Wednesday, April 23, 2014

‘Community Chest’ raises $12,000

The Fort Frances Community Chest continues to be a treasured resource for district families in need.
About 150 people attended the organization’s fundraiser dinner Sunday evening at La Place Rendez-Vous, which raised $12,000 to help area residents with medical expenses.

One such individual is 32-year-old Nathan DeGagne, who was diagnosed with a serious heart virus as a teenager.
He had managed his condition using medication for years but now needs a heart transplant.
His wife, Sarah, and their two children have been able to stay close by thanks to the Community Chest.
DeGagne’s brother, Dan, played a recorded message from Nathan at Sunday’s dinner.
DeGagne has had to stay in Winnipeg since last March, using a machine that’s running his heart, as he awaits a transplant, his brother explained.
“Sarah needed to stay close so the Community Chest stepped up and helped to get her an apartment a couple blocks from the hospital,” DeGagne noted.
“They were kind, understanding, and very generous to us during this difficult situation,” he added.
“They took the financial stress off of us so we could concentrate on what we needed to do.
“The Community Chest made it possible for us to stay together when we needed each other most,” DeGagne reiterated.
“Thank you to everyone for their generosity.”
Dan DeGagne then played a slideshow of photos of Nathan and his family while local sister-brother duo, “Entirely Mac” (Danette and Wayne McIntyre), performed a song they wrote for him.
They then went on to entertain the crowd with a handful of upbeat tunes.
Spirit of volunteering
Danette McIntyre also shared a few words on the importance of volunteering—and how it’s doing the little things each day that really matter.
McIntyre, who is a nurse practitioner, and local registered nurse Joanne Ogden went to Port au Prince, Haiti back in September to help with the earthquake relief effort there.
They were to work at a trauma hospital and McIntyre, not having worked at a hospital for 15 years, was concerned about whether she would be “capable of handling what was coming through the door.”
She quickly learned that she wasn’t, but fortunately was surrounded by a team of volunteers who were, along with the Haitian hospital staff, “incredible.”
“They didn’t need us to come in and tell them what to do,” noted McIntyre. “They needed us to come in and say, ‘What do you need me to do? Help me help you.’”
McIntyre found herself being a “runner,” quickly going from place to place to get bandages and the like.
She also found she the “comic relief” for the week.
One day, when she was near some rubble behind a building, she saw a group of family members of hospital patients washing sheets by hand.
“But they didn’t have anything to wash them in. So I thought, ‘We must be able to get them a decent bucket.’
“I saw older women carry water in buckets with holes and water pouring out of them,” McIntyre recounted. “They were trying to patch them up with pieces of soap.”
She found a maintenance man, who actually was the pastor of a church that was destroyed, and asked him to find buckets.
“For five bucks, I got a couple of buckets and some detergent,” she noted.
“And I had a little Leatherman tool and a roll of twine, and we made some clotheslines for people, hanging them from the rebar, hanging them from anywhere we could.
“That’s what I did in Haiti,” said McIntyre. “I didn’t use any special skills. I used my ingenuity, I guess, to try to meet people where they were, help even the playing field.
“But it wasn’t my skill as anything than being a little bit funny, and having a Leatherman tool and a roll of twine.”
McIntyre noted some people say “there’s not enough hours in the day.
“And there aren’t. But there’s lots of moments,” she remarked. “And I think volunteerism can be defined as giving of yourself for the betterment of others.
“It could be holding the door for somebody or saying, ‘I like your purse’—just moment by moment trying to make somebody else’s day, make them feel better about themselves,” McIntyre reasoned.
“That’s volunteerism.
“If we make every moment count, it would be a better world, wouldn’t it?”
Speaking of volunteers, Linda Hamilton, who comprises the Community Chest committee along with Joelle Paull and Geoff Gillon, said it has become small over the years because as the “Chest” gained credibility, they have to work less hard to raise funds.
Various individuals and clubs give donations, along with in memoriam donations. A total of $21,000 came in last year that the committee didn’t have to solicit.
But when it comes to organizing events such as the fundraiser dinner, Hamilton said it would be great if the committee could have a few more people on it to spread the work around.
She thanked those who stepped up at the last minute this year to help out.
“If you really want to be part of this organization, you need to say, ‘Let me help’ next time and take on a job,” said Hamilton.
Paull, meanwhile, said the Community Chest continues to be well-utilized.
“There’s so many people in town that need help,” she noted. “It’s amazing how much money that we give.”
The “Chest” disbursed $45,014 in 2013. This is less than previous years, mainly because fewer cheques were issued.
Paull said they have had to cut back on advancing travel grants for several reasons, including the Freedom of Information Act and the difficulty in establishing accurate amount as receipts now are required for overnight accommodation.
She added the Community Chest still will advance travel grants in dire situations or circumstances involving long-distance travel, such as trips to Toronto or Ottawa, but most grants advanced in the past were for travel to Thunder Bay or Winnipeg.
Community support
The Community Chest fundraiser each year is an example of people working together.
From the people who bought tickets to attend, bid on auction items, and buy raffle tickets to the Fort Frances Lakers who helped the Rendez-Vous staff serve the meal.
Sponsors included the CIBC, Fort Frances Lions Club, Fort Frances Times, La Place Rendez-Vous, and Town of Fort Frances, and the event also received donations from suppliers such as Canada Safeway, Jacob Gerber Farm, Sysco Food Service Inc., the Rendez-Vous, Walmart, and Webb’s Wholesale.
Tess’ Kitchen here even provided heart-shaped cookies at each place setting.
Additionally, local businesses and individuals donated silent and live auction items while district producers Kim Jo and Tony Bliss, Susan and Roger Irvine, Rainy River Meats, Cornell Farms, and Blackhawk Simmentals provided various meats for raffle and auction.
All of this combined enables the Community Chest to minimize costs and put as much money raised as possible into its coffers to continue the cycle of helping local residents.
Lt. Dennis Maybury of the Fort Frances Salvation Army said grace.
Kim Cornell, meanwhile, was auctioneer for the evening—getting a helping hand from Louis Bujold and Joe Sletmoen.
In related news, with the town planning to form the “Fort Frances Community Foundation” this year, volunteers are needed to form a board.
Geoff Gillon, with the Rainy River Future Development Corp., urged dinner-goers to get involved.
This foundation will work to consolidate and grow various charities in Fort Frances and the surrounding district, he noted.
“But to start with, we need a few good men and women to form an initial board of directors and get the foundation off the ground,” Gillon stressed.
Anyone interested can call Gillon at 274-3276.

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