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EMSF hands out $60,000 to 23 community groups

Not even game six of the Stanley Cup finals on Monday night could delay the annual distribution of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival grants.

“This date was set long ago. Before we knew about the game,” joked EMSF chairperson Cheryl Peterson to the more than 50 people crowded into Woolwich council chambers.

Every year the festival fields requests for grant money from various charity and not-for-profit groups throughout the region. This year, more than $60,000 was distributed to 23 different organizations, a record for the EMSF.

“This festival day was truly incredible, as everyone knows. Not only did we experience record crowds, but we are excited to be able to hand out the most money we’ve ever had,” said Peterson.

The chairperson thanked the hundreds of volunteers for their time and effort throughout the year, namely the auxiliary police, township staff and the sponsors of the festival, before Ken Jessop handed out two framed EMSF posters to the Friends of the Festival. This year they were David Gingrich, owner of Countryside RV who has donated the use of a trailer for the past five years at the festival, and to Six Star Maintenance for their efforts in moving picnic tables throughout the town for  festival day.

The first cheque of the evening went to Greg Bechard, executive director of Elmira District Community Living.

“As a community we’re starting to give back,” Bechard said of EDCL, which he’s been a part of for 23 years. “We’re not just asking [for money and support], we’re now giving back to the community and educating the future, and as an organization and through the money we will get from the maple syrup festival, we’re now giving back.”

The 2011 EMSF saw some 80,000 visitors make their way through town, one of the best years ever, and more than 14,000 pancakes and 800 litres of maple syrup were served. The success of this year’s festival has much to do with the hard work of the 2,000 volunteers who help leading up to the big day, but also to the fact that this year’s festival saw nearly perfect weather, a fact alluded to by Cheryl Fisher from Kiwanis Transit as she accepted her group’s EMSF grant money.

“I think you have some connections with the big guy upstairs because you had some tremendous weather this year,” said Fisher to Peterson. “I’m a lifetime resident of Elmira and Maple Syrup Festival day is always a special day.”

By the end of the evening it was hard for Peterson to keep a smile from her face as each of the 23 groups graciously accepted their money and said a few words about how it would be spent, and graciously thanked the EMSF for their continued support.

“We work hard all year long and tonight is just such an exciting night, and to be able to give away so much and to so many organizations, we’re very proud of that,” she said.

The 25 committee members of the EMSF will reconvene in September to start planning for the 2012 festival, set for Mar. 31.

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