Community centres and event halls in Beaubassin-Est received welcome news this week when the municipality offered each a $10,000 grant.
“This is amazing,” said Lise Cormier, president of the Centre-St-Andre-LeBlanc.
The centre, along with five others in the area, had lost thousands in revenue during the pandemic and had been dipping into its quickly dwindling emergency reserves just to pay basic bills, she said.
“We’re breathing a little bit easier,” she said, adding that the grant came as a surprise, and attributed it partly to increased awareness of their situation by news stories on the subject.
The grants, approved by the municipal council on Monday, recognized that many centres have been unable to hold most of their usual revenue generating activities over the last year, in particular big event rentals and most fundraisers, while bills continued to climb.
The decision was also made recognizing that losing the centres would be harmful to the social health of the community and create a safety risk as the centres are gathering points or shelters in the event of an emergency, said Beaubassin-Est councillor Jean-Charles Dugas, who brought the motion to the table.
Dugas said Beaubassin-Est staff were directed to see what bills all centres were being faced with to understand the scope of the issue and in the end decided on a uniform amount for all six centres.
The centres receiving the grant are: Cormier-Village Cultural and Sports Centre, Golden Age Club of Grand-Barachois, Golden Age Club of Shemogue, Grand-Barachois Hall, Haute-Aboujagane Community Centre and Saint-André-LeBlanc Community Centre.
“Once we get back to “normal” we will have places to meet, to fundraise for those in hard times or be used in case of an emergency,” he said.
Cormier called the centres "the heart of the community.”
While she is grateful that the grant will allow her centre to stay afloat, she worries about other community centres across the province.
“They went above and beyond,” she said, adding that she hopes other municipalities will follow the community's example. “I hope Beaubassin-Est’s actions lead the way, because it’s not just us,” she said.
Centres recently floated the idea of property tax relief while public gatherings are restricted but there has been no action on that idea to date.
The Community Investment Fund, which offers $500 to $10,000 grants to qualifying non-profit community-based organizations for the 2020-21 fiscal year through the Regional Development Corporation was accessed by 148 organizations by the beginning of this month, said Mary-Ann Hurley-Corbyn, spokesperson for the province’s Regional Development Corporation.
Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal