Town council approves $27,500 in community grants

 

Melissa Vuk checks on chicken cooking in the fireplace at the Park House. The Park House is one of the organizations that had community grant funding approved March 30.

Melissa Vuk checks on chicken cooking in the fireplace at the Park House. The Park House is one of the organizations that had community grant funding approved March 30.

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has given the green light to $27,500 in community grants.

Elected officials voted unanimously Monday night to pre-approve the grants as part of the 2015 budget,  noting the value the agencies and organizations that requested the money give to the community. Town council heard from representatives of the Park House Museum, North American Black Historical Museum, Amherstburg Community Services and the House of Shalom Youth Centre Monday night with all delegations pleading for the funding to help maintain their operations.

Park House Museum curator Stephanie Pouget-Papak represented both that museum and the North American Black Historical Museum and stated both attendance and school visits are increasing. In the case of the latter, both museums combine for 2,200 student visits each year, said Pouget-Papak.

“We need the community grants to sustain operations,” she added, noting there are also jobs created at the museums through student grants.

Amherstburg Community Services executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo said the services they provide to residents are important and questioned what the town would be like if those services were not available to residents. She said that in addition to the programs, ACS brings residents to shop, eat and support local businesses through transportation services like the Care-A-Van.

DiBartolomeo urged council not to think of the money as community grants, but “community investments.” House of Shalom program director Holly Kirk McLean said not only do they offer programming for youth, they also aid youth through their mental health services and the House’s ability to empower youth in the community.

McLean said she heard that some agencies would not only have to cut back but stop offering services altogether. Eliminating grants would be a “huge step backwards” for the town and told council members she didn’t want to see a decision made to serve the short-term that would be a detriment to the long-term future of the town.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he was heavily involved with the House of Shalom for many years and knows its value, as well as the value of the other groups. Councillor Diane Pouget noted “our community is much better off” because of the groups and asked administration to investigate whether the grant from Essex Power received earlier in the year could be used to off-set some of the costs.

Regardless of budget deliberations, “I’m going to fund these groups no matter what,” added Councillor Jason Lavigne.

Councillor Leo Meloche was also in favour of keeping the groups funded, suggesting that town vehicles that need replacing be stretched out for another year.

“(The organizations) are a vital part of our culture and tourism,” said Meloche.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale said he would hate to see any of them cut, noting many are staffed by volunteers. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said he agreed with Lavigne in that regardless of budget talks, the funding for community groups should stay.

“If we are going to find cuts in the budget, it should not come from the community groups,” said DiCarlo.

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