A Glitterbomb of Park-Love for Centre Wellington:

(originally printed in the Fergus Elora News Express March 2012)

Let me get right to it: there is a loud voice in our community that is pretty much screaming at Council to focus on roads and bridges. I have to hand it to Kelly Linton, my Ward rep because he publically asked for input. I thought all was well until I heard this week about how Parks is in the process of being marginalized and that presently there is a roads/ bridges focus.

HAD I known, I would have stepped up to say ‘hey, what the firetruck is happening here?’a little earlier. There are parks in this community which have FOR YEARS been an eyesore and needed new equipment for kids. Hoffer Park anyone? Behind the Township Building? It’s a disgrace. And it has been my entire childrens lives. I have said this before, here and in letters so lets review again the importance of a full-on, Parks Budget. No slashing. No burning. Just expanding.

Let me state right here that if my taxes go up because the Parks budget has been expanded to get our community sorted out, then I am all for it. I am for a decent safe park for kids in Elora. I am for a tennis court (just one please!). I am for a regulated ice pad down at Bissell Park to ensure ice for skating all winter (three cheers from my boys on this one!). I am for covering that ice pad so that it can be used for other events during the year, whether it be music, the Soup Off, Zumba or a community garage sale for fundraisers. I am for public restrooms down at Bissell. I am also for a skateboard park, a bike course for teens, a climbing wall and a dog park. I would like to forget I live in Canada for a minute and be able to have any event actually be a likely success because it is outdoors but protected from the elements. I would like the parks here to be so jam packed with things to do, that no child will ever say to me again ‘mom, there is nothing to do.’ Because right now, they are right. There is nothing to do that is free, that is fun and safe, to do in Elora.

Lets review for those who have forgotten the important of “Parks”, and by this I mean the outside AND inside dynamics of the department as a whole.
Parks can provide basic services to poorer residents. Parks can integrate the disabled, disadvantaged and the socially alienated. Parks help develop strong communities. Parks can assist the tourist industry with economic development. Parks can increase property values and tax revenues. Parks can stimulate leisure retail industry (ziplining, kayaking, tubing anyone?) Parks can reduce health problems and costs to business (a company in Wolwich is now providing 2x 1.5 hr lunches a week for staff to exercise on company time as they have seen the direct effect of lowered benefits costs with healthy staffers). Parks can help get kids off the street and give them something to do. Parks can provide Youth employment (my son is going for his lifeguarding certs and thinking maybe ref clinics next year). Parks can create civic identity and pride.

I get about 5 compliments a week for KIPP (Kitchen in the Park Project in Bissell Park). That endeavor has already created a sub-culture of residents who had previously not exactly found a place in our community. Now we have passionate bakers working together, sharing drink and planning upcoming KIPP events. Parks are spaces where families and companies can spend an entire day picnicking and connecting.
Parks is truly what keeps our communities, vibrant healthy and actually strengthens the roots of our economic sustainability regardless of our population size, diversity, and dynamics. This immense social value of parks is part of the ‘glue’ of a healthy society.

A girlfriend remarked to me today, the traditions that she recalls as a child where everyone biked over to the local outdoor pool, with our 50 cents, and we conquered a back flips off the diving board, water polo games, nailing down handstands in the pool without holding our nose. Summers of memories making new friends and skill building: It was amazing!

Council is complaining about the Fergus Grand Theatre needing $60,000 a year in township assistance. Really? We have a Council of six that receives $45,000 a year to go on conferences. Last week I had the privilege of attending a theatre production of Babar with my sons grade 3 class at the Fergus Grand. It was packed in the morning and about 75% capacity in the afternoon. The kids were falling all over themselves to ask questions to the actors about the set designs, costumes and the story itself. The children and their questions had to be cut off eventually. Had you witnessed this spectacle you would not question for a second the validity of the theatre being accessible to everyone in our Township.

Right now we have roads and bridges that are in need of repair. We also have been provided up until now, cadillac services where our sidewalks are cleared and our snow is removed when a single snowflake falls from the sky. Listen, our parks are important places to meet the green, connect your community, target your health needs and importantly: provide a healthy affordable place for our youth to go. We need to stop viewing Parks and Recreation as a soft service to our community. It should be number one! not ten on the list!

