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Community groups receive $55,000 from proceeds of Elmira Maple Syrup Festival

Drew McGovern, Kim Dixon, Rose Rabidoux and Paul Stiles at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival grant Disbursement event on June 8 at St. James Lutheran Church, where the group handed out $55,000 in grants to community groups. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]
Drew McGovern, Kim Dixon, Rose Rabidoux and Paul Stiles at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival grant Disbursement event on June 8 at St. James Lutheran Church, where the group handed out $55,000 in grants to community groups. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]

That the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival is about more than pancakes smothered in golden goodness was on display last week as the organizing committee donated the proceeds to a group of local charities.

Representatives from community organizations, local dignitaries, the event’s 53 business sponsors and festival volunteers gathered at Elmira’s St. James Lutheran Church last week to participate in the disbursement event.

Each year the festival donates all funds raised from their one-day festival, less operating costs, to community organizations in need.

“We are very, very happy with how this year went,” said Drew McGovern, festival chair.

This year, the committee presented $55,000 to a range of charities, up from $50,000 in 2016. A total of 32 community organizations got funding.

McGovern credits the increase in grant money to the great weather they had on festival day, which saw close to 70,000 attendees.

Representatives from each group explained what they would be doing in the community with the grants, from replacing play structures at elementary schools to providing affordable housing for local families.

Among recipients was Kourtney Beckman, fund development manager for the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region. The organization operates the two emergency crisis shelters for abused women and children in the area.

Beckman says rising abuse in our region prompted a new shelter to be opened last fall.

“Quickly after we opened it, it was full. I know that is bad news, but the good news is that there is a place to go, there is a safe place for women and children who are escaping domestic violence,” she said. “We can only do that with the support that comes from the community and help from people like you, so the money that we receive tonight will go to women and children who are leaving our shelters and starting their life free of violence.”

The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival committee awarded grants to 32 local community groups. Front row: Laverne Brubacher, Kim Dixon, Drew McGovern, Rose Rabidoux. Back row: Clarence Martin, Greg Bedard, Vince Sowa, Quentin Mayer, Flapjack, Barb Wilkie, Dave Unrau, Karen Weber, Cheryl Peterson. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]

Also in attendance was Elaine Ormston, volunteer with KidsAbility Centre for Child Development for some 20 years. Each year, KidsAbility sees more than 6,000 children with speech delays, developmental delays, and physical disabilities.

They currently have a waitlist of more than 600 children.

“I applaud all of you in this room for the wonderful work that you do. It is amazing how successful this event has been and we are so proud of the efforts that you give back to the community,” said Ormston.

“Sadly we have over 600 children waiting to get into our doors, which is just the tough part of KidsAbility. We do our best, but the numbers just keep growing,” she said. “This generous donation today is going to help us to purchase a bicycle that we would not otherwise be able to purchase. It is a bicycle that will be used by children who have cerebral palsy.”

Ormston added that without the help of the festival, they would otherwise not be able to make the purchase.

McGovern says it takes a lot of work to put on the festival, with 2,000 volunteers the day of the festival and a 27-member committee year round. But for him it is all worthwhile when he sees where the funds are going.

“When you hear some of the stories, they are heartbreaking,” he said. “All of these groups are worthwhile, one of our longest meetings of the year is when we are trying to decide where the money is going.”

The 32 community organizations who received grant funds from this year are; Elmira District Community Living, 1st Elmira Scout Group, Community Care Concepts, Friends of Guiding, Kiwanis Transit, Maple Syrup Museum, YMCA of KW, Woolwich Community Services, Woolwich Counselling Services, Child Witness Centre, Woman’s Crisis Services Waterloo Region, Region of Waterloo Library, Elmira Theatre Company, Elmira Community Nursery School, St. Teresa School Council, Pride Stables, John Mahood Public School Parent Council, SkateABLE, Menno Homes Inc., Woolwich Sledge Hockey, Robin in the Hood, Strong Start Charitable Organization, Youth Outdoors Day, Woolwich Sun Ray Special Hockey Club, Linwood Public School, Transition Guelph – Urban Sugaring Project, Park Manor Public School, KidsAbility Centre for Child Development, Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region, Waterloo Region Crime Stoppers, Conestogo Public School and Woolwich Wave Swim Team.

A group of long- serving pancake flippers from Trinity United Church of Elmira was recognized with a Friend of the Festival award.

Recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest single day maple syrup festival, the event is already in the planning stages for next year on Apr, 7, 2018.

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