St. Marys Smart & Caring Community Fund kicks off Nov. 13
By Dan Rankin
From 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm on Nov. 13 at the St. Marys Town Hall Theatre, Mayor Al Strathdee and the St. Marys Community Players will be on hand with representatives from the Stratford Perth Community Foundation (SPCF) for the kickoff of the “St. Marys Smart & Caring Community Fund,” a new unrestricted regional fund to benefit the projects and initiatives of groups and institutions in St. Marys.
“We’ve been trying to get out and get to know more people,” said SPCF executive director Tracy Van Kalsbeek. “I think this kick off will help as well.”
While it promises to be a uniquely St. Marys-oriented fund, there are already examples around St. Marys of groups and institutions that have benefited from SPCF funds. They serve as a good example of the types of projects that can receive grant money to make St. Marys a more “smart and caring” community, Van Kalsbeek said.
Since SPCF’s inception in 2004, they’ve invested over $600,000 back to Stratford, St. Marys and Perth County, with close to $100,000 of that going to St. Marys and area, she said.
One need look no further than Little Falls Public School for evidence of the good work being done by SPCF funds. Over the past two years, the Annie and Isabelle Chesterfield Fund has granted a total of $9,500 to the LFPS Forest School Program which has been run by Kendra Martin since 2013.
Over the years, the Forest School Program – a nature awareness education program – has grown, and now seven LFPS classes regularly take part in the program, with three others visiting it on a seasonal basis. That amounts to about 250 kids benefiting from the program, Martin told the Independent.
“They’ve been very generous,” said Martin. Back in June, Martin was a speaker at the SPCF’s second annual “Community Impact Celebration,” along with a couple of LFPS students. They told a crowd including former CTV News anchor Lloyd Robertson and Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson about the things they’ve learned and enjoyed about their time at Red Mill Farm, north of St. Marys.
This year, Little Falls and its Leading Mentally Healthy Schools Team also received a grant for $5,000 from the Staffen family’s Brain & Mind Matters Community Fund for the creation of a new wellness space in the school library. The space, which has been dubbed “The Nest” to match with the school’s mascot the Heron, opened in September but is continuing to grow and develop as the school learns what works and what is needed, Vice Principal Kerry Carlyle said.
Carlyle described the space they’re working on creating as having “airiness and sunlight” as well as “Zafu” meditation cushions and a water feature that will soon house fish. The grant funds are
also being used to train staff in mindfulness instruction, Carlyle said.
They have reached out to Mike Masse of Stratford, whose website MindfulMike.ca describes him as “a holistic therapist who specializes in applying mindfulness techniques to help youth and adults reduce stress and anxiety.”
That, in turn, will benefit the Leading Mentally Healthy Schools Team, which is composed of 22 students in Grades 5 and 6. “They will be the voice for our school, ensuring all students voices are heard,” Carlyle said.
“It was really neat to see the kids show their parents the Nest space at a recent staff open house,” she said. “Really exciting. The kids are very receptive to it. It’s neat to see them apply the strategies of calm mindfulness in other spaces, not just in the classrooms, but hopefully at home too.”
While the wellness space is still very much a work in progress, Carlyle said she was overjoyed to have received the grant to make it possible in the first place. A sign in the Nest honours and acknowledges the Brain & Mind Matters Community Fund for its contribution, she said.
Van Kalsbeek said she hopes St. Marys residents support the new St. Marys Smart and Caring Community Fund so more things like the Forest School Program and the Nest can become a reality in St. Marys.
“What better way for the community to continue to support projects and initiatives like these, than this new Smart & Caring Community Fund? It will fund projects and initiatives here in St. Marys only, and it is filled by the people for the people,” she said.
The Stratford Perth Community Foundation is one of the over 191 Community Foundations across Canada dedicated to facilitating philanthropy at the local level.
Donations to the St. Marys Smart & Caring Community Fund can be made online now, by visiting SPCCF.ca/giving. Click “Donate Now,” and select the St. Marys fund in the list of ‘Campaigns.’