Present: Jeff Johnston, USCO; Carol Armstrong, McMurrich/Monteith; Chantal Perron MacIntosh, WORC; Jessica Busch, WORC; Myles Donahue, Habitat for Humanity; Dave Stewart, Almaguin Highlands Inc.; Rosalind Hall, Ryerson Township.
Business Arising (AHED Business):
Thank you to the Village of South River for hosting this month’s meeting.
There will be a meeting tonight (February 19th) for the Almaguin Umbrella Project which will be held at The Iron Skillet at 6:00 p.m. Jeff Johnston read out the project overview and discussed some funding options that might be available for them.
Dave Stewart spoke to the group about the interest Muskoka has shown in Almaguin Highlands current tourism model and mentioned that he operates his own website which serves the same purpose. Some discussion took place around the table regarding who was looking into operating this new website for the region with the Almaguin Highlands Chamber of Commerce and the Almaguin Umbrella Project mentioned – Rosalind Hall suggested that since none of the involved parties are present or represented at this meeting, this discussion would be better suited to a separate forum. If Dave feels that he has already developed an appropriate website for this purpose, he should approach the Chamber of Commerce himself – the Chamber of Commerce meets on the first Monday of each month.
Jeff reported that the meeting with James Murphy was excellent. The meeting took place at Michael’s on Main in Sundridge. Jeff discussed how the entire Almaguin Highlands region is coming together. The Almaguin Highlands Chamber of Commerce wants to encompass the entire Almaguin Highlands. They are currently offering a tiered membership to ensure all Municipalities/Organizations/E.D.O.’s
Jessica discussed the progress with Showcase Almaguin briefly. A number of presenters have been secured for the event including James Lynn (Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport; Carole Mantha (MNDM); Andrew Farnsworth (Ryerson Township); Garvin Cole (Almaguin Highlands Employers Council); Craig Ferchat (Harena Maris); Almaguin Highlands Chamber of Commerce; James Murphy (Explorer’s Edge); Todd Lucier (Almaguin Umbrella); and the E.D.O.’s from the Almaguin Highlands. Funding has been secured from a number of sources in support of the event. Photo’s to be used for the presentation folders are being accessed through the Almaguin Highlands Photography Project with a $100 donation going to the group. Showcase Almaguin will be taking place on Monday, March 23rd at the Trout Creek Community Centre.
Jeff Johnston posed a question to the group asking what the benefits and values of attending AHED are - Jessica Busch responded by stating that AHED has been instrumental with establishing connections and providing networking opportunities for growth in regards to her work with The Women’s Own Resource Centre. Jessica has seen numerous projects brought to the table as simple ideas and seen them transform into successful events/opportunities thanks to the networking opportunities that AHED provides – from new funding programs, to assistance with area information, government supports, crisis intervention, economic growth opportunities, employment opportunities, strategic planning and an extensive referral network – AHED fosters an open communication forum where local Organizations and Municipalities can work together and support each other. Carol Armstrong agreed that AHED provides an opportunity to know what other Municipalities are doing successfully within the Almaguin Highlands, assisting each other with growth and development. Rosalind Hall agreed that the information sharing and networking provided through AHED is invaluable.
Myles Donahue/Habitat for Humanity
Myles introduced himself to the group, he has been directly involved as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity for 4 years – he sits on the building committee in Muskoka and also sits on the technical advisory committee for the organization as a whole. Over the last year, Habitat for Humanity has amalgamated from Barrie to Sault Ste. Marie to form one region – Habitat Gateway North, which has enabled the group to move into smaller communities. Myles is interested in forming a local chapter in our region, developing a steering committee would be the easiest way. Myles is hoping that people from service, economic, business members, residents and volunteers will get involved. The first community meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday March 31st at 7:00 p.m. at the Emsdale Community Centre. This initial meeting will focus on how Habitat for Humanity works and how it can work in the Almaguin Highlands. Forming a local committee would allow for freedom in decision making i.e. where to build, how, who moves in, etc. Habitat for Humanity has many national partners that assist the organization. Building local homes also helps keep people in the community – people are far less likely to leave if they own their own home in the community. The eligibility for people includes a minimum of 2 years history of managing finances efficiently and the applicant must have an income below a certain level – the community would determine any other criteria. Myles suggested that he is hoping to have one home built in the Almaguin Highlands by the end of 2016.
