Taking stock

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by Mayor Nancy Peckford

Earlier this month, my mother passed away at the age of 76. She had been diagnosed in 2012 with fourth stage ovarian cancer, with five grandkids under the age of 5. Her diagnosis was devastating news, and we prayed that she would have more time with us and, most importantly, her grandchildren.

In the end, we were very blessed that my mother defied the odds for an incredible nine years and, for nearly all of them, enjoyed a high quality of life. She was able to share many special occasions with us – and also spent quite a bit of time in Kemptville, getting to know some of the wonderful people and local businesses.

Losing anyone close to you is never easy – but it certainly prompts one to take stock. While I didn’t grow up in Kemptville, the support offered from friends, colleagues, and neighbours was so appreciated. North Grenville’s capacity for kindness and caring has always struck me as special – but to experience it up close in this way was very moving. After a gruelling year of pandemic ups and downs, it’s a gift to witness and experience people’s capacity to continue to care for each other. And, for many, this small town feeling we’ve got going here is not something we want to lose.

Yet, our community is confronting lots of change, as it has for so many years. Continued high rates of residential growth, the transition of 626 acres of Kemptville College lands in 2018 to a municipally-owned Education and Health Hub with schools, daycares, and businesses and, more recently, the surprise announcement by the Ontario government about the establishment of a provincial Correctional facility in 2027 are among those changes.

The good news is that North Grenville has proven itself to be a dynamic and welcoming place that is adaptable, resilient, and forward-looking. I would argue it’s among our best attributes.

Equally impressive is the array of talented individuals, whether they are retired professionals, business leaders, parents of busy families, among others, who have stepped up to support and shape this community. Remarkably, North Grenville has nine Municipal Advisory Committees, including a newly established Youth Advisory Committee. While the dialogue on those committees is not always easy or straightforward, it allows for folks from a variety of backgrounds and interests to come together and think strategically about our community’s future.

We also have an incredibly committed volunteer base in North Grenville that keeps organizations like the Beth Donovan Hospice, the Kemptville Senior’s Centre, the Youth Centre, the Legion, our own Kemptville District Hospital, minor hockey, dance, and so many other sports, recreation, and culture groups going.

North Grenville is additionally blessed with four dynamic community associations that foster connections and lead various initiatives in Bishop’s Mills, Burritt’s Rapids, Oxford Mills, Kemptville. From time to time, other groups have emerged that are more singular in their focus, such as the two groups currently focused on opposing the provincial Correctional facility.

And while Council – individually or collectively – may not always see things the same way as any group or association, we respect the sincere commitment and efforts by individuals to advocate on behalf of North Grenville. The talent and energy that members of our community bring to the table, and their capacity to engage well, is something I value as a community leader, and have aimed to foster in a variety of ways.

In my experience, no matter how beautiful or unique a community it is, it is truly the people that make the place. As humans, we are hard wired for connection, however that connection happens. In the last 18 months, we were all forced to retreat to our homes and severely limit our interactions and connections with each other. And while Zoom, Facetime, Facebook, and many other digital platforms, bought us time, it didn’t always give us what we needed.

Thankfully, owing to an incredibly high vaccine rate in our region (over 94% of us in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark are now double vaxed!), we are resuming a new normal. This past weekend, my daughter played in her first hockey tournament in nearly two years. While you couldn’t quite see it behind all the masked faces in the stands, the parents were beaming. A neighbour excitedly shared that she was finally able to join Chair Yoga – in person – at the Senior’s Centre. Members of our various faith groups are back to worshiping regularly in the churches they have lovingly maintained.

Collectively, we are – oh so carefully – taking a sigh of relief. And, while I don’t believe we are out of the woods yet, and there will be other COVID-19 variants which may require additional vigilance in the months ahead, there is no better feeling than being able to come together again, at least for now.

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