“Nifty Needleworkers” sharing their craft with local children



By Ron Giofu


A group known as the “Nifty Needleworkers” knit every Wednesday with their work often benefitting area charities and causes.

Now, the knitters are aiming to share their craft with the next generation.

A group of women from the Wednesday afternoon knitters stay at the Gibson Gallery and teach local children how to knit later in the day, with three children currently enrolled in the classes.

The classes are wrapping up their first four-week stretch, with another four-week schedule of classes to immediately follow.

“We just decided we’d like to teach some young (people) how to knit,” said Judy Bondy. “We thought it would be a good art for them to have.”

Charlotte Bondy, Eden Pare and Aria Pare enjoy a recent knitting class for children at the Gibson Gallery.

Bondy said the classes are free and open to both girls and boys. They are aiming to get children ages 7-12 years of age.

“We think it’s going well,” said Bondy, who was teaching last week’s class with Jeannie Galt and Liz Campbell. “We have three enthusiastic young knitters. We’re happy with the numbers right now. They are enthusiastic about what we’re doing.”

The classes are free and the “Nifty Needleworkers” provide the needles and yarn, though the students can take them home to work on their knitting. Classes run Wednesdays at the Gibson Gallery from 4-5 p.m.

“It’s really fun,” said Charlotte Bondy, one of the young students in the class. “They make it really easy to learn. When I came here, it just came so clearly.”

The students said they have fun when they go to the gallery for the classes.

“Time flies when we do this a lot,” said Charlotte.

Kids Curing Cancer presents sold-out fundraiser



By Ron Giofu


It was a night that featured food, music and superheroes and, like in previous year’s, a local elementary school student helped organize it.

Kids Curing Cancer (KCC) returned Saturday evening with a new venue – Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery – and it drew a large crowd to support the cause. This year’s proceeds will benefit the Fight Like Mason Foundation, a charitable organization set up in memory of Mason Macri.

Macri succumbed to cancer June 27, 2016 when he was only four-years-old and the Fight Like Mason Foundation was created shortly thereafter.

“Everything is awesome. It’s just what we expected and more,” said Lauren Baillargeon, a Grade 8 student at Malden Central Public School who helped organize the event with the help of her family. “We are sold out at 250 tickets.”

As of Sunday night, the dinner raised over $7,000 with donations still coming in. Combined with other fundraisers, such as KCC’s recent “Hockey Day,” they have surpassed $12,000.

Ty, Lauren and Kierstyn Baillargeon stand with Mason Macri’s parents Chantelle Bacon and Iain Macri at Saturday night’s Kids Curing Cancer fundraiser at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery.

Kids Curing Cancer was started in memory of her grandfather Dan Gerard, who died of cancer in 2014. This year’s event was the fifth annual. It originally began when Baillargeon, with the help of her mother Jodi, helped make bracelets and ended up raising over $3,800.

“Everyone knows my grandpa. Everyone knows the hard work we are doing,” said Baillargeon. “People want to help as they have had someone who died or who went through cancer.”

The family never thought Kids Curing Cancer would grow like it has.

“I never thought it would get this big,” said Baillargeon. “I thought it would be one year of selling bracelets. That’s it.”

Baillargeon said they love their new venue, noting they had been there before for other events and came away impressed.

“We had no doubts about coming here,” she said. “It’s beautiful so why not stay here?”

Music has been a big part of their family with Baillargeon getting a love of music from her grandfather. That was demonstrated at the Kids Curing Cancer fundraiser when the family, including Jodi, Lauren, and Lauren’s siblings Ty and Kierstyn took to the stage.

“When you love what you do, it just kind of loves you back. My grandfather loved music and it loved him back,” said Baillargeon. “It’s part of what we do now. It’s become a tradition.”

Lauren Baillargeon and Kenneth MacLeod perform Saturday night.

The event saw over 100 door prizes donated.

“It’s all our family, friends and neighbours,” she said. “It’s awesome.”

Previous KCC fundraisers have benefited the Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation and Ronald McDonald House. The Fight Like Mason Foundation will use its proceeds towards its programs.

KCC held a concert late last year at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and held the annual “Hockey Day” at the Libro several weeks ago.

“It’s so amazing,” said Chantelle Bacon, Mason’s mother. “Kids are helping other kids in honouring Mason. It’s overwhelming. It’s beautiful.”

Lauren Baillargeon sings as members of the band, which includes family members, perform around her at the Kids Curing Cancer benefit Feb. 17 at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery.

“These kids are honouring him by raising money,” added Iain Macri, Mason’s father. “You can’t ask for anything else. It’s amazing to watch.”