We need more than ever to preserve our Parks budgets, make sure that they are financially attainable for all classes of our community. Look, busted up roads will always be around us because of our wild seasons. We fix one road, another will need repair. For now, lets look at a rough road like a traffic calming exercise and buff up the parks budget. Look at it like investing in the wonder pill for longevity.

(Below is the response from Andy Goldie, Parks Director, CW. The budget was approved)

Over the past week or so Township Council and myself have received a number of emails supporting our parks and facilities and asking Council to financially support improvements to our parks. On behalf of the Township I want to thank you for taking the time to show your support for the Parks & Recreation Department and specifically the parks and opens spaces in Elora and Centre Wellington. It is always great to hear from our residents that are so passionate for our parks, open space, trails, facilities, and services/programs. It is also important for staff and Council to hear from our residents on what they feel is important as we discuss our annual operating and capital budgets so that we can ensure we are providing the right services to our community.

As Director of the Parks and Recreation Department it is very exciting to know that there are so many people who care about what happens in our parks and what we are planning for our parks and open space. We do recognize that our Centre Wellington Park system in particular is not where we would like it to be and we are working with Council at improving this situation. Our parks, open space, trails, facilities, and services/programs are a big part of what makes for a high quality of life for our children, adults, seniors, and families, especially in getting more people more active given today’s high obesity rates. That being said it will take time (years) and many dollars to make these changes. As everyone knows funding this work is very challenging given the many other projects and issues the Township has to address and provide.

I thought I would use this time to let you know some of the positive things that are happening for the parks system in Centre Wellington. I have specifically focused on a number of Elora projects as many of the emails we have received wrote about this in particular:
1) Wellington County Active Transportation Plan and Centre Wellington Trails Master Plan
a. We are currently in the 2nd phase of developing an overall regional active transportation plan for non-motorized transportation (i.e. cycling, walking, etc). At the same time we are developing an overall Trail Master Plan for Centre Wellington. We have been getting a lot of great input from our community via an online survey and public information meetings held last fall. A second set of public information meetings will be held in April. Please watch our website for information on these meetings.
2) Hoffer Park, Elora
a. Council approved funds to replace the play equipment in this park last year. We tendered the project out last fall but we only received one bid so we could not accept it. We will be re-sending out a tender this spring to replace the equipment this summer when budgets are approved.
b. The planting bed was replanted 2 years ago and a very old small concrete wading pool (under planting bed) was removed as the concrete was all broken up.
3) Victoria Park, Elora
a. As you may have noticed we spent approximately $175,000 last year with the 1st phase of implementing the new master plan for the park. Several years ago the community helped developed an overall master plan for the park and we are working over the next number of years to implement this plan. No major work will be completed this year.
4) O’Brien Park, Elora
a. We have allocated $30,000 to upgrade some of the play equipment in this park this summer. The teeter totter, swings, and monkey bars will be replaced and the tender will be sent out this spring when budgets are approved.
5) Replacement of Aging Play equipment (Elora, Fergus, Belwood)
a. We have developed a long term replacement program for all of the existing play equipment in Centre Wellington which given the number of structures we have will take a many years to complete.
b. To date we have replaced structures in Webster park, Hollman park, and Beatty park in Fergus as part of the life cycle replacement budgets. Replacement swings were also installed in Maple park in Belwood as well.
c. Hoffer park and O’Brien park are part of this program funding.
6) Play Equipment Safety surfaces (Elora, Fergus, Belwood)
a. In 2012 Council approved $30,000 to begin the installation of proper safety surfaces in some of our existing parks with play equipment that currently do not meet current safety guidelines. Staff worked on the required safety surface layouts and surfacing during the fall of 2011 and this work will begin this spring at various parks. As this has been an ongoing issue it may take a few years for us to get all the existing equipment with the proper safety surfacing.
i. New surfacing (wood fibre) was installed at Maple Park in Belwood two years ago
ii. All new or replacement play equipment installation will meet current play ground safety guidelines.
7) Bissell Park (Elora)
a. We have been generously supported by the Grand River Agricultural Society with a donation of $125,000 and the Elora Lions Club with a donation of $50,000 towards the park improvements.
b. Work to date includes the master planning of the park, preliminary design of multi-use outdoor performing and recreation area, new Melville St park entrance/on street parking/ new planting bed, a new boardwalk (with in kind hands on work by Elora Lions Club) and the new asphalt pathway.
c. New partnerships with Kitchen in the Park (KIPP) for a wood oven area and with the Elora Farmer’s market who now host their market from May-Oct each year.
d. We have had people asking us about proceeding with the installation of a refrigerated outdoor ice rink as per the approved master plan. This work was included in the development of a multi-use outdoor performing centre and recreation area within the park. We applied for 2 grant to further this project but neither were given to us.
e. We have allocated funds in the 2013 & 2014 capital forecast budget to possibly proceed with the refrigerated ice rink but this is pending budget approvals.
f. This issue about a better ice surface has been pretty high in discussion this year due to the lack of cold weather to maintain the normal winter ice rink at Bissell park and many other parks this winter.
g. Bissell park master plan has seen positive and negative support for the plan – specifically the multi-purpose outdoor performing area. This part of the project has been deferred several years in the capital budget.
8) Skateboard park, Elora
a. We have had numerous requests from children and parents to provide a skateboard park in Elora like the one in Fergus. Some ramps were provided a number of years ago behind the Elora Community Centre however all of these have been taken or tossed into the gorge is my understanding.
b. Funding of $150,000 has been allocated in the 2014 capital forecast budget but this is subject to budget approvals.
9) Elora Ridge Subdivision (Bridge Street)
a. We have been working with the developer to build 1 full sized soccer field and 2 medium soccer fields which are irrigated over the past two years. These field will begin to be used by the local soccer group starting this May.
10) Milligan Park (Fergus)
a. The 2012 capital budget does include funds to develop a small children’s splash pad this year for operations in 2013.
b. We are currently investigating water conservation and quality options for this splash pad and efficient operating costs.
c. The splash pad was included in the approved park master plan that involved the input of the local residents and a sign was erected in the park showing the approved master plan 2 years ago.
11) Elora Community Centre
a. We have allocated funding of $300,000 in our capital budget for 2012 to replace the metal roof over the arena. We have a number of existing leaks on this 30+ year old roof
b. The header trench for the ice mechanical system was replaced 3 years ago and a new HVAC system was installed in the viewing area and change rooms last year.
c. We are allocating funds in coming years to replace the original ice mechanical system and arena boards and glass as well as look at upgrades to the change rooms pending budget approvals.

