#LoveLocal: Parry Sound, Almaguin businesses donate time and money to help their community

·3 min read

Locally owned and operated businesses are the social, cultural and economic heart of a community. Unfortunately, this past year has left many unsure if they can continue. In this weeklong series, we look at the vital role local businesses play in our communities, the financial pressure they are under due to COVID-19 and what we can do to help them survive.

Local businesses in Parry Sound, Almaguin build community by making concrete donations of time and money.

The Almaguin Learning Centre has three locations, in South River, Burk’s Falls and Powassan.

Lead instructor Randie Doornink said that traditionally the learning centre has always received good support from local businesses.

“We do a mail-out request for support and we also do a bowling tournament and we get donations from local businesses, either cash or in-kind, depending on what the business is, and then those become prizes at the bowling tournament,” said Doornink.

The Almaguin Learning Centre is funded primarily by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, but Doornink said that funding covers only operating costs and there’s not a lot of room for much else.

If there was no support from local businesses, the learning centre would not be able to offer some of its workshops.

“We have a series of workshops called food and finance — embedded in food and finance are SmartServe and Safe Food Handlers certifications — and we’re able to cover those costs through donations,” she said.

To Doornink, local businesses are a key component in Almaguin communities.

“They become real touchstones — I’m even grateful they let us hang out flyers in their businesses,” Doornink said.

“Most of our communities only have three or four businesses where everybody drops into at any given time and they become real hubs for information sharing.”

In Whitestone, Kathy Lamb said that the Whitestone Public Library and Technology Centre maintains a symbiotic relationship with West Parry Sound businesses.

“We’d like to think of it as a reciprocal arrangement,” said Lamb. “What we want to be able to do when we’re able to open is to be able to offer technology services to small businesses in our community — it could be mom-and-pop businesses, gravel companies — anybody like that, and in turn we hope they support the library.”

Prior to the library closing for expansion and COVID-19 restrictions, local businesses were very supportive of the library’s silent auction.

“When we have our silent auction, we rely totally on donations from businesses,” she said. “It’s just amazing how generous the businesses are and how generous the people are.”

Local businesses are part of the economic fabric of the community, said Lamb. If there were no local businesses, people who live in West Parry Sound — full or even part time — would not have services, she added.

“Here with small businesses, you know the person you’re working with, they get to know you and it’s just a different relationship than you might get in the city,” said Lamb.

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Many community services rely on local business support in the form of donations and volunteered time. Our reporter reached out to community services in Parry Sound, Almaguin to find out how this type of support benefited not-for-profit organizations.

Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star