Grants to community groups spark debate among Wellesley councillors


Wellesley Township’s charitable donations were under the microscope this week, with councillors questioning the necessity of some contributions.

Under discussion were grants totalling $8,585 – from a $13,000 fund for such contributions – from the 2017 budget. Recipients include Community Care Concepts, Wilmot Family Resource Centre, Woolwich Community Resource Centre and the Woolwich Counselling Centre, with a smaller ($360) donation to the Wellesley Township Horticultural Society proving to be a stumbling block.

Coun. Shelley Wagner said she was unsure that the horticultural society should be included, suggesting the organization failed to meet the criteria set under the approved donation policy.

“To me, plants aren’t a vital service,” she said. “I am not in agreement with the horticultural society being a necessity. When we did the budget, we talked about things that were important in the community and were struggling. I don’t think this is one of those.”

She said she hasn’t seen evidence of the society reaching all corners of the township. To Wagner, charitable donations from the municipality should benefit all residents as much as possible.

“Do they plant flowers in Wellesley or Linwood? I know they don’t come to Hawkesville. We don’t have anything in Hawkesville showing flowers,” she said.

Coun Carl Smit agreed.

“I just want to reiterate what I said when we were doing the budget. I don’t think we should be in the business of giving away money. I don’t think it is our responsibility,” he said. “I have never seen them in St. Clements.”

Mayor Joe Nowak thought differently, arguing township beautification was an important part of the horticultural society’s work.

“They provide some landscape, expertise, flowers, that sort of thing,” he said. “They do provide a service to the township. It beautifies your community, it attracts tourism. There is a whole list of reasons that plants are great for the township.”

Beyond that specific grant, Coun. Herb Neher asked why so much of the budgeted donation amount was already being doled out.

“It is only a quarter of the way through the year and we have already committed ourselves to two-thirds of our charity funding,” he said. “Is that usual? Is this normal?”

Township treasurer Teresa Bisch explained that the township was going to be handling donations a bit differently this year.

“In prior years, we have designated that money and given it out in the fall,” she said. “This way, they know what they are getting, and then if there are other requests that come up, you will know if there are still funds in the budget. That was the idea.”

Council eventually approved donations of $2,000 to Community Care Concepts, Wilmot Family Resource Centre, Woolwich Community Services and Woolwich Counselling Centre, $150 to the Elmira District Secondary School Scholarship Fund, $75 to the Royal Canadian Legion for a wreath on Remembrance Day and $360 to the horticultural society.

Other donations to the St. Clements Santa Claus Parade, the Wellesley Christmas Tyme Parade and the Wellesley North Easthope Agricultural Society were deferred to allow for the groups to pursue alternative funding later in the year.

“There are some other funding avenues for the fair and the two parades that we are looking into,” said township CAO Rik Lowagie.

Liz Bevan
Liz Bevan is a reporter and photographer for The Observer. She has written for community newspapers in western Canada and has been published in national newspapers and magazines.