I hope some of this information helps you to see some of the things we are planning to accomplish for our park and facilities. We have many other plans and projects that we are working on for the future. Funding these new project is always difficult and in many cases these new facilities do increase our overall operational costs which then impacts the yearly tax increase.

If you have any questions about any of these projects noted above or any other projects please do not hesitate to contact me.

Andy Goldie, OALA, CSLA


Design Guidelines Way Overdue for Centre Wellington

(This post was originally printed in the August 2011 edition of the Fergus Elora News Express)

Years ago when No Frills injected itself into our community via OMB, our community had a bit of a discussion in the press about how obtuse design guidelines are in our province. (there are new ones, but we have to designate what those guidelines are in our official plan first, which we haven’t).

Before I arrived here there was a huge kafuffle about the Tim Hortons that went in on Elora Rd 7 and how promises were made by various sides that Tims would build something that was indicative of Elora’s Historical heritage. It didn’t happen. People were upset, but as usual, no one held an honest grudge and the Tims on the highway continues to thrive. People still talk about it though, and compare it to the Tims architecture in St. Jacobs.

That owner made the effort in their design. The owner in Elora did not make an effort. The question begs to be asked: how would you like to be remembered?
No Frills promised the OMB meeting attendees an ‘upgraded’ façade, which still included the giant banana sign but they offered to plant some trees as a gesture to… I don’t know… mildly appease the masses? This was actually a giant leap for Loblaws: to plant trees.

This issue of trees, design guidelines and historical preservation is in the front of my mind right now as I am experiencing a fairly monstrous renovation within spitting distance to our home. It is reminding me that our local planning guidelines in Ontario are still a shambles. 4000 sq ft homes are allowed to add on more square footage in a neighborhood that is clearly far more modest, and it doesn’t matter if your design destroys another homeowners value, enjoyment, sun and sky.

In addition, that a perfectly healthy tree can be removed without penalty in order to further renovation and destruction. In Toronto, perfectly healthy trees cannot be removed and if they are, the unlucky homeowners will be stuck with a $10,000 fine. It was explained to me that Toronto’s laws regarding tree removal have a backlog of two years and that even a tree that has been heavily damaged in a storm will get stuck on the waiting list. It is also expensive to run a department that deals with trees making it nonsensical to have one here.

