Most of us have a healthy appreciation for local volunteers and service clubs, but it can be easy to take their contribution to the community for granted, and to forget just how much these folks actually do.
I was reminded of this after Monday's council meeting, when I was handed a piece of paper listing some 31 projects, initiatives, and fellow community groups that Meaford's Kinsmen Club alone has contributed their efforts to over the past 65 years.
The list of initiatives supported either financially or with their own time and effort by the Kinsmen included the annual Santa Claus parade, the splash pad park, Beautiful Joe Park, the skateboard park, the Blue Dolphin pool, youth sports organizations, and that's just six items from the list – there were 25 more on the list, each as crucial as the next to creating the Meaford we know and love today.
I would imagine that for many of our local service clubs and volunteer groups, the lists of initiatives, whether their own, or in support of other groups that they have embarked upon over the years would be equally impressive. These groups don't operate in isolation. There's plenty of overlap both in membership, and efforts toward various causes and initiatives.
Whether it's the Kinsmen Club, the Rotary Club, or the volunteers who dig their fingers into the soil to maintain the now several community gardens peppered throughout our municipality, volunteers give of themselves (and often their pocketbooks) to help make this community, our community, a better place to live.
One of the best things about volunteers, their contribution to the community aside, is that their energy is contagious. In my dozen years in Meaford I've volunteered with the farmers' market, the Chamber of Commerce, the BIA Window Unveiling, and the Scarecrow Invasion, to name a few. And while I haven't had the time or energy to participate much on the volunteer front over the last few years, there's great comfort in knowing that there's a virtual army of volunteers in this community ready to jump in and help out with local initiatives at the drop of a hat.
One thing I learned from the local groups with which I've volunteered my time is that the vast majority of those who volunteer have one very special thing in common – a desire to make Meaford a damned fine place to live and play.
Meaford's council clearly sees the value in the work done by all of these volunteer groups, as shown each year when community grant funding is doled out, and I know that all of the volunteer groups in the municipality appreciate that support. However, in spite of the support shown to these groups by the municipality and council, over the past year there has been a nagging issue that has increasingly caused friction between the municipality and local volunteer organizations. The issue was alluded to but not dwelled upon in the letter to council from the Kinsmen Club regarding the Canada Day fireworks.
“The upper management of the Municipality of Meaford has made it almost impossible for the service clubs in this community to raise funds but still come to us for financial assistance,” read the closing paragraph in the letter, and what they're talking about is booze.
For many of our local organizations, the sale of alcohol at events has been an important fundraising activity, however changes made at the municipality have stripped that lucrative fundraising opportunity away from the service clubs, creating much angst.
At least one councillor is concerned about this, and he's asked staff to bring a report to council on the topic.
“The municipality changed the way organizations do business, namely in alcohol licensing,” Councillor Steven Bartley told council on Monday. “Can we get a report on how much money the municipality has made by taking over most of the alcohol licensing things that many groups like the Kinsmen were doing? I'd like to know – was it worth our while to do that?”
The mayor added to the request, asking that all costs to the municipality (staff time, cleaning, etc.) associated with taking over alcohol sales from community groups be included in the report.
A fantastic request, and the answers should be most interesting.
While we're waiting for those answers, I'd like to extend a huge thank you to all of our local volunteers, volunteer organizations, and service clubs. You help make Meaford a fantastic place to live, and your drive and energy serve as inspiration to us all. (And if you want to raise money through alcohol sales, you should be able to, and the municipality should find a way to make it happen again.)