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Minden Rotary celebrates service above self

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The spirit of philanthropy and service above self was front and centre as Minden Rotary hosted its annual dinner gala June 1.

It marked a celebration of local community bettering itself, said president Dave Woodcroft.

“Rotary is kind of like its own family. It’s being part of something. The reason I joined is because I wanted to give back to the community,” Woodcroft said.

It was a full house at the Minden Community Centre, with special guests including Minden mayor Bob Carter and Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale. Guests greeted and talked to one another, exchanging stories before dinner began. Minden Rotary’s ‘celebrity clowns’ were in the house, taking photos with people and handing out red noses. Woodcroft said the group was still looking for new members.

The event serves as Minden Rotary’s primary fundraiser, with money from tickets, a silent auction, and 50/50 raffle.

Woodcroft said he expects the final tally to be around $8,000, which will be reinvested into the community.

This year, the group has committed to building a new shelter at the Minden community garden and will continue to fund initiatives for young people.

“We really concentrate on the youth,” Woodcroft said, citing the Highland Storm and an annual trip the club organizes giving one youth the opportunity to travel to Ottawa with Schmale for a ‘capital experience’ on Parliament Hill.

Woodcroft said money would also be set aside for various Rotary events and programs throughout the year – including the float for the Canada Day parade, contributions to Fuel for Warmth, the Minden Community Food Centre, and Children’s Water Festival.

Minden Rotary also assists with Interact club initiatives at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, which Woodcroft said will be a continued focus. Wanting to expand on its ‘capital experience’ program, Rotary also hosts an ‘adventure in citizenship’ course where students learn about what it’s like to be a parliamentarian in Ottawa. It concludes with a ceremony in Minden where participants earn their citizenship, Woodcroft said.

Rotary also provides an annual scholarship to a graduating high school student pursuing post-secondary education. The club attracts volunteers from all walks of life, Woodcroft said – the common denominator being a commitment to bettering and helping those in need in the community.

“I think the good thing about Rotary is it’s exactly what you make it; you can make it big, you can make it small,” Woodcroft said, referring to involvement in the club.

Giving downward dog a new meaning

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Puppy yoga isn’t just another fad. It’s a unique blend of relaxation and cuteness overload, and it took over the Haliburton Legion recently.

The event drew in yoga enthusiasts from around the County, as well as puppies from Snowflake Meadows, a rescue organization based in Minden. The event was by donation.

Amanda Rico, of Harmony Yoga in Haliburton, and the instructor for the class, led the group in downward dog, warrior and cat-cow poses for an hour while puppies chewed on attendees’ hair, curled up for some snuggles, and even slept in the laps of some attendees.

Kristyn Elyse, the owner of Snowflake Meadows, said that the money raised, $475, will be going towards a kennel on the rescue’s property so that they can house more dogs.

Bringing puppies into the mix for yoga sessions offers a whole new level of mental and physical wellbeing. Rico said when you’re with animals or in nature, your nervous system down regulates. She also added it’s important for the puppies to get exposure to people, other environments, movement and things that are going on around them.

“I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from all of the people that participated. No complaints. Amanda says it was a lot of fun,” said Elyse.

Puppies roamed freely around the room as people did various yoga poses. During the relaxation part at the end of the session, people welcomed the puppies to snuggle up beside them while they were in shavasana pose.

Snowflake Meadows has also attended Highland Wood long-term care home in Haliburton twice, and Extendicare Haliburton – enabling seniors to interact with puppies,

Fashion on the runway in downtown Minden

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By Lillie Qiu

Mary Douglas of Let’s Get Local wanted to put on a fashion show on the main street of Minden’s ‘downtown’ this summer.

It will be called ‘This is Us: Downtown Minden Fashion Show’. The idea started with Mostly Her, the bra boutique on Bobcaygeon Road, and quickly expanded to “include everybody”, Douglas said. The roster of businesses has expanded to include Stedman’s, Country Magic, Up River Trading Co, and the Wine Store.

“Hopefully all the other businesses will be involved as well, and put prizes on the prize wheel, and just have fun,” Douglas said. Her intent is to bring people to downtown Minden and see what the stores have to offer.

The first-ever fashion show will be taking place Saturday, June 22. The runway is going to be from Mostly Her to Country Magic and back, a distance of about 30 metres.

