As we reflect on 2023, we are reminded of the struggles that many of our colleagues and neighbours in our community are enduring. Although globally we are seeing atrocities of war that most of us cannot fathom, we pray and contribute where we can for the greater good of mankind.
In our local communities, we have not fully normalized since the onset of COVID. Many of our citizens struggle with isolation and loneliness. Discussions of mental health are more prevalent, and homelessness continues to test the capacity of our local communities.
The Welcome Return of Food Programs
We take solace in the return and continuation of local food programs.
It is a delight to see the return of Collingwood Christmas Feast at Bear Estates, Living Waters Resort on 300 Balsam Street, Collingwood. This is an annual event that invites anyone and everyone of all ages to share a free and delicious, home-cooked Christmas dinner with others in the community on December 25th at 1:00 pm each year. It is a non-denominational event, and we welcome all guests who feel the feast could bring them joy on such a special day. Our motivation is “nobody should be/feel alone on Christmas.” Simply dial 211 to reserve a seat and, if you are reading this, pass it along to someone who is alone this Christmas. This dinner is put on by a group of volunteer elves in our community.
Giving Back in the Spirit of the Season
Volunteering is a way to offer oneself spiritually for the good of our community. Annually we volunteer for Kettle Duty with the Salvation Army raising money for the Annual Christmas Drive. The local Legion’s Poppy Campaign is near to our hearts and continues to receive our support for both our aging and young veterans alike.
This year we participated in the Grand Fondo Lake Huron assisting to raise over $500,000 for Saugeen Memorial Hospital and Grey Highland’s Grand Fondo’s inaugural event — raising over $215,000 for the local hospital in Markdale. These events are instrumental in the support of our local communities.
Hospice Georgian Triangle and Campbell House continue to support the families of Georgian Bay when their loved ones are spending the last remaining days in palliative care. Many of our friends and neighbours benefited from this special facility in our community.
We continue to support Home Horizons and Barbara Weider House and their fundraising initiatives in the community such as Coldest Night of the Year Walk, Bowl for Beds and Collingwood Spirit Tour. We would also like to recognize Deb Piggott, their long-time Fund-Raising Executive who is retiring this year. Deb and Dan now have five grandkids to enjoy, and we know they will be ongoing contributors to our community.
Rotary Clubs are active throughout Bruce, Grey, and Simcoe Counties in communities such as Saugeen Shores, Owen Sound, Wasaga Beach, Collingwood and more. Many of our staff are active members of the Rotary Clubs in the communities where they reside, providing a backbone of volunteerism in the community. They support such projects as Santa Claus Parades in Saugeen Shores, building playgrounds and trails in Wiarton, supporting Childrens’ Mental Health and Coast Watchers in Southampton, Youth Centre in Collingwood, Corvette Draw in Wasaga Beach supporting 25 local charities in Georgian Bay, and many other projects that are too numerous to name here.
Many of the churches in our community have outreach programs that are worthy of your support as well. There are well-known programs at Trinity United Church on Maple Street, First Presbyterian Church on Maple Street, Salvation Army on St. Marie Street, St. Vincent DePaul Society, Elgin Street, just to name a few.
Something to Consider for Youth in the New Year
I would be remiss if we did not remind the youth of our community of the 1909 Collingwood Royal Canadian Army Cadets. This is a free program in our community for youth between 12 and 19 who meet each Thursday night at the Collingwood Legion. This is a peer-to-peer mentored group of thriving young people who engage in citizenship, community, physical fitness, and outdoor adventure activities throughout the year. Gerard Buckley, our Team leader and Mortgage Broker, has volunteered on the National Board of Directors for over 30 years which represents over 55,000 young people in the cadet program.
These are just a handful of the incredible programs in our community that are in place to provide encouragement, support and care to all members. For all who are fortunate enough not to currently rely on these programs, might a goal for 2024 be to find a way to give back by spending some time helping those in different life situations? What we have seen in our own experience is that volunteering brings life and soul into a thriving community.