Impact Stories

Foundation Supports Transit Project

The community of Grand Bend got some very good news in May, and Grand Bend Community Foundation played a role in making it happen.

Last fall, the Foundation granted $8,000 to the Huron Shores Transit Steering Committee to help it develop a proposal for a public transit system in Lambton Shores, South Huron Bluewater, North Middlesex, and Kettle and Stony Point First Nations.

The grant was matched by the area tourism board and enabled the group to develop a detailed demand survey. The results were overwhelming: 7 out of 8 respondents felt transit was needed, and 75% said they would use it.

In May the group heard that it will receive $2 million over five years from the Ontario Community Transportation Grants program to cover local and regional needs, and a feasibility study that will determine the level of service.

“We see transit as a market-based solution to a whole host of mobility impediments,” says Glen Baillie, a Grand Bend business owner, member of the Transit Steering Committee, and chair of the Grand Bend Chamber of Commerce.

Baillie points out that transit will help people in the region get to and from work and medical appointments, build a sense of community, and reduce social isolation for seniors.  “Grand Bend is a retirement community. It would be nice if people didn’t have to move to a larger community when they lose the ability to drive.”

He adds that the Foundation’s help was important. “Apart from the financial support, it was a vote of confidence in a bold idea.”


Stars are Born!

Last summer, 25 lucky Grand Bend area children had a unique opportunity: to hone their performance skills working with talented theatre professionals. The one-week Huron Country Playhouse Youth Musical Theatre program was supported with a grant from Grand Bend Community Foundation, and this year the program will happen again.

Huron Country Playhouse has long had a youth usher program and often recruits local talent for children’s choruses. But as Executive Director Steven Karcher says, parent company Drayton Entertainment wanted to do more.  “Our goal was to give kids a more rounded experience in the arts, to actually show them what the audition process would be like in terms of developing and rehearsing material. We wanted to offer the level of training they would typically only be able to access in a larger urban area.”

The 2017 program used material from Frozen and Dear Evan Hanson, a popular new Broadway musical. Each participant was given a monologue and a song from one of the shows to work on as potential audition pieces. They also participated in improv games, technique classes, backstage tours and more. Every afternoon they attended a master class led by an industry professional. It all culminated in a showcase for friends and family on the last day of the program.

Was a star born? Time will tell. But Karcher says the benefits go much further. “This is really about building confidence in young people. Whether they ultimately pursue a vocation in the arts or not, it’s about feeling comfortable with who they are and being free to express themselves. Those skills are relevant throughout your life.”


Tree Hugging and So Much More! GBCF supports environmental action

On a grey, drizzly Saturday morning in early May, a group of volunteers met at St. John’s-by-the-Lake Anglican Church to prepare for Lakeshore Eco-Network’s annual spring tree sale. Long before the official start time of 9:30, the customers arrived, eager to choose their native trees and get planting. By 10:30 a.m., all 150 trees were sold!

There’s no question that people in the Grand Bend area love their trees. When a tornado ripped through the area in July 2014, taking down hundreds of trees, Grand Bend Community Foundation saw a need to support replanting. The 5000 Trees Project was born. Since then, some 3000 native trees have been sold and planted through its efforts.

In the process, the Lakeshore Eco-Network (LEN) was formed. “The tree sales are still at the heart of what we do,” says President Max Morden. “But our mandate is broader now – we are also working to steward the existing natural areas in our region and raise awareness around issues of biodiversity and climate change.”

In May 2017, LEN held the Ausable Heritage Tree Festival, a Canada 150 event. The Festival featured music, food, a birds of prey show, a chainsaw carver, displays and exhibits, live snakes and turtles, and a variety of children’s activities. At the same time, the West Coast Lions Club sold native trees, and a group of hard-working volunteers planted a 300-foot native garden at Klondyke sports field.

Then in September, LEN hosted Gord Miller, former Environment Commissioner for Ontario, for a presentation on adapting to climate change. Climate change was also on the agenda in April 2018, when LEN hosted a screening of the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Sequel. Later in May, LEN renovated and enhanced the Klondyke planting.

Says Morden, “Thanks to Grand Bend Community Foundation and other funders, we’ve been able to reach out to our community and encourage more people to think about the tough environmental challenges we face. It really is all about thinking global and acting local.”