The inspiration behind the event was to give people another reason to come to the downtown, Douglas said.

Vanessa Douglas, Mary’s daughter and co-owner of Mostly Her, the boutique store, said Mostly Her will be having “a little bit of everything” in the show. We’re going to have some dresses, a little bit more on the lingerie side.”

In terms of exposure, Vanessa said the store is a year old and they want new people coming in.

Sue Quinto, the owner of Country Magic, said five of their staff are going to be modelling two outfits each. “We’re just kind of excited to do something, because we haven’t been able to do a lot down here, and Mary put it together and said, “do you guys want to participate?”

Mary added, “we’re hoping the owner of Stedman’s will come out and model and have some fun so people know who he is,” Douglas said of the event.

Great Haliburton Plant Pot Drive wrapping up

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By Lillie Qiu

Two local plant enthusiasts have teamed up to try and solve the problem of what to do with used plant pots. 

Simon Payn, the founder of Grounded, a local ecological landscaping company, and Baz Conlin, of Haliburton Micromeadows, a native plant grower, came up with the idea because they saw a need to recycle old plant pots in order to better the environment. 

And so ‘The Great Haliburton Plant Pot Drive’ was born. The initiative is for anyone who has empty plant pots they want to get rid of. 

Payn doesn’t want people to throw their used plant pots away or put them in the recycling, as they can be reused.  

“I thought, how can we fix that problem?” said Payn. 

By participating in the plant pot drive, people will be doing their bit to help the environment, according to a promotion for the drive.

“One of the great embarrassments of our industry is the amount of plastic we use. We’re creating gardens that are good for the environment, but at the same time we’re using a lot of plastic. We want to fix that,” said Payn. 

Plastic horticultural pots are largely single-use, and the majority of them will end up in landfills. Improperly disposed of plastic pots contribute to environmental pollution. 

The initiative has received hundreds of pots, according to Payn, in all different sizes. Payn notes the pots should be in good shape for them to be usable. He prefers the four-inch ones that most people buy plants in, as opposed to the larger plastic ones. 

Conlin added, “this is a win-win. It’s good for the environment because it keeps plastics out of the waste stream and it allows growers to provide native plants at a lower cost.”  

Used pot plants can be dropped off at 123 Maple Ave., behind Lucas House. There is a place set up in the green cage next to the parking lot. 

Parents pan new bus plan

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A group of County moms are speaking out in the hopes of reversing a Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) decision to stop busing some students to and from school in Haliburton and Minden.

In letters distributed by local principals to parents in April, TLDSB said it has recently completed a review of transportation routes in Haliburton County. It has decided students who live in the villages will no longer be bused. The change impacts one family Wilberforce and none in Cardiff.

The board’s policy states elementary-aged students living within 1.6 kilometres of school, and high school students within 3.2 kilometres, aren’t eligible to be bused. The rules will come into effect in September.

Carolynne Bull, TLDSB communications lead, said the review completed in Haliburton and Minden this school year is similar to ones done in Bracebridge, Huntsville, Kirkfield, Kilworthy, and Fenelon Falls.

“These reviews look at whether exceptional conditions exist and whether changes are needed,” Bull said. “During the Haliburton/Minden review, it was noted the conditions in the villages… are similar to those in other areas of review and similar to the conditions across TLDSB for schools without any exception areas.

“Sidewalks are not a factor in the board’s decisionmaking. Posted speed does play a factor, though posted 40km/h [zones are] considered safe,” she added.

Bull did not respond to questions about how many County-based students will be impacted by the change, and whether TLDSB stands to save any money.

Minden resident Aurora McGinn said she has spent weeks looking for answers. Living on Water Street, approximately 1.2 kilometres from Archie Stouffer Elementary School – where her daughter, Marina, is in Grade 1 – McGinn said she’ll be stuck come the fall.

“We’re a one-vehicle family, so this is a problem for us. I will have to drive my husband to work, then my daughter to school, then get myself to work later than usual. I’ll also have to leave early to collect my daughter and take her home,” McGinn said. “They are saying she could walk, but she’s very young right now.”

Parents say decision ‘not safe’

McGinn says she has asked multiple times for a copy of the review TLDSB completed but is still waiting. The Highlander has also failed to obtain a copy.

“I want the truth – if TLDSB claims to have done a review, they should be willing to share it,” McGinn said.

