SABA busy with activities this spring

·8 min read

The newsletter for the South Algonquin Business Alliance was sent out on June 6 by Angela Pollak, the alliance’s secretary treasurer. The newsletter updates the SABA membership and everyone who receives it on the business alliance’s activities so far this year, including their photography project, the RTO12 “The Big Applause” awards, the RTO12 Regional Tourism Summit, RTO12’s new director and current SABA chair Gabriella Hairabedian, RTO12’s Indigenous Cultural Awareness Training, SABA member Evelyne Lesage being named the chair of the Whitney Seniors’ Group, an update on the One Fine Day zine, the new SABA website and calls for applications for this year’s Enabling Accessibility Grants.

Pollak started off the SABA June newsletter by saying that they had been really busy over the spring and apologized for not sending out more bulletins earlier.

“Here is a quick update now to get you caught up before the summer frenzy hits. Take care and we’ll connect again in the fall,” she says.

First up was SABA’s photography project, where they’re building up their photo library of the township with images of animals, landscapes, landmarks, businesses and people. They have invited photographers from all over Ontario to come up to the area and take photos in return for free accommodation in the township. According to the newsletter, the photos will be used on SABA’s website and social media, in the Ontario Film Database, and to develop and promote tourism products in the region. They are also sharing images with the property owners who allow them to take photos of their properties and businesses. They ask any interested property and/or business owners to get in touch with them at gday@mysouthalgonquin.ca.

Pollak says they are very excited about the photography project, and that they’ve had such an enthusiastic response resulting in four visits from amazingly talented photographers including Dash8 Aerial Photography, Jenn Derbach Photography and Click Photography.

“We’re going to continue as long as we have willing photographers and a need for images. SABA offers our sincere thanks to the accommodators who have donated stays including Four Seasons Algonquin Cabins, Algonquin’s Edge Retreat, The Rolling Rapids Motel, Dreamcatcher Motel, Eastgate Motel, and Four Corners Algonquin Camping and Glamping,” she says.

The first annual “The Big Applause” awards are being held by RTO12/Explorer’s Edge on June 22 at the Regional Tourism Summit at The Kee to Bala in Muskoka. The awards recognize regional tourism employees who deserve a big round of applause for their work. Individual winners in seven categories will be announced at the ceremony, and they’ll receive $200 to spend at regional accommodations, attractions, events, shops or restaurants. They’ll also get an invitation to a celebratory luncheon at the JW Marriott The Rousseau Muskoka Resort and Spa with RTO12 staff and board members, with the date and time to be decided. They’ll also receive recognition in an upcoming RTO12 industry newsletter and at the Regional Tourism Summit.

Speaking of the Regional Tourism Summit and Annual General Meeting, RTO12 will be holding it in person at the aforementioned The Kee to Bala in Muskoka from 9:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. This event will feature the Year in Review and A Look Forward, which will cover the new Regenerative Tourism Strategy and programs that are being developed to promote sustainability in the industry and in the communities. According to the newsletter, the AGM will be held after presentations on workforce development, the Regional Tourism Data Hub and the RTO12 Sustainable Tourism Pilot Project. Also, lunch will be available for anyone interested in attending the hour-long afternoon session on the Catalyst Housing Model, which is a new approach to solving the industry’s workforce challenges in the region. For anybody from South Algonquin who wishes to attend, there are a limited number of gas cards available worth $50 and can be inquired about by emailing James Murphy at james@explorersedge.ca.

The RTO12 is a destination development organization that leads the tourism industry in Canada in regenerative development, ensuring that the communities and tourism stakeholders in the regions it covers are able to survive and prosper in the long term, and provides South Algonquin with what SABA calls a lifeline to the greater Muskoka region. SABA’s current chair, Hairabedian, has been chosen as a new director at RTO12 and will be commencing her duties at the 2022 AGM.

Pollak says that she was excited to have Hairabedian on the board representing South Algonquin in the Muskoka-Parry Sound region because of her leadership and presence represent a key local connection to our destination marketer.

“She’s a natural choice and a great fit. My term on the board is ending in 2024, so this will be a great opportunity to work together toward a seamless transition,” she says.

Hairabedian says she was very excited to be a new board member of the RTO12.

“One of SABA’s goals is to market South Algonquin as a tourist destination. Not just for economic development, but also to share with the world the natural beauty of this part of Ontario. Having a network and representing South Algonquin in our region is important. I also have a background in finance which can be helpful to the board,” she says.

RTO12 held some Indigenous Cultural Awareness Training in two back-to-back workshops on May 25 at Bracebridge Hall.

Chrystal Tabobandung, the owner of R.A.I.S.E. Indigenous Cultural Awareness and Competency Training hosted the sessions. She explored the various contexts that inform Indigenous peoples and communities experiences across North America, with emphasis on the ways they’ve engaged with and challenged colonialism. Participants also learned how colonial forces create, shape and regulate identity and influence perceptions of specific Indigenous communities.

Founding board member of SABA Evelyne Lesage recently became chair of the Whitney Seniors Group. Pollak said in the newsletter that they’re looking forward to opportunities to collaborate and support each other in the future. Anyone interested in volunteering with the WSG is asked to contact Lesage at elesage@live.ca.

Now at local stores throughout South Algonquin and surrounding areas, the second issue of the zine One Fine Day has been very well received, according to Pollak. The zine chronicles the history of the community’s railroads, beloved community members past and present and features night sky photography. She thanked the entire team for their time and effort to make it all come to fruition, and says she couldn’t be more pleased at the results.

“The project was a great success and the process was much smoother this time around. We were able to raise enough funds through advertising to print 5,000 copies which are being distributed free of charge from now on. The feedback we’re getting from people who are distributing and reading the zine has been so exciting and energizing for the team! Distribution sites include business locations in Whitney, Madawaska, as well as Barry’s Bay, Bancroft, Toronto, Ottawa, Muskoka and Barrie. We’ll start selling advertising spots in issue no. 3 and collect content starting this fall. Enquiries can go to zine@mysouthalgonquin.ca,” she says.

SABA’s new website is live at www.mysouthalgonquin.ca and Pollak invites everyone to have a look. She says that every local business gets at least one free link to their own website from it and local events can be added at no charge to the organizers. She says that developing an online presence has been a slow and expensive process, but the SABA board is thankful to have had it funded through the Enabling Accessibility Program and they’re really pleased with the outcome.

“But a website without social media is only part of the work. We are currently seeking funding to develop our social media presence which will help us get the word out about our website to our target audience and hopefully help it rank higher in Google searches. Progress has been significant, but still seems slow. We’re anticipating we’ll start to see the benefits of all our hard work come together by this time next year,” she says.

Finally, the newsletter addressed the aforementioned Enabling Accessibility Grants, totalling $100,000, that will be opening up shortly for applications. Pollak says the grants pay for capital/construction upgrades to make businesses more accessible for people with disabilities. She says they’ve had a lot of success with the program in the past and their community improvement total now exceeds $500,000 in grant money. Those who are interested are invited to get in touch by emailing gday@mysouthalgonquin.ca. She says she has been talking with individual businesses as part of ongoing conversations about the grants.

“Some businesses have expressed interest and I’m hopeful that we’ll see at least three applications this year, perhaps more.”

Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times

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