Both Kids Curing Cancer and the Fight Like Mason Foundation can be “liked” on Facebook with KCC’s Facebook site being The Fight Like Mason Foundation’s website is

SACU receives $50,000 donation thanks to Amherstburg couple


By Ron Giofu

Save African Child Uganda (SACU) has received a large donation from an Amherstburg couple with that money going towards more new classrooms.

SACU received $50,000 from the couple with SACU committee member Ingrid Silvaggio Heugh stating the couple wishes to remain anonymous.

“Dreams do come true,” she stated.

Heugh noted that a single classroom she had been fundraising for is finished and a second two-unit classroom has also been completed. The $50,000 donation will allow SACU to construct a four-pod classroom for babies and younger students with a common area in the middle. The new building will also be able to have indoor washrooms, said Heugh.

The donation was made after recent articles were published in the River Town Times about Heugh and her trip to Uganda. SACU supports children in the Ugandan village of Buwando.

“The Lord has answered a lot of our prayers,” said Heugh. “We’re quite excited about all of this. It’s a very generous couple.”

Heugh said this will complete the number of permanent classrooms they need and get the students into buildings with concrete floors and walls. Makeshift classrooms built with tree limbs, metal sheets and other materials SACU could scrounge up will be decommissioned and that is a good thing in another sense, since snakes have been burrowing into the flooring in some of the small rooms.

Another portion of the donation will be used to support families in the area. They also hope to use a portion to start planning for a new shelter, since homeless boys and girls in the current shelter may not be able to use it anymore as the government officials in the African nation may shut it down due to the age of the children and the fact it is a mix of boys and girls.

Another shelter to separate the boys and girls is a project for the future, she noted.

“Believe me, it can be filled very quickly,” said Heugh. “We’re considering using part of the $50,000 to start the process of constructing another shelter for the kids.”

Workers are happy to build such structures, she added, because they not only get some needed money but they also appreciate people giving back to their villages and homeland.

Donations have been coming in at a steady pace, she added, including a substantial donation from an estate last fall. The Harrow woman who died, who was identified simply as “Aunt Madeline,” left the donation through her estate and that has been helpful to SACU as well.

“When she passed, her family wanted to give back because she was very generous when she was alive, especially to those in need,” said Heugh.

Ingrid Silvaggio Heugh stands in a classroom she helped fundraise for in Uganda. Now, thanks to a $50,000 donation from an Amherstburg couple, a new four-pod classroom will be constructed in the village. Heugh is part of SACU. (Submitted photo)

While Heugh was unable to disclose the exact amount, it did enable SACU to fund high school educations for 12 of its students and keep them together. Tuition was over $1,000 for each student.

“To keep those kids together was a great feeling,” she said. “They could stay as a family.” Even though SACU is making significant progress in Uganda, Heugh said there is still more that needs to be done. In addition to the new shelter, there are still children that need to be sponsored.

“My next goal is to get older children sponsored,” she said.

Many children start young but many of SACU’s children have older siblings who haven’t had the opportunity to be educated, stated Heugh.

Sponsoring a child costs $350 annually.

“It’s less than a dollar per day,” said Heugh.

All donations are appreciated, she added.

“What you are able to give is a blessing.”

SACU began when Windsor resident Geri Sutts developed the program with Ugandan resident Ivan Nsera. Early work included clothing and feeding the children and while that continues, matters have improved somewhat to where there is a shelter, school and food garden on their three-acre site. They now have a seven-person committee that, in addition to Sutts and Heugh, includes Betty Westfall, Cheryl Rudgers, Kathy Vriesen, Margie Anson and Elaine Johnson.

Their website – – is still being developed. The public can also access information about SACU on YouTube & Facebook (Save African Child Uganda). Donations and sponsorship cheques may be mailed to 6625 Matchette Rd., LaSalle, ON, N9F 2J9.

Additional information can be obtained and donations can also be made by contacting Heugh at 519-736-3512.

Heugh is also welcoming churches, schools and organizations to contact her so she can make a presentation to them. She has received some invitations, but would like more.
“I want to share my story,” said Heugh.

Nurse practitioner-led clinic coming to Amherstburg?



By Ron Giofu


Could a nurse-practitioner (NP)-led clinic be coming to Amherstburg?

There are roughly 25 in the province with NP-led clinics within the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) currently being in Essex, Lakeshore and Sarnia, said Pauline Gemmell, executive director of the Essex County Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic, located on Victoria Ave. in the Town of Essex.

There is also an outreach clinic in Windsor, she added.

“They are led by nurse practitioners. There are no physicians other than collaborative doctors,” explained Gemmell. “Nurse practitioners will see you, do physicals, diagnose you and order tests. It’s a unique model of care.”