April Hirstwood, head of the ASES parent council, said this is a major concern for the community.

“What TLDSB is doing is not OK. It’s not safe. We don’t have crossing guards. We don’t have lights where kids can safely cross,” Hirstwood said. “Towns like Lindsay have a set up for kids to walk to school safely. Minden and Haliburton do not.”

She believes these new rules will lead to a drop in attendance at ASES and other schools.

“It’s going to be easier for some parents to just let their kids stay home,” Hirstwood said.

TLDSB transportation supervisor Tricia Hayward indicated the concerns the board has heard thus far, “are considered to be normal, everyday risks where due caution can and should be exercised by students and parents.”

Minden Hills CAO Cynthia Fletcher said the township is investing money this year to improve overall community safety, including new signage along Water Street, two new digital speed signs on Water Street and Bobcaygeon Road, and extending community safety zones – which carry a 40km/h speed limit – on Bobcaygeon Road from Sunnybrook Bridge to Hwy. 35, and on Water Street from Bobcaygeon Road to Hwy. 35.

Issues in Haliburton

Lorena Selk said the new rules will leave her without childcare for her youngest child, who is in Grade 3 at Stuart Baker Elementary School.

Selk said her high-school-aged son will no longer be able to ride the bus, so has less time to look after his sibling.

“Finding alternate childcare is next to impossible. I have the best built-in sitter already, I’m very frustrated about this,” Selk said.

Hayward said it was parents’ responsibility to find a safe way to get their children to and from school, and organize child care, not the board’s.

TLDSB is set to review its transportation policy next year. McGinn said she’s hoping to inspire change.

“I would suggest children under the age of 12 shouldn’t have to walk 1.6 km to and from school. Perhaps for the older grades that may be more acceptable, but for young kids who come home exhausted already, it’s too much,” McGinn said.

Think big to build small communities

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Almost every problem in Haliburton County can be solved by engaging and inspiring community residents, Peter Kenyon – one of the world’s top economic development specialists – told a group of leaders in Minden June 6.

The keynote speaker at last week’s Teeny Tiny Summit at the Minden Community Centre, Kenyon has spent the past 30 years helping communities overcome issues by embracing localized ideas – first in his home of Australia, and now around the world.

“Whatever the problem – community is the answer,” Kenyon said. “The best thing about living in a small town is somebody somewhere knows the answer… Seeking out wisdom from local people is always the most important starting point, no matter what you’re doing or how clever you think you are.”

He told the story of Ernesto Sirolli, a celebrated Italian scholar and author, who, in his early career, was contracted to assist countries in east Africa to come up with ways to bolster local food supply.

Sirolli worked with people to establish a series of vegetable gardens, teaching them how to grow things such as tomatoes and greens.

“Everything was great… until 200 hippos came charging out of the Zambezi and ate all the vegetables,” Kenyon said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “Sirolli was beside himself, he asked why nobody had told him about the hippos. The people said ‘well, you never asked’.”

He referenced other success stories where communities embraced new ideas and enjoyed unparalleled success – none more than Kulin, Australia.

Wanting to stop the trend of decades of depopulation, stemming from young people leaving to pursue careers, Kulin established a plan to become “more than a dot on the map,” Kenyon said.

It started with a marquee event – the launch of the Kulin Bush Races in 1994. What started as low-level horse racing, attracting a few hundred people, has grown into one of the most popular annual events in Australia. It brings 5,000 visitors to Kulin every October, with last year’s gathering selling out in 28 seconds.

“It’s two days of partying, but people come rom all over. It’s amazing how they’ve adapted and changed things so that it appeals to all generations,” Kenyon said, noting last year’s event generated $600,000 profit, which was reinvested into the community, and about $2 million for the local economy.

In the years since, Kulin has opened a giant waterslide and waterpark, which has provided another tourism boom, and its people have rallied to open a community bank, the first of its kind in Australia, and established a community cooperative to run a pub and community centre.

“I love this little town – it’s inspiring. The population there has trebled since, while all other towns nearby have halved. There were more babies born in Kulin than any other [town] in Australia,” Kenyon said.

He shone a light on Kaikoura, a small village in New Zealand. In the 1980s, when the main railway into town closed, most of the local fisheries shut. Kenyon said about 95 per cent of the Maori villagers were fishermen.

