Community Roundtable begins a new initiative

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The first North Grenville Community Group Forum was held at the Municipal Centre on January 10th.  The meeting was convened and organised  by two local activists, Marguerite Boyer and Brian McKee, and the venue and lunch were provided by the municipality and the Mayor’s Office. The meeting was attended by more than fifty people representing over 20 groups within the community.

Brian McKee, who serves as the Chair of the Board for the Kemptville Campus, was the neutral host of the meeting, facilitating the discussion and keeping everyone on task. The Roundtable began with a “speed dating” ice breaker, in which everyone in attendance had just 30 seconds to introduce themselves. A short lunch period followed, with food supplied by Brewed Awakenings, before the group voted on which question in the agenda to tackle with a round of small group discussions. 

The larger group was divided into six smaller groups, where the questions at hand were discussed openly. Issues discussed included mental health and suicide prevention, business activities and new business ideas, the logistics of community events, how to get community members to connect with each other, the lack of volunteers in the community and how to address this, the importance of collaboration rather than working alone in silence, ways to keep the community informed, the importance of advertising events, and much more. 

A speaker from each group was then invited to share their group’s ideas with the larger group. First up was Liz Sutherland from the Kemptville Campus, who shared her group’s thoughts about organizations within North Grenville helping each other by sharing resources. For example, the Chamber of Commerce has preferred rates available for purchasing event insurance, and the North Grenville Public Library has document templates that may be useful to many other local groups. Liz also discussed issues of staff turnover, records management, and the importance of having a “central repository” for notifying residents about upcoming events. 

Next, John Beking from the Rotary Club of Kemptville and the Kemptville Christian Reformed Church presented for group 2. John asked “How do we engage new people who come to our community?” This was a main point of group 2’s discussion, in addition to discussions of volunteering and how to ensure that volunteers feel comfortable and free from liability. 

Geoff Gander from the Kemptville Legion was the reporter for group 3. Geoff explained that organizations in North Grenville are consistently relying on the same small group of regular dedicated volunteers who keep local events alive. Group 3 therefore considered how to help more people in the community – including young people – see the value of supporting local organizations and events through community involvement and donating their time. Geoff explained that his group believes that a platform to bring community members together would help to connect volunteers with each other and with organizations and events requiring help. 

On behalf of group 4, Sara Jane Manning from NG Pride reflected the other groups’ beliefs about the importance of attracting volunteers and communicating about events. Sara also brought to the table the idea that community events should be advertised as just that – events that belong to the community as a whole, rather than being associated with specific organizations. “How do we communicate in this community of community builders?” Sara asked. Group 4 also discussed issues of how different organizations can share skills to help each other out. 

Next to speak was Dawn Rodger from Seniors Community Services. She explained that group 5 had similar discussions as the other groups when it came to the issue of attracting volunteers, and particularly how to remain relevant for the “untapped potential” of youth in the area. Group 5 also had discussions about how to avoid the duplication of efforts, and the importance of creating social spaces such as the Friendship Luncheon. 

Last up was Sierra Jones-Martel from the North Grenville Public Library, who opened for group 6 with a joke, saying that she was going to discuss a “completely different subject – volunteers!” This elicited many laughs from the group. Sierra explained that group 6 discussed how to make events more visible to youth and other potential volunteers. Following Sierra’s short presentation, Brian explained that all of the ideas discussed at the Roundtable will be collated in a document and distributed. 

All five members of Municipal Council were present for the discussions and had the benefit of hearing ideas from community leaders. Mayor Peckford made closing remarks about the success of the Roundtable, her enthusiasm about doing Roundtables on a regular basis, and inviting even more community players. “This is a modest investment actually, where there is huge return in terms of community cohesion, connectivity, and awareness of issues,” the Mayor added.

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