Benefit proof of district’s goodwill

Duane Hicks

‘Acts of Kindness’
fetch $20,000
The generosity of district residents never seems to end—the proof being the “Acts of Kindness Benefit” held Friday evening at the Royal Canadian Legion in Fort Frances, which raised about $20,000 for the “Community Chest” and with more donations still coming in the mail.
The event saw more than 150 people socialize, have dinner, and buy or bid on well over 100 “Acts of Kindness,” which were donated by local individuals, service clubs, and businesses.
These ranged from yoga classes and snow shovelling to catered dinners and fly-in fishing trips.
“There were many, many people who came forward and shared whatever talents they had to help out, or just dropped off ‘Acts of Kindness,’” noted Tannis Drysdale, one of the event’s organizers.
“The result was a wonderful evening and enough money raised to allow ‘Community Chest’ to continue to help many people in our district,” she added.
“Fort Frances is a community that never lets you forget how generous, kind, and talented the people are,” Drysdale remarked.
“There is an incredible culture of giving here.”
While the benefit was in support of the local “Community Chest,” it was organized by a separate group, including Drysdale, Wanda Botsford, Geoff Gillon, Anthony Mason, Dale Fortes, Joelle Blanc-Paull, Raj Sritharan, Gary Rogozinski, Jane Gillon, and Jeannette Cawston.
Jane Gillon, who also was the evening’s guest speaker, emphasized how much the “Community Chest” means to local families.
“There was a shock a number of years ago because a member of our family was diagnosed with an illness, and like any other family that has an illness diagnosed, you don’t know quite what to do, you don’t really know where to turn,” she noted.
“There were a lot of trips to Toronto, a lot of trips to Thunder Bay, a lot of back and forth with doctors,” she recalled.
“And somewhere along the line, very early in the process, the family was told that there was an organization like the ‘Community Chest’ that would help with some of the extraordinary costs of travelling back and forth to Toronto and [the] Thunder Bay Regional Hospital,” Gillon added.
“For the past several years, we have been very, very grateful and thankful the ‘Community Chest’ has been here,” she stressed.
During any kind of serious illness, families not only have to deal with doctors and the medical system, but worry about taking care of their home, paying their bills, and tending to other family members, Gillon said.
“What I’ve found with the ‘Community Chest’ is because the burden of having to pay all those extraordinary costs is kind of lifted from the family, you can really focus on making sure that your loved one has the support that they need,” she explained.
Gillon said she recently was at a presentation about having a creative economy, and got to thinking about how Rainy River District, with its volunteers and groups like the “Community Chest,” has “developed a culture of giving, of helping each other and being there.”
“That kind of assistance and volunteerism means a lot, particularly when you’re in a time of medical crisis and you don’t have to come up with those kinds of funds, and you know that all of those people there are backing you,” she remarked.
“It means a great deal.”
The “Community Chest” defrays any expenses incurred as a result of financial hardship in medical emergencies, said Blanc-Paull, who acted as co-emcee for the “Acts of Kindness” benefit along with Fortes.
“We are not a primary funder, but our mission is to help financially after all of your avenues of funding have been exhausted,” she explained, noting that although the “Community Chest” does not expect people to pay them back once they give them financial aid, many people do end up doing so in one way or another.
The charity continues to be well-utilized, dispersing 110 cheques totalling $72,000 in 2009, Blanc-Paull said.
“That just goes to show how much money we give out every year,” she added. “Doing things like this [benefit] are real important to keep our bank account full.”
Fortes said being involved in the event helped him realize the number of lives the “Community Chest” affects.
“It really drove home to me how valuable it is,” he remarked, adding that having lived in various communities in Northwestern Ontario, the “Community Chest” is one of the differences that makes Fort Frances stand out from the rest.
Fortes recognized the “Community Chest” partners, including the local Knights of Columbus, Kiwanis, Fort Frances Lions Club, Legion Ladies Auxiliary, Georges Blanc, Larry Cousineau, Linda Hamilton, Linda Blanc, and Blanc-Paull.
Steve Sinclair, who himself was helped by the “Community Chest” five years ago when he had open heart surgery, said grace before dinner.
Faye Flatt and Romeo Duguay provided entertainment, teaming up to sing Johnny Reid’s “Today I’m Gonna Try and Change the World,” and Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.”
A significant part of the evening was the raising of funds through people buying “Acts of Kindness,” which were posted on the wall as tags and then taken down and purchased, or bidding on them during the auction, which was streamed live on the Internet via webcast.
Technical assistance was provided by Sritharan and Mason.
The auction featured Fortes, Blanc-Paull, Sinclair, Mason, Cousineau, and others as guest auctioneers (during Cousineau’s time on stage, he announced that earlier Friday, a woman who wished to remain anonymous gave him a $3,000 cheque to donate to the “Community Chest”).
The “acts of kindness” didn’t stop with services to be sold or auctioned Friday, as many individuals and businesses offered help in making the fundraiser a reality.
For instance, the evening featured a turkey dinner with all the fixings—all made with food donated by more than a dozen sponsors and prepared by the local Legion Ladies Auxiliary.
All the servers were volunteers, including the Muskie cheerleaders as well as staff from La Place Rendez-Vous and Boston Pizza.
The Fort Frances Lakers, meanwhile, helped set up the Legion hall, the use of which was donated by the Royal Canadian Legion Br. #29.
Other sponsors helped with telecommunications equipment, banners, decorating, advertising, tickets, posters, and more.
Botsford said that if you added up all of the goods and services donated to make the event a reality, there were more than 300 “acts of kindness.”