Three local groups—Muskoka North Good Food Co-op in Huntsville, Fourth Pig Green and Natural Construction in Baysville, and the Dragonfly Collective in Sprucedale—have each received a grant to help them in their pursuit of creating meaningful jobs, strengthening the charitable and nonprofit sector, and addressing social challenges.
The grant comes from the Government of Canada’s Investment Readiness Program and was presented through the Community Foundation Grey Bruce.
“The pervasive and wide-ranging effects of the global pandemic has placed Canadian communities in crisis,” said Andrew Chunilall, CEO of Community Foundations of Canada, a national partner in the Investment Readiness Program. “Recovery efforts must be transformative to meet the test of an uncertain and, at the same time, hopeful and prosperous future. Philanthropy will play a critical role in this future as we consider new ways of deploying our capital and engaging communities. Our investments should aim to alleviate the systemic factors perpetuating inequality, with an eye to a sustainable and inclusive economy for all Canadians. Consequently, social entrepreneurs and impact investors form critical infrastructure to lead our recovery efforts and meet the urgency of the moment. Our work with the IRP is about meeting this moment.”
Muskoka North Good Food Co-op in Huntsville received $36,972 to help increase the regional agri-food sector, market, educate, grow, and encourage community well-being.
The Fourth Pig Green and Natural Construction in Baysville received $88,977 to create a comprehensive viability study on creating a replicable model for accessible, environmentally healthy housing.
The Dragonfly Collective, a not-for-profit organization in Sprucedale, received $25,000 to complete a business plan for a café and community hub and allow further access to funding.
“This grant is an incredible vote of confidence for our new organization,” said Vicky Roeder-Martin, chair of the Dragonfly Collective. “It is very difficult to get funding at this stage of development, so it has been very motivating. This grant is allowing us to get the groundwork done so that we are in a better position when meeting investors. It is really helping us to gain momentum.”
Roeder-Martin described the Dragonfly Collective Café and Bakery as being passionate about community development and transformation while seeking to implement a flexible, creative, small-scale solution to improve the quality of life in its community.
She said the café and bakery will provide revenue for the business while bringing people together for coffee and conversation.
“Through a dynamic and welcoming community hub people will be empowered to share their skills and passions with one another through a variety of programming for all ages, such as cooking classes, tutoring, group music lessons, and book clubs. The space will also provide a venue for local artists to display and sell their work, for local farmers to sell their produce, as well as for local musicians to perform,” she said.
The café will be able to seat up to 40 people with the option of dine-in or take-out.
Roeder-Martin said the collective was gaining momentum prior to COVID-19.
“COVID has prevented us from continuing to have events, which were intended to promote our new organization, help us find volunteers, and do some community fundraising,” she said.
Roeder-Martin said the $25,000 grant will be used to work with various consultants to help design the café and bakery, finish the business plan and set up an office for the collective.
For the Muskoka North Good Food Co-op, the grant will help staff navigate the business through challenges such as COVID-19.
“We are so very grateful for the opportunity to use these funds to address new developments which have been identified, mainly due to the restrictions and different ways of conducting business which have been placed upon us over the past year,” said Kelli Ebbs, general manager of the co-op. “We are pleased to be able to further and effectively market the amazing agri-food sector that we work with each day through the growth of our online e-commerce platform. This will enable customers to purchase the unique and quality offerings that we sell at the food co-op, allowing people to vote prolifically with their dollars. When people shop at and support the Good Food Co-op, a great portion of the revenues are reinvested back right into our very community. This will help drive the growth of an already growing local food economy. We will also be using the funds to purchase a laptop computer for shared staff use so that the new and innovative programs and projects we continue to launch can be done so from the safety and comfort of our staff’s homes, when they do not need to be on-site.”
This grant can help small businesses building capacity and grow in new areas as well, noted Ebbs.
“If you have been into the co-op lately, you have likely noticed that the store is overflowing with delicious, healthy foods. We will become better positioned to meet our customer’s demands for clean, locally produced foods as this grant will also enable us to develop safer spaces that are easier to move around in,” she said. “This restructuring will assist in creating more effective areas for merchandising, product placement and movement.”
One positive to come from COVID-19 would be a trend toward a slow food movement, said Ebbs.
“Since people are spending more time at home and with their families, a noticeable and welcomed shift is happening. People are spending more time preparing [food]. People are spending more time eating together. They are also taking advantage of the opportunity to eat a healthier diet, and are noticing that their spending patterns are changing,” she said. “This has benefitted the producer members we represent at the co-op. Our sales reflect these new societal changes, which translates to our members’ own business growth. It’s absolutely win-win-win. It has impacted our co-op in other ways too. We miss the people coming in and sharing their life stories around our harvest table. We miss the inter-generational visits from families and friends that we were always excited to see. We cannot wait for our edible garden café to reopen so we can welcome all of our wonderful community to gather again, in a well-spaced out and mindful way.”
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