I hear that.

None the less, a beautiful healthy Maple was removed to create a giant renovation in a modest neighborhood which is sad at the very least.

Its also odd that what is apparently Elora’s first home on this side of the river is allowed to have its entire top half removed. We are experiencing a backlog of heritage designations, which allowed for this renovation to be rubber stamped in the first place.

Tired of trying to figure out how the firetruck we have all this craziness in the community both in town and on the highway, I had a chat with the building department. It is clear to me that Elora and Fergus need to have some heritage guidelines in place. From there we can control the design of future developments. If the rules aren’t written, we all lose and we can expect more junky large big box stores, giant homes in modest neighborhoods, trees ripped down darkening our community with all the aluminum siding builders want.

I have heard grumblings that there are too many Township staff, but I believe that hiring a consultant whose only mandate is to create a heritage driven – unified plan that suits each of our communities is the only answer.

The Building Department as it stands, is maxed out and needs the support from Council to hire someone to put the guidelines in place.

If this is interesting to you at all please send a letter to each councilor, or bend their ear the next time you see them. I would love for that conversation to start here.
********
(The following tidbit is very out of date: stay tuned for my “staci eats crow” edition)

According to industry insiders, I am polarizing the community with my views on the hospital foundation.

Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to make everyone think twice about how all the monies donated thus far are in fact, still doing nothing. I appreciated their prompt response though, as did everyone else who is following this drama. They did only respond to one of my points, which was to agree the money is still sitting (in their accounts, not the Governments).

While we can point fingers as to how this started, lets remember one thing: a lot of donors are disenfranchised with how their Foundation donation money is NOT being spent, making it difficult for other very worthy groups, not just my own – to raise funds. That is a reality we all have to sit in.

I checked out the website for the Groves Foundation and had a look at the Bill of Rights for donors. That is an interesting, fair read, professional and encouraging. Until I stumbled onto Right # 4. Its says “To be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given.” The potential that the build may not happen in your lifetime or your grandchildren’s, should be the caveat.

Look, as long as our community continues to vote for MPP’s that are not running the province, this project will be hamstrung. This is political. Like the Wind Turbine Projects.. like… well enough said. (There is an election around the corner, maybe someone needs to make this build part of their platform of promises?)

***************
KIPPnews we are going to serve chili and pizza on Saturday September 17th, during Riverfest featuring Danny Michel at Bissell Park.

The KIPP ovens are still in the infant stage but we are pretty excited about the success of our last few bakes. I am hoping that most of the last few details will be completed by then.

Stay Tuned or subscribe to http://www.kippelora.com or join our Facebook group to keep in the loop.


Brigitte DePape is My Hero

(Originally published in the Fergus Elora News Express June 2011)

The Senate in Ottawa came under terrorist threat a few weeks back via a piece of red cardboard covered with chalk writings saying “STOP HARPER.” Yip that’s right folks, cardboard is now considered a security threat. No wait; it wasn’t the cardboard that was the threat, but merely the message on the board. Buckle up cause there are going to be some brand spankin’ new security scrutinizing a happinin’ down in thar Senate and Parliament…you best be leaving your cardboard at home.

Its sort of an old subject now, but when I mention young Brigitte DePape to friends still this week, they look at me like I am smoking something. I am still inspired by this young student from the University of Ottawa who snuck a red sign under her skirt while she was performing her job as a Page. She pulled it out for the press during the Throne Speech by our new Governor General, and our Supreme Court Justices sitting with their backs to her maybe 10 feet away.

Who knew that a piece of cardboard and beautiful young girl named Brigitte DePape would stun most Canadians and some Americans into… silence.

Whew!

I am waiting for the big shooter lawyer to waltz in, lead her all the way to the very Supreme Court Justices who had their backs to her during her very big moment, only to face her, charging firing without just cause.
Okay maybe not.
We have the Charter of Rights, and free speech does not have a designated area the last time I checked.

Maybe she’ll take up filmmaker Michael Moore on his offer to employ her. She has oodles of possibilities and needs to do something amazing with such a bright future and the momentum fierce from the stunt.
Brigitte was to act impartial according to her job description of Page. But I have been known to step outside of my job description, once or a hundred times or so…. And the few times I did a big overstep it usually got me in hot water (ask my husband about the time I called his boss, the President of Delta Hotels from my backyard in Newfoundland to complain about how they … well you can ask him).

