The MWC continues to survive, celebrates volunteers

·5 min read

The Mary Webb Centre continues to survive.

Peter Garapick, Board Chair for the Mary Webb Centre, has been on a mission to keep the lights on, doors open, and music live.

In April of 2021, the Mary Webb Centre for the Arts Board closed its doors and effectively stopped all programs. This included scheduled performances by the WSO 14 Piece String Orchestra, Danny Michel, Paul Anthony and his CASH tribute, “Talent at the Webb,” and the Hotel California tribute to the Eagles.

With no visitors due to the lasting impact of COVID-19, the MWC struggled with receiving no revenue from shows, community events or the art gallery.

With the shutdown of the live entertainment industry and without the revenue from concerts and art sales, the Mary Webb Centre’s budget has quickly become a challenging one to balance.

“Numerous applications have been submitted to various government grants, but oddly and frustratingly, there seem to be no programs that a not-for-profit without paid staff can access,” said Garapick.

The Centre launched a collaborative campaign, Weave a Webb of Support, where people can help a little to make a big difference.

Weave a Webb of Support aimed to familiarise donors with the ongoing expenses the Centre has, even when the doors are closed. The fundraiser helped raise $29,000 in a year to help pay bills and keep the lights on.

“The Mary Webb Centre for the Arts is very grateful for the community’s incredible support throughout the past year,” said Garapick. “The Mary Webb Centre fully appreciates these kind and gracious offerings.”

Garapick noted while money was rolling in, many volunteers continued to work hard to improve the Centre.

He said many had spent several mornings last summer working on the grounds of the Centre. Together, they have trimmed all the dead and low-lying branches on the trees in the back, cleaned up all of the brush around the trees and put it all through a chipper, spreading all the resulting material around the plants and rocks in the rock gardens at the front and sides of the Centre.

Thanks to the help of donations from people around the community and help from volunteers, the Mary Webb Centre kept the lights on. As a result, the Centre held a volunteer appreciation night for the first time in more than a decade.

“We are where we are today because of you, and we would not be here tonight, and we wouldn’t be here at every concert, community concert, event or art gallery if it weren’t for you guys,” he added.

The Mary Webb Centre honoured and thanked volunteers for their dedicated service throughout the years. Louise Scott, Bob Sutton, Woody McKillop and Diane McKillop were recognized, and all received plaques for their dedicated years of volunteering.

“You’re retired, and we really appreciate it because you’ve been doing so much over the years. And we want to thank you and show our gratitude for that,” said Garapick. “You’ve been so helpful, and you’ve been here from the start and so good at everything you’ve done. We wouldn’t be here with you.”

Garapick added that on the back side of the plaques, there is writing that says they will receive free attendance to every event the Mary Webb Centre puts on.

The Board Chair said it’d taken 12 years, but he is optimistic about the future of the Mary Webb Centre.

“COVID shut us down for two years, but when you say ‘Help us keep the lights on and the music alive,’ and you receive $29,000 in one year just to keep the lights on, that tells you something,” he said.

Garapick also took the time to thank the Canadian Heritage Department, who he said have been imperative in keeping the lights on.

“They understood that all the art establishments like ours across the country would close if they didn’t give us a little help with paying bills,” he said. “After we raised $29,000, they gave us money to help pay the bills. Heritage Canada and the government of Canada’s been absolutely imperative in this.”

He went around the room and asked the volunteers to list things they remembered the MWC had done to improve the building. Fixing leaky roofs, replacing windows, painting the porch and rebuilding the stage were a few of the highlights.

Garapick also thanked TekSavvy. He said the local internet company was looking for a place to put their hub. Being a local, community-minded company, TekSavvy purchased a piece of land from the MWC to store the hub and provide them with internet.

“The best internet in the country is here in Highgate. If you don’t know, they got that piece of land and paid a fair price. It paid off our debt, and we now have free high-speed internet forever,” he said.

Despite many challenges in keeping the lights on throughout the last 12 years, Garapick said he believes the Mary Webb Centre is here for a long time.

“We run such a good show. This shouldn’t exist, but it does. It exists because of all of us in this room. Thank you very much for making the Mary Webb Centre still here and going strong,” said Garapick.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News

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