Carol Armstrong/McMurrich Monteith
Carol reported that the Winter Carnival was a good overall weekend. The bitter cold did hinder attendance numbers at the dance. Dog sled rides, a parade and many other activities took place over the weekend. Carol discussed an Economic Development event she is planning – there will be an Economic Development Meeting/Workshop on March 4th at 7:30 p.m. at the Sprucedale Community Centre. The invite is open to all aspiring business entrepreneurs, new business operators and established business owners. Please see event poster for more information.
Entrepreneurial Skills Training is over half way completed for this session. Burk’s Falls numbers were low this round so we may be looking at a change in location for the next sessions which will take place in September – Magnetawan might be a possibility. The new Life Skills program for women will launch in September as well. The February Resource & Business Network Meeting will be taking place on Wednesday February 25th at Al’s Diner in Burk’s Falls from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with WORC presenting on “Market Research: Finding Your Target Market”. The warm winter clothing drive has wrapped up at WORC, there are still a few coats/hats/mitts/scarves available in the office for emergencies. The Red Brick Café in Sundridge however, will be running a Free Clothing Giveaway on Saturday March 28th – clothing donations can be dropped off between February 7th and March 21st. Drop-ins at the Women’s Own Resource Centre are very high since Christmas with Jessica meeting with clients for 24 one to one consultations over 27 work days.
Rosalind Hall/Ryerson Township
The visitor information guide project has been taken over by the Chamber of Commerce – any help or input is always welcome and appreciated, please contact the Chamber for moreinformation. Dave will be assisting on this project. The South Almaguin Highlands Economic Development Committee meets on the 2nd Monday of each month at 6:00 p.m. at the Burk’s Falls Village Office – new members are always welcome. The woman who owns the two new container housing units that went into Burk’s Falls has discussed building a third unit which will be geared towards seniors.
Dave Stewart/Almaguin Highlands Inc.
Dave covered his attendance at the Muskoka Tourism Summit. News Article
They organized into table groups on different subjects and Dave spoke on an initiative, discussed at his table, to hire a person to gather data from the various businesses and stakeholders which would help establish if they are meeting their marketing goals in the region of Muskoka. Dave sits on the research committee of Explorers Edge and this is an area of interest that they are always looking to improve.
This also would be helpful for us, in the Highlands, for the future. Possibly hire a student with assistance from the various funding agencies available to us.
Park to Park committee has several new members that represent the various municipalities that the trail runs through, as a result of the recent election. We have put volunteers out on the trail last summer and have increased our revenue from trail passes compared to the previous year. If anyone would like to volunteer, contact Dave or
Peter Searle - Office/Operations Manager
Park-To-Park Trail Association
70 Church Street, Parry Sound, Ontario,
Canada P2A 1Y9
Phone: (705) 746-7663 x 26
Cell: 705 774-0024
Fax: (705) 746-7829
Dave mentioned the Huntsville Hospital petition and his concern of rumors and stories being told that may be pre-emptive and create fear in the community of losing services. Future strategic planning for these services is an ongoing board process, as required by the provincial government. Hospital Board members consist of local residents from the area and are very aware of the needs and concerns of the community. Dave trusts they will make the right decisions and if there is great concern they will make it public when and if necessary.
Dave sits on, and has chaired in the past, the board for the Huntsville District Nursing Home, known as Fairvern, which also covers some of the southern municipalities in the Almaguin Highlands and they are presently planning for an expansion of the facility, including constantly evaluating different scenarios and getting ready for when the financing becomes available. Rumors seem to come out of the woodwork about what is going on at our home, and are upsetting to our staff, to say the least, while having very little basis in fact. Let the respective Boards do their job.
Jeff reported that there will be a Volunteer Appreciation/Heritage Day Potluck Dinner held on February 21st at 5:30 p.m. – there is a stained glass piece to unveiled at the event. The USCO Zone 39 are currently planning a Fall Festival which will take place over the September 18th weekend – they are seeking wood carvers, pottery, stained glass, artisans and raffle prizes for the event.
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