Back to Brigitte, and the Senate. Ok, did anyone notice all the empty seats at the Senate in that photograph? Where are our hard working Senators anyway? We as taxpayers pay for this ridiculous group and they don’t seem to think that showing up for the Throne Speech is worthy?

I am so impressed with this Generation Z ‘er. She has reminded all of us that we DO in fact have a voice, and that there are new innovative methodologies to Guerilla Marketing your view. She is challenging and motivating us to get off our duff and say ENOUGH ALREADY. I kind of wish she had a sign that said “FIRE THE SENATORS’ instead cause they don’t bother to show up most of the time for the deep six figure salary with glorious pension. Further, naysayer Canadians criticizing vocal Canadians for what their definition of democracy might be is not valid and unacceptable at this time of our socially connected society. Its the Generation X’s that are nullifying the Generation Z’s and dividing our country. What was once considered ‘left’ is the new centre Mr. and Mrs. Gen X !

We as Canadians need to acknowledge the courage of this generation. Please do not dismiss them. For those wishing to whip her with a wet noodle, may I remind them that our Conservative Party was found in contempt of Parliament, which is a far greater travesty and insult to this institution than her actions will ever be.

KIPPelora Update: June 4th, 11th and 12th KIPP found itself with oodles of help to stain our new shed a beautiful red and create the base for the pizzaovens in the east end of Bissell Park. It was extraordinary to see how our community came together to pitch in hours upon hours of skill and assistance. Amazing too how this is work, but doesn’t feel like it when your peers are pitching in. We have posted some photos on our website http://www.kippelora.com and please sign up there if you wish to be kept in the loop for what is happening. At this point it looks like the weekend of July 9th and 10th will be set aside for building the barrel oven shapes if you would like to come down and assist with this. We will have our skilled oven builders on hand for this phase of the project. Already a number of folks have demonstrated interest in this component. Everyone is welcome to pitch in and meantime KIPP will be actively looking for some stone masons to assist with applying the rocks for outside the oven. For interest in this please contact me at kippelora@gmail.com


Lazy Parenting Creates a Win-Win for Everyone

(Published Fergus-Elora News Express May 2011)

So, I walked into the kitchen last week, and in there was my seven year old running a survey as to what sort of salad everyone wanted for dinner. I am liking my new baby spinach salad with oranges and chicken and he prefers a Caesar.

I was out voted, but not out-smarted. We had spinach but no lettuce, so technically I should win the option, due to the choices in the house at the moment. My response was we need to have spinach because that is what we have and I am not going out to get lettuce.

So my kid, suited up, raincoat in hand said ‘I’ll get the lettuce’. Some of you know I live downtown so the lettuce store isn’t that far away.
Thus my column on lazy parenting begins at the fridge.

Fast forward one hour and I walk into the kitchen, and literally a Caesar salad (cut/washed lettuce with bacon bits, croutons and even he shredded the parmesan!) has transformed itself into a large pottery bowl, on a set table, ready to feed the four of us. Plates, cutlery, filled milk glasses, and the works all courtesy of my youngest.Wow. As I was sitting at the table for our family dinner, I started making a list of how my lazy parenting has actually helped form two incredibly independent children.

My kids started walking home alone by grade two. To be fair ‘alone’ is with 200 other kids walking the same street, and I would meet them where the traffic became an obstacle. This was partly because of my work schedule, but also my mother telling me that my brother walked home other kids when he was in grade two back in the day.

Back to the fridge, er, now the bedroom.

At age four my son was asking for sleepovers at friends houses, who am I to say no to that? Free night avec husband, hello. No need to Ferberize my kid, I was again, lazy parent and said from the get go: no we are not having a snuggle fest to get you to sleep, no we are not doing a meet and greet in the night cause you are bored or your blanky moved. We snuggled ALL Day for crying out loud, no pun there, and sleeping is serious business. If you get yours, I will get mine, and we will be happy family.

I was recently slammed on FB when a desperate friend/ mom posted ‘how did you get your kid to sleep’ and I said ‘fill the child up with liquid, and a bit of cereal for filler. No! she basically screamed via the net, and I quote: “No offense Staci, but you’re not supposed to mix cereal in the bottle – can mess with their eating skills.” Really? I am looking at my 12 and 7 year old and they are eating their Harvest Crunch with no issue…. And making and eating Caesar salad and crepes on the weekend to boot!