Rather than chase new jobs out of town, the villagers came together to launch a sightseeing operation for tourists wanting to go whale watching. The founding families re-mortgaged their houses to buy a boat big enough to take eight people per trip.

Today, that operation sees around 150,000 people a year – and Kaikoura has become the top whale watching destination in the world.

“All it took was a group of people saying, ‘what do we have’ rather than focusing on what they don’t have, or what they lost, to make a difference,” Kenyon said.

He said there are seven key characteristics of a strong community: committed local leadership; active community engagement and connection; fostering a positive and cando community mindset; being obsessed about developing new assets and opportunities; developing a localized wow-factor; focusing on lifestyle for young people; and supporting entrepreneurial aspirations and initiatives.

“Leadership is not a position – it’s a set of behaviours, an attitude. It’s about making things happen,” Kenyon said. “It’s about inspiring people to come forward to enact change. It’s about future-proofing towns, making them attractive for young people, because they’re the future.”

Angelica Ingram, the County’s manager of tourism, said Kenyon’s speech provided food for thought for all 150-plus attendees.

Other presentations featured Fay Martin, from Places for People, who spoke about the organization’s fundraising initiatives and attempts to bring more affordable housing to the County; Kevin Hodgkinson from the Haliburton County Home Builders’ Association, discussed trades opportunities for young people; representatives from Point in Time promoted the Youth Wellness Hub and the difference its supports and programs have made for young people; and Patti Tallman, from Haliburton County Development Corporation, provided an update on the local initiatives program that supports economic development in the Highlands.

“The summit proved to be an exciting and inspiring day filled with forward-thinking ideas and conversations,” Ingram said. “I think everyone who attended learned even teeny tiny places such as Minden and Haliburton can achieve success if likeminded individuals work together and focus on the positive.”

Connections key for dementia patients

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A rural living and dementia care conference, focusing on challenges, solutions and innovations associated with the terminal illness, provided hope and answers to some attendees at Pinestone Resort June 3.

Hosted by Aging Together as Community Haliburton Highlands (ATAC) and McMaster University, the event brought professors, family physicians, and other healthcare specialists face-to-face with the Highlands community last week.

Speakers ranged from those living with dementia, to experts discussing unique care models working in other countries – such as green care farms and the butterfly model of care, both prominent in Europe.

County residents Beth and Peter O’Connor started the day, sharing their personal experiences fighting dementia. Beth was diagnosed with Lewy body syndrome – a type of dementia – in June 2023. She said she’d been experiencing symptoms for about a year, beginning while they were on vacation in Newfoundland in the summer of 2022.

Beth said they both caught COVID-19 while out east – Beth was hospitalized with a high fever, which she says she’s thankful for as it was that hospital stint that led, eventually, to her dementia diagnosis. Prior to her diagnosis, Beth said she was planning her retirement.

“To me, it wasn’t so much an age thing, it was there was something wrong and it wasn’t going away,” said Beth of her diagnosis.

In her talk, Beth mentioned how she saw hope in her own journey with dementia – and of new innovations in artificial intelligence in dementia care.

“Things and habits I do for myself are better than any medicine; exercise, diet, and a positive frame of mind. Staying active socially and being involved in things like yoga,” said Beth, when describing how she’s coped with the diagnosis.

Dr. Sandy Shamon, a lecturer at the University of Toronto and a clinical professor at McMaster University, talked about breaking down barriers to care and the challenges surrounding that.

She touched on how there is work to be done in getting medical and nursing students to choose geriatric care and to work in longterm care facilities. She believes being an active part of community, and making new connections, can go a long way for people struggling with dementia.

Shamon said the World Health Organization is starting to recognize that the health and wellbeing of an individual cannot be separated from the health and wellbeing of the community, or “the ecosystem”. Shamon also touched on the importance of advocacy work, pushing for change in dementia care.

Bonnie Roe, the ATAC lead, said she likes these types of events because it gets “everyone’s voices involved.” The goal, she said, is spreading the idea that just because you’re aging doesn’t mean you belong in a long-term care home.

“I think that’s what an event like today does,” she said.

Roe notes that “we’re all aging” and the point is, “how do we age in a way that reflects who we are as an individual and who we’ve been as a person.”

