Community groups hit up Cobourg council for community grants

By Cecilia Nasmith

Cobourg's budget process includes a time set aside for council to hear the year's community grants requests – this year, for a couple of hours in advance of Monday's committee-of-the-whole meeting.

Representatives of more than a dozen organizations made their pitches, representing almost $76,000 in requests for cash and in-kind support.

“Last year we awarded $43,000,” Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin said, adding that she didn't want to see the amount rise to much more than $50,000.

“So you really have to convince us tonight – we obviously can't give everything to everyone.”

For those making their pitches, it was an opportunity to showcase the good work they do as well as deliver their requests.

Past president Janette Johnston kicked things off by asking for about $4,500 worth of in-kind donations for the Victoria Hall Volunteers – compared to some $333,530.40 worth of purchases and enhancements the group has undertaken on behalf of Victoria Hall since 1979. An outgrowth of the Society for the Preservation of Victoria Hall which saved the structure from demolition in 1971, the Volunteers continue to fundraise on behalf of the grand hall with lecture series, house tours, theatre nights and wine tastings. This year's fundraisers will welcome the authors of two books on Susannah Moodie and present a Bonnie Scottish Christmas event.

With plans to rent the Victoria Hall Concert Hall in June for The Lion King Jr., the La Jeunesse Choirs organization sent James McKernan to ask the town to forgive a $2,000 portion of the hall rental. He was accompanied by two of the leading cast members to describe the good work their theatre-intensive program and choir activities do for its young members now and in the future.

Therapeutic Paws of Canada evaluator Joanne Rockey-Smith said her organization sends therapy dogs (and the first therapy cat in the area) to facilities of all kinds to lift the spirits of young and old, but asked the town for help with one of their costs. They have begun using the Market Building for evaluations of prospective pets for the program. With two evaluations planned for 2019, they hoped the town would cover the modest rental costs for the premises.

Barry Johnson of Northumberland 89.7 FM told the councillors of the growing success of the all-volunteer station's Summer Music Series concerts at the Victoria Park bandshell since 2015. In 2018, Johnson said, the series attracted more than 1,000 people to enjoy seven concerts. His request was a waiver of the $600 cost of renting the bandshell for the 2019 concerts and $1,500 in cash support for the series – which this year will see the addition of a 50-50 draw.

In support of the Oriana Singers (“the premier choral group of Northumberland with a reputation for quality performances,” said representative Brian Malcolm) on their upcoming 50th-anniversary season, an appeal was made for a $3,000 cash donation.

A Cobourg Lawn Bowling Club representative made the case for 40 parking permits (a $5,500 value). While other lawn-bowling clubs have parking lots, this is not the case for the Cobourg club located in Victoria Park. These parking permits make it possible to host other clubs for tournaments (including the Youth Provincial Championships in July), the representative said.

“A loss of parking will result in a long and gradual loss of membership income and tournament income,” she said.

“In time, the club will become untenable.”

Dora Body thanked the town for its continuing support of the Cobourg Ecology Garden, both financial and in-kind when heavy jobs must be done that are beyond the abilities of their eight to 10 members. This year, given the rising cost of insurance, she is hoping for a $75 raise to the $2,500 they might otherwise hope to receive.

Community Care Northumberland program co-ordinator Sheri Birney and communications co-ordinator Alicia Vandine did not specify the amount they were asking, but did give a presentation on the good work their agency does through one of its 10 programs, with 45 to 55 Meals On Wheels delivered three times weekly to Cobourg-area residents. They are on track to deliver 13,000 during their current fiscal year.

Cobourg Museum Foundation chair Joan Chalovich said the support they received last year from the town allowed them to hire two students who helped with the 2,000 visitors they welcomed that season. For 2019, they are asking $8,500 - $4,000 toward taxes, $2,000 to help hire students and $2,500 toward work that is needed on soffit and fascia repair.

Leona Woods represented both the Cobourg and District Historical Society and the group working to erect a statue in tribute to Fern Blodgett Sunde.

The historical society meets regularly in the Victoria Hall Citizens' Forum, and was asking the town to cover these rental costs, estimated at $988.75 plus security costs over the course of a year.

“With this grant, you are able to provide, we are able to meet in a national historic site steeped in local history,” Woods said.

As for Fern Blodgett Sunde, Woods repeated the amazing story of the little girl who grew up in Cobourg and loved to wander down to the Lake Ontario shore. When World War II broke out, she beat amazing odds to become a wireless radio operator – though no Canadian or British ship would hire her. She ended up on the Norwegian supply ship The Mosdale and made 78 crossings of the Atlantic Ocean to transport munitions, food, fuel and men where they were needed. She was the first woman and first Canadian the King of Norway honoured with the Norwegian War Medal.

The statue will be unveiled Oct. 17, 2020, Woods said, describing how they plan to fund the project. From the town, they are hoping for $5,000 for the statue's base and preparation of the Victoria Park site where it will stand.

Board vice-president Trish Dryden recounted the work of SONG (Sounds of the Next Generation) in ensuring underserviced children can benefit from a choral and instrumental programming that fosters such skills as social engagement, inclusiveness and leadership as well. In its six years, it has helped more than 250 children, and they are hoping for a $2,500 cash grant this year.

Composer Michael Pepa also had a request on behalf of his Les AMIS concert series that brings world-class musicians to perform for local audiences, but council agreed he could make his presentation at a later time.

These requests will be referred to council's budget deliberations, which will continue into March.