C.H.E.S.T. Fund:  Christmas comes early thanks to vision of Hydro One, former mayor

By Jamie Morris

Who is this mysterious benefactor and how did this annual gift-giving come about?

In early December each year roughly a quarter of a million dollars in grants flows from C.H.E.S.T. Fund coffers into our community. As the fund requires, the money goes to “non-profit, community-based organizations that provide programs, projects, services or activities that enhance the quality of life for residents in the areas of health, arts, culture, leisure, heritage, education and the environment.” But we all benefit.

This year the exact amount disbursed was $288,375.45. The Advocate talked to three grant recipients to learn a little more about the projects the money will make possible and the impact those projects will have.

But before hearing from them, who is this mysterious benefactor and how did this annual gift-giving come about?

Unlikely as it sounds, we have Hydro One to thank. C.H.E.S.T., it turns out, stands for “Community Hydro-Electric-System Transfer.” In the late 1990s, Hydro One bought up local power stations (88 of them by 2001, five of those in what became the City of Kawartha Lakes). It was stipulated that the money from each purchase had to be spent in that community. For Lindsay, that meant $17 million.

Who knew?

Not a rhetorical question, and the answer is Barb Truax, whose husband, Art Truax, was Lindsay’s mayor at the time.

Barb picks up the story. “Some communities spent the money right away but, wisely, Lindsay Council decided to invest the money and make the interest available for community enhancement. The principal has been untouched — in fact, has grown to $20 million.”

The Lindsay Legacy C.H.E.S.T. committee, composed of councillors and members of the public, meets each year to consider applications. Over the years, the fund has made possible the lighting of the western section of Wilson Fields and provided vital support for The Boys and Girls Club, the Academy Theatre and many other local organizations.

This year close to a million dollars was requested. Seven organizations’ projects were funded.

Among those were Lindsay Rotary Club ($69,264), A Place Called Home ($60,656.35) and United Way ($27,400). And here’s what representatives from each organization have to say about their projects and the impact they will have:

Lindsay Rotary Club (John Coxon, Rotary Foundation)

Project: “The funds will supplement the money we’re putting into building a pavilion for Elgin Park. The construction will be like the washroom building recently completed in Wilson Fields. Washrooms, a picnic/sun shelter, and an equipment room for the splash pad will be constructed on an engineered concrete pad. The Rotary Club of Lindsay will ensure that the new facility is completely wheelchair accessible and people with different abilities have easy access, so they get the maximum amount of enjoyment from play.”

Anticipated Impact: “This updated facility will create a safe, clean environment for families to gather for exercise, socialization, birthday celebrations, picnics, and other group activities. Elgin Park can become a great place for family and friends to be together, strengthening our community.”

United Way of Kawartha Lakes (Penny Barton-Dyke, executive director)

The Project: “For several years United Way for the City of Kawartha Lakes has been working with community partners to create a local sustainable garden project.

The contribution from the Lindsay CHEST Fund will be used to implement the first phase of a large scale garden located at Crayola Canada. We have entered into a land use agreement to create the Edwin Binney Lindsay Community Garden on 30,000 sq. ft. of unused land at Crayola’s Mary Street location. The grant is being used to purchase capital equipment such as sheds, lumber for raised garden beds, signage, and tools as well as seeds, plant stock and berry bushes.

Our partners in carrying out this project include Fleming College, Bob Mark New Holland, Hill’s Florist & Greenhouses, Community Care, and VCCS Employment Services.”

Anticipated Impact: “Through this garden we will be able to increase access to fresh produce for people in our community who are food insecure. Produce will be distributed by food banks, food cupboards, the Good Food Box, and Meals on Wheels to individuals and families in order to supplement their diet, improve health outcomes and reduce food insecurity. Produce will also be used for food literacy, collective kitchens, and cooking classes.

There will be a focus on youth opportunities and engagement. Students from Fleming College Frost Campus will be able to apply the skills they learn in their course work. Educational programming will be created for elementary and secondary school students. There will be other spin-offs beyond the work we do with this grant. For example, we will be engaging youth in two competitions: documentary and mural that will enhance promotion of the Edwin Binney Lindsay Community Garden and that will showcase the creativity of young people in this region.”

A Place Called Home (Dave Tilley, manager of fund development and operations)

The Projects:  “A major renovation of A Place Called Home’s emergency shelter kitchen. This will include new flooring, cabinets, appliances, range hoods and countertops.

The emergency shelter kitchen is over 15 years old and is really starting to show its age. Missing drawers, damaged flooring, old countertops and failing appliances all impact our ability to assist our clients. Our staff and volunteers prepare three meals per day plus snacks for 19 residents and up to an additional 20 outreach clients per day so when an oven or fridge breaks down, the impact is significant.

The money will also allow us to purchase and install an external freezer building.”

Anticipated impact: “The kitchen project will improve the health and safety of our kitchen and eating areas for residents, staff and outreach clients and improve our efficiency by improving our ability to meal plan further into the future. Extending our freezer space will allow us to store greater quantities of frozen foods, meats and desserts as they are prepared, purchased or donated; it will also reduce costs — we’ll be able to purchase items in bulk we know we will need, and will have the necessary space to receive large donations of meat and produce from local farms, thereby reducing our overall food costs.

Our agency works hard to create a welcoming, warm environment for clients who use our services. It is no surprise that when someone is in crisis, as many of our clients are, creating a sense of home can reduce tension and help mitigate some of the stress of staying in an emergency shelter. Food is a comfort item and a number of our clients come from situations where food security is an issue. These improvements to our kitchen will allow us to feed more people more efficiently.”

Maybe needless to say, all of the organizations are grateful for the support.

A very merry Christmas to them…and to all of us, recipients of this annual Christmas largess.

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