Plan to guide Highlands East into 2028

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Highlands East residents who did an online survey and took part in focus groups towards the township’s corporate strategic plan got to see the fruits of their labour during a June 4 council meeting.

Capital Parks Consulting presented the municipalities’ plan – that also involved councillors, staff and other groups, at a special council meeting.

The “high level” deep dive found Highlands East has more seniors, and fewer young adults, than most Ontario municipalities. It further noted a large increase in the permanent population in 2021, likely due to seasonal residents becoming permanent ones during COVID. It was a similar story for other cottage country-type townships. And while it is not known what the statistics have been like since 2021, consultant Steve Lichty suggested it is a trend that is likely continuing.

Lichty said nearly 70 per cent of survey respondents rated the quality of life in HE as good, and more than 15 per cent as very good. A little over 10 per cent chose poor and a small percentage very poor.

Survey respondents asked, “considering all of the programs and services” provided, overall satisfaction with the township ranked over 50 per cent. But nearly 25 per cent answered dissatisfied.”

As far as strengths, the clear-cut winners were Highlands East’s natural setting and lakes and rivers.

“It speaks to the fact that you need to really protect your environment in order to protect the quality of life,” Lichty said.

The corporate strategic plan is in effect from 2024-2028.

Mayor Dave Burton, deputy mayor Cec Ryall and councillors Angela Lewis, Cam McKenzie and Ruth Strong said, “our new plan will be the blueprint guiding our actions, investments, and initiatives to fulfill the shared vision we have crafted together.”

CAO Brittany McCaw and staff added, “this plan represents our shared commitment to building a vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive municipality that meets the needs of current and future generations.”

McCaw said the key priorities are thriving community, service, operational excellence, and environmental stewardship.

Speaking to thriving community, Lichty used the example of prioritizing consultation, communication and commitment, noting many people have two residences; one in the GTA and one in Highlands East, as well as lack of internet when in the County. He said it required more traditional ways of communicating with those residents.

With service and operational excellence, Lichty said it was important to consolidate municipal services under one roof to provide a “one-stop-shopping” approach. Council has discussed a new township office but so far, the cost has stopped them from proceeding. Lichty also stressed the need to attract and keep staff, suggesting things such as alternate work weeks and remote work options.

As for environmental stewardship, strategic actions ranged from promoting erosion control to looking at alternative energy sources for municipal buildings.

He said with each council decision comes strategic questions to ensure action is aligned with the plan.

Lichty added the plan is a roadmap for politicians and senior staff to follow, “to guide decision-making while considering the annual budget and while determining work plan priorities.” He noted staff would regularly report back to council. He said the plan wasn’t the endpoint but a starting point.

“You put a lot of time and effort and thought into coming up with these strategic priorities, goals, and actions and if you focus on them, you’ll probably achieve them. If you get distracted by other things, you probably won’t.”

Ryall said he finds these types of reports, “paint a picture at about 5,000 feet in the air. And after that, you’ve gotta’ come down to where we need to start looking at to make things happen. This excited me and now I want to know what’s next steps?”

Financial testing coming to Haliburton high school

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The Ontario government has unveiled plans to improve financial literacy in high schools, introducing a new assessment students will need to pass to graduate.

Education minister Stephen Lecce said the new approach to financial learning will ensure students leave the public school system with the skills and knowledge to create and manage a household budget, save for a home, learn to invest wisely, and protect themselves from financial fraud.

Starting in September 2025, students will be required to score 70 per cent or higher to meet the financial literacy graduation requirement in their Grade 10 math course. The province is also standardizing making EQAO Grade 9 math scores reflect at least 10 per cent of a student’s final mark.

It’s the first major overhaul to Ontario Secondary School Diploma requirements in 25 years – the last coming in 1999 with the removal of Grade 13 and introduction of community volunteer hours.

Kim Williams, superintendent of learning for high schools at Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB), said she’s still waiting to hear if a new curriculum will be rolled out.

“School boards, right now, don’t know what this is going to look like. We get the feeling [the ministry] is going to add some things… but until we get more specific information, we can’t comment on what that will look like,” Williams said. “Certainly, we’ll talk about it. Teachers have always been excited to be able to teach that financial literacy piece – it’s just a matter of… what changes are going to take place to accommodate teachers being able to spend the time they need on it.”

