Nineteen different community groups serving Woolwich Township and Waterloo Region this week received their share of $40,000 from the 2012 Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. In a presentation Wednesday night at the township’s council chambers, chairperson Cheryl Peterson presented a cheque to each group, who had an opportunity to explain to the more than 50 people gathered how the money would be used.
“This is the reason that we’re here,” Peterson said before handing out the first cheque of the night. “This is my favourite part.”
Every year the festival fields requests for grant money from various charity and not-for-profit groups throughout the region, and while this year’s total of $40,000 falls well short of the $60,000 that was given out last year to 23 different groups – a record for the EMSF – it was a successful year nonetheless.
“This was actually an average year for us,” Peterson said. “The day (of the festival) was amazing; people were surprised at how well we did, considering the weather wasn’t the greatest. It started off kind of raining in the morning, but the people that were here were spending their money and we got a lot of positive feedback.”
In total the festival has given away $1,304,676 since it began.
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 went to the Floradale and Elmira fire station for their work in keeping the event safe.
Greg Bechard, executive director of Elmira District Community Living, accepted the first cheque of the night and he expressed his gratitude for the ongoing support of the EMSF in funding his organization, which has garnered recognition across the province for the services it provides.
EDCL received funding in the festival’s very first year, which was used to help build Arc Industries on Church Street just west of Elmira.
“What set us on that road to that exceptionality, and what keeps is there, is the efforst of this committee. This was our first fundraiser.”
Despite the wet start to the 2012 festival, ideal temperatures and sunny skies arrived by mid-morning, and somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 visited Elmira – down from a historical best of 80,000 last year, but still a fantastic turnout.
The money raised will be donated to a wide range of community groups, from the Elmira library to the Elmira Theatre Company.
The Friends of Guiding, for example, will use their funding to offset the costs of sending the girls to camp, as well as enrolment and uniform fees, while Nutrition For Learning will continue to provide invaluable breakfast services to students in the region.
Kelly-Sue Labus of Nutrition for Learning outlined just how important the funding is to an organization such as hers.
“I can’t believe all the hard work you all do,” said the group’s executive director. The organization feeds 357 children in Woolwich Township every single day, and the impact of merely having breakfast each morning is astounding, she said.
“There’s an 11 per cent increase in the provincial standards for reading just if they have breakfast. Mathematics saw increases of 10 per cent in provincial standards if they eat breakfast.
“This really gives children confidence when they do well in school and they don’t fail,” she noted.
Committee members now get a brief reprieve and will reconvene in the fall to begin planning the next festival, scheduled for Apr. 6, 2013.