There is the possibility that a similar clinic could come to Amherstburg, said Gemmell, and she helped write the business case for it.

“We have a lot of interest and support from the residents of the Town of Amherstburg. Town council passed a resolution at their Oct. 23 meeting to have CAO John Miceli work with me to develop the business case,” said Gemmell. “One of the most important things is to make sure the community is behind it.”

According to Gemmell, many seniors in the community have said they would love to have an NP clinic within the community.

“I have letters of endorsement from the Golden Age Club, the Amherstburg Family Health Team, pharmacists, business owners, (Essex-Windsor) EMS Chief Bruce Krauter, police chief Tim Berthiaume, Amherstburg’s mayor, former deputy mayor, the physician recruiter Joan Mavrinac, Chamber of Commerce and more,” she said.

Two public meetings are scheduled on the matter, the first being Feb. 28 at town hall from 5-6:30 p.m. The second is planned for March 2 in the Libro Centre’s “Energy Zone” room from 10-11:30 a.m.

“It’s good to know what the community thinks,” said Gemmell. “Community consultation is always a good idea.”

The Essex County Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic in Essex could expand to Amherstburg. Public consultations are planned for Feb. 28 at town hall and March 2 at the Libro Centre.

Gemmell believes that the town’s rising senior population could play a factor.

“I think one of the things that the ministry may be interested in seeing is how engaged the community is in bringing health care to the community. Amherstburg’s senior population over the age of 65 is rising,” she said. “Currently 20 per cent of the population is over 65 and this is expected to increase to 25 per cent over the next three years.”

Gemmell said, if the community wants a NP-led clinic and the province approves it, it would run very similarly to the one in Essex. She added it would even operate under the same board of directors.

“It works really well (in Essex),” said Gemmell, who is an Amherstburg resident.

It could work well in Amherstburg as well, she added.

“We have a safe community with a lot of historical interest and seniors are interested in retiring there. A good local municipal police service along with excellent health care delivered by a team of nurse practitioners is the ideal scenario for a happy, safe and healthy retirement,” she said.

The Essex and Windsor clinics have a total of four nurse practitioners (NPs), a social worker, registered dietitian, registered practical nurses, registered nurses, physiotherapist, chiropractor, and a massage therapist. All services are paid for by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, said Gemmell.

“The NP clinic is led by nurse practitioners who practice in a team based model, “she noted. “We have some unique services such as health promotion programs which are based on identified patient needs, home visits for patients identified by the NP as being at risk, diabetes education classes etc. Our strength is in our collaborations within our team and with the external organizations that we work with for the benefit of our patients.”

Amherstburg Library branch closed for repairs



By Julianna Bonnett


The Essex County Library’s Amherstburg branch is closed for repairs.

The branch will be closed in order to repair the water-damaged lower level of the library. The closure took effect Tuesday.

During the construction period, the Essex County library will be providing a “pop-up” library at the Libro Credit Union Centre, located at 3295 Meloche Road. The staff of the library will be available for a limited amount of hours. A “pop-up” library was held last Saturday and similar ones are planned during the temporary closure. There will be a selection of books and resources to check out at such “pop-up” libraries.

Robin Greenall, the CEO of the Essex County Library said any other location is open to everyone.

”Due to the water damage that occurred last fall, the library will be closed. Amherstburg is one of 14 branches in the Essex County Library, any members are welcome to use those 14 locations,” said Greenall.

Julie Feher, a resource assistant at the Amherstburg library, stands at a recent “pop up” library at the Libro Centre. As construction has closed the library for five weeks starting Feb. 20, the Essex County Library will provide a ‘pop-up’ library at the Libro Centre (3295 Meloche Rd.), where library staff will be available for limited hours, with a selection of books and resources to check out. A detailed schedule of the ‘pop-up’ hours and service details will be available by visiting

Updates will also be provided via the Essex County Libraries social media channels at and EssexCountyLib on Twitter.

“We started with the pop-up library as a way to connect with our community partners. Since we were closed, we felt we needed to provide the public with an alternative service. We like to connect with our community partners which is the local municipality and they generously offered us the use of their space,” said Greenall.

The closure of the branch is estimated to take approximately five weeks; in order to repair the water-damaged lower level. The building is owned by the Town of Amherstburg with the town undertaking the work.

The town recently received $92,396 from the County of Essex with that money being the town’s share of the $790,000 surplus that accumulated during the library strike.

In addition, home mail delivery service will be available for Amherstburg residents who would like to continue to receive their requested/-reserved items. For residents that acquire more information they are encouraged to call the Essex County Library administration at 519-776-5241.