My kids have been doing chores since they were able to communicate, because well, I hate chores too. The boys here want certain clothes clean and ready for school. Ya? Well then, you best go sort out the clothes into colours and when you are done, I will put a load on. Then, my eldest, you can fold and put the clothes away. Laundry is the big chore for Big J that occurs once every 1.5 weeks or so, leaving daily chores of walking the dog or perhaps helping clean the kitchen. The youngest is able to clean the bathrooms or unload the dishwasher.
My laziness stories could go on and on, but I have a point. My lack of anxiety surrounding food and bed and chaperoning has served us all very well, and perhaps their future spouses I would say. Anxiety is an issue hitting kids hard these days (many of them self-medicating in order to cope), and baffled as to how this could be happening leaves me wondering what is going on in households today. I have reared independent children, who are comfortable with other people, who love to sleep (chenille, lambies and big thread count sheets when they were young made them love their beds helped too)….all dying to go to school as soon as possible, leaving boring mom at home.

(I have a confession: I totally bailed on what I wanted to comment on: the young student caught posing in a bikini in front of a car she helped BUILD for the University of Waterloo Engineering team. Due to a conflict in my own house, I can’t comment… feel free to ask me my thoughts if you see me in the street.)

As an aside KIPPelora is gearing up to install our shed and clean up the pad down at Bissell Park so that the oven build can begin. Holy mommas this project makes my head want to explode.

In a good way of course… curious timing: I receive a daily cartoon from a guy named Hugh McCleod. He wrote a best selling book called Ignore Everybody, and more recently Evil Plans. His cartoon of today reads: “Success has that weird quality which makes it seem like child’s play after the fact and totally impossible before. His thoughts on this: Success is so captivating. It’s also very elusive. What makes someone successful? 
IQ, EQ, social standing, hard work, good timing, organizational skills, dogged determination, thoughtful delegation, or plain, old, luck?


There are a thousand possible answers and certainly no single one.
 But whatever they are, there is something that truly visionary entrepreneurs have: The ability to make it look easy. And it’s never easy. Ever.
 Until it is. Until it’s in the past tense.
 Funny how that works…” That perfectly sums up our community kitchen. Mind blowing tough to sort out how it’ll roll, but once its up and going, childs play. Easy peezy. For fun on Hugh goto http://www.gapingvoidgallery.com


I’ve Got Donor Fatigue Dot Com

(Printed awhile back, I wanted to give this subject a rest, however friends have asked me to post this rant so here it is. Since writing this my total requests for the year have been 17 up from 5 in April. Next I will share a letter I wrote back to an organization after they asked me to donate a teapot.)

Recently, my artists friends and I have been barraged by the metric tons for requests for art/ craft for their various upcoming fundraisers.

This column is in similar timing with the Elora Centre for the Arts upcoming art auction and let me say right now, this fit I am in has nothing to do with
them.

I am not sure where it came from, that Sports Teams, Soccer Tournaments, Aids Groups out of Guelph, Austism Centres and similar, thought that sleuthing out artists located on Studio Tour Brochures is unique, out of the box, never-been-done-before – request for donations.

Basically, most of the artists I know, live about four feet below the poverty line and barraging us for donations is basically asking the poorest for money and hand-outs.

How can this be? I make about twelve cents an hour on a good day. I am one of the more fortunate that still (we tend to get divorced more – our artist type) is married to someone who makes a decent wage. But hey, no job is forever, and in this day and age, nothing is secure.

These groups need to know that artists talk to each other. Today my potter friend and I were talking about how we could defer our mortgage for a month, or have that tooth pulled out instead of filled because we are strapped. We even thought that if these requests from groups were actually in person, that we’d finally get a leg up on the conversation and be able to say ‘hey see this: until I can replace my tooth, you aren’t getting squat’.

This week alone, I have had five requests: three local (will remain nameless), a very out-of-town request and an AIDS organization out of Guelph.

Desperate to figure out how on earth I got pegged, looking for some personal note on the bottom of the letter that said “hey Staci Love my MUG! Doing this shin dig: wondering if you can donate”.

But there was nothing.

Just a fabulous list of corporate sponsors – (lucky them) and request for product or money. ????

On a Global scale, I donate when I can to the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Council of Canadians (water preservation, upcoming article on this) and Unicef. In fact, I am probably going to run a fun SLF fundraiser out of my shop in the summer, if I can possibly pull five minutes out of running my own fundraisers for KIPPelora and helping with Elora Lions.

