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Groups seek perpetual grants

Food bank, historians, singers make case for cash

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 05, 2014 06:00 am

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Three Morinville community groups hope town council will give them some perpetual cash this month during budget debates.

The Morinville Food Bank, Morinville Historical and Cultural Society, and Morinville Minstrels all spoke to town council last week in hopes of getting some $25,160 of perpetual grants written into the 2014 budget.

While council recently reworked its community grants policy after years of debate, it has yet to approve its new rules for perpetual grants.

Food bank cut off?

The food bank used to have an annual $2,500 perpetual grant, but learned last year that it was being discontinued as part of the town’s revisions to its community grants and Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) policies, said Cynthia Wandler, a town resident speaking on the group’s behalf.

“It seems as though the food bank has fallen through the cracks.”

The town gave the food bank $2,500 a year per year from 2010 to 2013, said town chief administrative officer Debbie Oyarzun in an interview.

Those dollars had been coming from the town’s FCSS funds, she continued – a provincially backed fund with rules governing its use. As this grant was not covered under the province’s mandate for FCSS, the town would likely have to pay more into the fund if it wanted to keep using it to support the food bank. Town staff put the grant on hold this year as a result.

Wandler said about 1,073 people used the food bank in Morinville last year, or about double the number that did in 2010. About half of those users were children.

Food bank founders Ken and Isabel Skjersven have run the food bank “on a wing and a prayer” for 14 years and managed to feed everyone who has walked through their doors, Wandler said. Yet they’ve been getting the same amount of support that town council gives the MCHS Wolves – a local high school sports team.

“While I support grants for sports teams … I feel that to give the same $2,500 to an organization which provides a basic human need for survival, literally something none of us can live without, is not equitable,” Wandler said.

The food fank sought $13,860 a year for two years to cover the cost of rent, Wandler said. Such a grant would give the group time to pursue more permanent support and sponsorship, stock up on healthier foods and buy new freezers.

Celebrations and songs

Murray Knight wanted council to give the Morinville Historical and Cultural Society $6,300 a year for three years to support the town’s annual Easter egg hunt and Canada Day celebrations, both of which the group runs on behalf of the town.

Knight, the group’s treasurer, said $4,500 of the grant would go towards Canada Day, and the rest would go to the egg hunt. While this was slightly more than what they had asked for last year – the price of chocolate and fireworks had gone up – he emphasized that the group was “anal” and “frugal” with its funds, and actually came in under budget last year.

The group had ordered 55,000 grams of chocolate for this year’s egg hunt, Knight said – hopefully enough for 330 kids.

Last year’s two-hour hunt lasted just 57 minutes as some kids walked off with about 18 bags of eggs apiece. Knight said this year’s hunt would have a strict three-bag, one-hour time limit as a result.

Knight said the group would return any cash it didn’t use to the town, and would have a full report on each event within 30 days.

Diana Moquin asked council for $5,000 a year for three years in support of the Morinville Minstrels.

Established in 1999, the Minstrels are a seniors singing group that performs at events and seniors’ lodges across Alberta.

Moquin, the group’s treasurer, said the group puts on about 50 performances a year, often taking local seniors on trips as they do so. Their grant request was meant to offset the group’s travel costs, which were about $7,000 a year.

“Singing together keeps us young,” Moquin said, providing health and good fellowship for the group’s members.

Audience members benefit as well, she continued. “We see seniors, even those who are unresponsive or who have memory issues, come alive and sing along.”

Council will consider these proposals as part of budget deliberations, Mayor Lisa Holmes said.


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