of us and our families,” explains Lioness president Wendy Sherk – there are many other ‘donees,’ ranging from My Friend’s House and the Wasaga Beach Ministerial Food Bank, to the Simcoe chapters of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and Spina Bifida Foundation, to local schools and even individuals in need. “We get some personal requests, such as an elderly woman who needs new glasses that are going to cost $300 she doesn’t have, or a $250 gas card for someone who has to drive back and forth for cancer treatment,” explains Sherk. “It’s all on an individual basis, but we try to help as many local people as we can.”

The club celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2013. Plans are in the works for some joint events together with the Wasaga Beach Lions Club, which will be marking its 50th. It’s a misconception that Lionesses are simply spouses of Lions Club members. Any woman can join the Lioness Club, and some members are even Lions members as well (the Lions Club admits women, but there are no men in the Lioness Club). But for Sherk and many other members, it’s the camaraderie, warm-heartedness and sheer fun of the Lionesses that puts them in a club apart. “I’ve worked with a lot of different groups and committees, but this group of women is phenomenal,” says Sherk. “These women are the most compassionate, caring, funny, friendly … we’re all friends, and we’re all very close, but what everybody really has in common is that we want to help other people. We have a saying in our roster book that says, ‘Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.’ We try to live by that motto.” Bingo!

BY Janet Lees

 

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LEFT TO RIGHT: Dennis Freeborn, Gerry Knight, Kay Freeborn, Rod Brebner, Betty Jane Brebner, Jennifer Pearson. NOT PICTURED: Bill Pearson, Kathy Adams, Dave Hardie, Mary Hardie, Anita Hunter.

MEAFORD APPLE HARVEST CRAFT SHOW COMMITTEE

The Wish Fulfillers

In 1983, a small group of Meaford residents decided to resurrect a craft show that had once been part of the local apple festival. Running it as a separate entity, the organizers personally underwrote the first show themselves. “We all breathed a sigh of relief when the gate attendance surpassed our investment,” recalls Rod Brebner, one of those original organizers and for the past 29 years, chair of the committee. “It was pretty small that first year.” Cut to 2012, and the show now includes over 200 exhibitors and booths taking up the local arena, auditorium and curling club. Average attendance is 10,000 visitors over the two days the show runs (the Saturday and Sunday before Thanksgiving). And most impressively, the not-for-profit show, organized entirely by volunteers, has put back over $800,000 into the community, donating over $130,000 to the Meaford Hospital Foundation, installing a $35,000 ‘squirt park’ at McCarroll Park, and spending $23,000 to beautify the Meaford Harbour breakwall, ending with the Elmer Hodgkinson Lookout (named after one of the original group, now deceased). When the restoration of Meaford Hall was at the planning stage, the Apple Harvest Craft Show came forward pledging $50,000 towards the project. When the local secondary school orchestra wrote a letter saying their instruments were old and in need of repair, along with a ‘wish list,’ the committee wrote a cheque for $25,000 to cover the entire cost. “They were just so floored,” chuckles Brebner. “I said, ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Things like that make it feel so worthwhile.” Just to be clear, this isn’t your grandmother’s craft show. Instead of ‘church bazaar’ doilies and macramé, you’ll find original artworks, limited edition prints, wrought iron sculptures, hand-made pottery, one-of-a-kind clothing, handcrafted wooden games and toys, as well as jewelry, glass and many other unique items.

The committee reviews each exhibitor application (including photos) and decides which items are best suited to the show. There is a waiting list every year. How big of an army does it take to pull this off every year? Would you believe 11 people? The entirely volunteer committee – made up of Kay and Dennis Freeborn, Rod and Betty Jane Brebner, Dave and Mary Hardie, Gerry Knight, Kathy Adams, Anita Hunter, Bill and Jennifer Pearson – has turned the show into a financial and tourism asset for Meaford, attracting vendors and attendees from across Ontario while putting the proceeds directly back into the local community. “It’s been exciting to see what it has done for the community – when you see the number of people visiting and staying and doing business in the town,” says Brebner. “One exhibitor I know personally had never been to Meaford before, fell in love with it and bought a home here.” Because the committee is so small, it has figured out creative ways to handle all aspects of the operation, getting local service clubs and groups to help with things like ticket sales, parking, setup, security, door, and clean-up in exchange for a donation. “It’s a fairly easy way for them to make good money, and another way we can give back,” says Brebner. The Apple Harvest Craft Show heads towards its 30th anniversary in 2013, and Brebner says there will be something special to mark the occasion. “It’s amazing how well we work together. Everyone knows what to do, it’s a very co-operative effort, and everything has been so much appreciated by the community. It’s very satisfying.” The community is very satisfied, too.

BY Janet Lees

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