But here is the thing: with my fundraisers, you, the public, actually get something back. With Lions, you get an amazing Fireworks show (May 28th), perhaps an Elora licence plate for $5 (we still have them available) or a really cool Santa Claus Parade.

With KIPPelora, you have likely enjoyed a CD Release Party with Kevin Breit, bunwiches in my backyard, soup and bread at Desert Rose, or some KIPPmerch that you can give as a gift or keep for yourself like cuffs, hats , bags etc. Down at Bissell Park we are going to have a Patrons Wall in the KIPPzone. Everyone who has donated over $100 will be on it.

These other organizations actually try to pitch me that it is important for my business to have a presence at these silent auctions. Really? You think? I have been to them, and personally, I am looking at the value, where the bidding started, where its going, how cheaply I may be able to pick something up and how much time is left to bid. And with the 200 items up for grabs there is not a lot of time to inventory the generous businesses. Seriously.

And while we are at it, how about when you are in the lineup at Zehrs, or the Post Office, you get asked in front of 25 people if you’d like to donate to some national charity? How about ask me if I would like to give $2 to the local Scouts chapter, or for that matter Lions, KIPP or my local food bank?

Using the humiliation factor is not going to sway me to donate any time soon, let alone give me that warm and fuzzy feeling you sometimes get for giving back.

Some of you may read this and think ‘yikes, she’s talking to me’. Why yes the firetruck, I am talking to you: if you come to my shop, and if you support my fundraisers then seriously, you can ask me for a donation anytime. Anything short of that, save the stamp.


Teens n’ Drugs + How to Take a Bath (so you won’t stink)

The first half of this post was regarding the election, boring old news and just re-reading it stresses me out. Folks, 6 in 10 Canadians didn’t vote for the Conservatives. The system needs to change… but that is another column.

* * *
On another note, a group I have recently become in involved with is COPS (Community Police Board – if you will). Recognizing that the majority of crimes committed are from kids aged 16-25, a lot of crime has drug related roots.

Centre Wellington Youth are more than just dabbling in drug use nowadays. They will tell you that ‘it’ is everywhere. “IT” creates a cycle of crime, which, with two boys under age 12, I will tell you I didn’t really ever give much thought to; this particular cycle. But if you become hooked on a drug, then you need to pay for it, and perhaps stealing might be the way to fund your addiction? Who knows what people will do for a hit, but stealing is definitely something that certain merchants will tell you affects their business.

So what to do? Some advice from someone close to me going through this with their child is this: know your kids friends and if you have a bad feeling about someone you are probably right. Do not be afraid to punish your child, they think and know they have all the power in this day and age.

If they threaten to call the C.A.S on you – hand them the phone. OPP reminds me that you still have the right to physically punish or discipline your child, but don’t use excessive force. Things get a little fuzzy around the term excessive force, which can lead to a sense of hopelessness for parents how to manage their drug addicted child. Further, parents calling the OPP for assistance in managing the nightmare has put the state in the business of raising our children.

What I can tell you is the moms (and some grand-moms) of youth affected by drugs are running out of ideas on how to deal with the problem. Finally convincing your child to visit their physician is a hurdle most covet, however you quickly learn as concerned mom that what is said in the privacy of the doctors office, stays in the doctors office if your child is over the age of 13 and thus, we are cut out of the cycle to helping our kids. This is the same for social workers, counselors of any kind – ‘nope, can’t tell you the problem, but keep at it, you’re on the right track.’

Young girls don’t have to steal because once a dealer/boyfriend gets them hooked they will use their bodies to get their fix. Does this response want to make your head explode? It does mine. When I asked when on earth privacy laws changed, I was informed about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms founded in 1982.

The OPP have something to offer in their various frustrations on the same subject. For instance, if youth (or anyone for that matter) run away, a simple phone call attempting to locate the person at a hostel or even a hospital will render zero results. OPP asking a school if a child is there is also a challenge for them. Yes the school will call police to review police tapes of a kid writing graffiti all over the bathroom, but a similar request to see tapes to sort out a drug deal in same bathroom will also render zero results. Literally, the only time privacy laws can be broken down, is if the OPP are needed, and this is a sad one-way street that has been created by government.

