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Woolwich will accept new grant requests

Having earlier this month agreed the township wouldn’t be taking any new requests for its community grants program, council this week reversed course, opening up the process ahead of its 2021 budget deliberations.

The original plan was to consider only the regular recipients due to budget constraints resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Following a presentation from a new organization setting up shop in St. Jacobs, councillors meeting in a videoconference Tuesday night agreed to accept new applications, though promising nothing in the way of funding.

The list of eight regular recipients, slated to see some $50,000 in grants next year, include Woolwich Community Services ($11,229), WCS – Youth Centre ($11,229), Community Care Concepts of Woolwich ($11,245), Woolwich Counselling Services ($8,997), police-sponsored School Safety Patrol ($1,637), St. Boniface & Maryhill Historical Society ($1,800), Elmira District Horticultural Society ($1,500) and Cycling into the Future ($2,250).

Now, Adrienne Carter, executive director of Three Sisters Cultural Centre slated to open in St. Jacobs, hopes her organization will be added to the list, making a pitch to be included.

“What does your Woolwich look like, post-COVID? Is it a thriving, sustainable community with a diversity of people, businesses and services, with a variety of sports and service clubs and a blossoming arts and culture scene? Or is it a place still struggling to keep longstanding businesses afloat, where the community is merely surviving instead of thriving?” she asked councillors.

The Three Sisters Cultural Centre is emerging from what was the Thoman Tire building on King street. It’s to be a place where artists can create and sell their work on location.

Coun. Patrick Merlihan said the potential of excluding arts and cultural organization hit hard by the pandemic had him reconsidering a decision made two weeks ago to avoid taking new applications this year.

“I’m open to looking at that at budget time again,” he said of the grants process, noting cuts to the arts are “low-hanging fruit.”

Accepting applications doesn’t necessarily mean he’d support a grant request at budget time, he added.

Coun. Larry Shantz took a similar stance, noting there haven’t been many new applications in recent years, though that may change due to the COVID-19 situation.

 “We’re opening up the application process, we’re not necessarily approving any grants – that would be part of budget,” said Mayor Sandy Shantz.

But not everyone was convinced, with Coun. Murray Martin noting money will be tight next year.

“We’re going to be in a tough budget year. We’re going to have to make a lot of tough decisions, and we’re not going to please everybody,” he said.

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