This situation all round is not working for anyone so in the meantime, looking at what is causing the cycle and trying to do something about it, is what COPS is working on now. Educating our grade seven and eights in drug awareness is our plan and we are working on pitching the schools/ service clubs (to help finance) now to have teachers attend training for a program called High on Life which takes a holistic view combining the current curriculm on drug awareness with assertive training and goal setting. So far St. Mary’s School and Elora Public are on board (thank you Elora Lions, you rock boys n’ gals) (looking for all schools in CW).

As Maude Barlow says: Fighting for justice everyday is like taking a bath. If you don’t do it, you’ll stink.


Mal Wart is coming to Fergus. Buckle UP!

Bet ya some of you had no doubt what I would be commenting about this week… you got it cowboys and girls: Mal Wart (MW). Yes I can’t seem to bring myself to call it by its rightful name… I have a bumper sticker that says “Mal Wart, your place for cheap plastic crap’’ and from this I have trained my brain to think this is ‘that’ stores name for real! No re-wiring necessary, since I don’t shop at the one south of us by 15 minutes, nor have I had the urge to in the last 8 years.

It IS possible to not shop there, my children are still young enough not to have even started influencing me. The subject is touchy around some parts of my family, as when my kids are in their care, I am not going to die on the ‘don’t take my kids to Mal Wart’ hill, I have more important hills to conquer. However, they all know how I feel about it and sometimes they apologize for the spider man slippers my son now possesses.

Those of us that are opposed to MW all do so for very different reasons. Those of us in retail or manufacturing have our own set of peeves, very different from those who are opposed to the ‘everything made in China’ proverb. Since 90% of what we use on a day-to-day basis is from there anyway, I don’t think that is a valid argument. As a manufacturer and possible supplier to MW I would first of all be expected to have on-time delivery down to the minute, and should my shipment be late, the purchase order can be considered invalid.

Further, I would be expected to offer-up a 5% discount on my merch on a year-to-year basis. In the world I live in, raw materials go up in price, especially those with an oil-base(plastics) therefore, the business would simply would simply go bankrupt. Many, many companies have gone bankrupt trying to keep up with MW’s demands, Vlasic Pickles is one.

The Buyers for MW are bullies. How so? Well maybe I am crazed and want to do business with them. So I take my beautiful unique widget to them. In their infinite wisdom they tell me ‘yes we like the product, not your price, and if you don’t lower the price we are going to take it to China and they will knock off your design via Private label, thereby we will get our low price we demand either way… you can work with us or against us.’’ This was Levi jeans experience, and they decided to defer to MW, shut down North American manufacturing, including the plant in Waterloo that employed some 300 people and off to China it went. In their bid to not go bankrupt, they opted for cheaper fabrics, thus the rugged jean we all once knew and loved is no longer… making it yet another disposable piece of clothing that will clog landfills.

I also have an issue with how they ensure not to have to offer benefits of any kind to their staff by keeping their scheduled hours at low levels. This probably upsets me the most, but I have heard the same from other nationally known grocery stores doing the same, so perhaps this scabby behavior is more widespread than I would like to think. In Mexico MW employ children (employ is a loose term here) to help customers get their packages to their cars. They don’t actually pay them at all, and these children simply hope to get paid via tips. This practice is actually more widespread than we’re all comfortable with, in third world countries, such as in resorts and cruise lines, but I digress.

I was informed recently that when MW opened in Orangeville, their zoning laws didn’t permit a store of that size, giving the Township clout when hammering out development charges. One being that MW would pay a tax levy to the Orangeville BIA for beautification purposes. Unfortunately, our Township allows for zoning of up to 120,000 sq ft, and the proposed MW is for 90,000 leaving our Township powerless.
Our downtown business community is deeply concerned about the impact this will have, and it will likely devastate Fergus, as the closing of the Mill will have on Elora. The Mill isn’t a permanent closure, however, everyone is still paying upwards of $1500 a month in rent down there until the reno is complete and I doubt most of these shops will survive the wait.

I will leave this as a reminder to all the folks who come to all the downtown merchants for support for their various silent auctions, curling bonspiels and fundraisers: remember everytime you go to MW to shop to ‘save money’, you are further cutting off your own access to merchants who have been overwhelmingly supportive of your various initiatives over the last century. Yes Century.

Want to make a statement about all this? Start by not shopping there for one. Further, contact your councilor about why the firetruck zoning bylaws in place have now compromised your community.