Williams said financial literacy is a core component of Grade 9 and 11 math, and Grade 10 careers curriculums already, while it’s also taught at the elementary level.

She said high schoolers across TLDSB are already testing well in financial literacy.

“In terms of the Grade 9 curriculum, when looking at EQAO test results, financial literacy is actually our strongest [area]. We’re almost at the provincial level, one per cent below in terms of financial literacy,” she said.

While Williams hopes the enhanced focus on financial literacy will benefit students, she doesn’t want it to come at the expense of other components of the literacy and numeracy curriculums that she feels are just as important.

A long time coming

Chris Salmans, a financial adviser with Sunlife in Haliburton, said a renewed focus on financial education at the high school level is long overdue. A 2022 Royal Bank of Canada poll found around 83 per cent of young Canadians reported needing more information and support on money management, while 68 per cent reported feeling overwhelmed with financial matters and required help.

Canada also has the highest household debt level among G7 countries. Statistics Canada eported, based on a 2021 Census survey, the national debt-to-income ratio sat at around 185 per cent – meaning for every dollar a household had in disposable income, they owed about $1.85.

In 1980, that debt ratio was about 66 per cent.

“This renewed focus on improving basic financial skills is greatly needed. Students go to school, and they’re educated on mathematics, science, and the arts. Then they go to university and get trained to do a job, but they never actually get trained on what to do with the money they earn,” Salmans said. “Debt is a big problem in Canada… and I think part of the reason is newer generations aren’t exposed to that education and learning the value of money.”

While the recent interest rate hikes are partly to blame, along with high housing costs, Salmans said consumer debt, brought on by non-discretionary spending, has grown substantially in Canada since 2008.

Statistics Canada said, at the end of 2021, Canadians 35 and younger averaged $69,500 of total debt, those between 35 and 44 carried $105,100, 45 to 54 had $130,000, 55 to 64 had $80,600, and those 65 and older had $49,900 worth of debt.

Equifax noted, at the end of 2021, the average Canadian owed $72,950 in credit card debt, lines of credit, car loans, and personal loans.

“We’ve seen people find other ways to pay for things they want or think they need, which usually means more debt,” Salmans said.

He said a good starting point for financial learning at schools would be to teach students the basics of banking – how to write a cheque, open different accounts such as RRSPs and TFSAs, understand the rates of return on investments, and the implications, and costs, of taking out new loans.

Chris Salmans, a Haliburton-based financial advisor, believes recently-announced updates to financial literacy in high school are long overdue.

Loop Troupe has 5,000 reasons to cheer

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Pretty soon, people won’t have to wonder whether someone is talking about beer, or Christmas cheer, when attending events at the Lloyd Watson Memorial Community Centre.

Just months after relaunching, following a nine-year hiatus, the Wilberforce Loop Troupe announced recently it had succeeded in getting a $5,000 grant through the MacDougall Community Contest. The money will be used to improve acoustics in the main hall, which the group uses for rehearsals and live performances, and upgrade sound equipment.

Wilberforce was selected ahead of 150 other community projects to receive the top prize.

Loop Troupe members David Watson and Janice Dahms said the group only learned of the initiative a few days before entries were to close May 23.

“We were at rehearsal for ‘Skit Oodles’ and someone had heard about the contest and thought we should put in for it,” Watson said. “The acoustics have always sucked in that room, so we put our heads together and came up with a script for a two-minute video playing into that. It was quite funny.”

One of the skits had Loop Troupe members act as an audience at a wedding. Everyone struggled to hear what the pastor was saying, and when he muttered, “you may kiss the bride,” the audience thought the pastor had said he needed a ride.

The other set was festive themed, at a family Christmas gathering. When someone yelled “it’s time for Christmas cheer,” others around the table thought they’d heard the host say they would soon be serving beer.

“We played into the fact that noise echoes in that room, and it can sometimes be hard to hear what people are saying. It was like a game of broken telephone,” Watson said.

Between May 24 and 31, MacDougall received around 24,000 votes – with Wilberforce coming out tops. Watson said it was a real community effort.

“We had signs all over, people were talking about it at the grocery store, we all encouraged our family and friends to vote,” he said. “And the message seemed to spread. My son told his friends, who all voted from Vancouver. One of our members, Mary Barker, her son voted from Germany. Others voted from their holidays in Spain.

“People were literally voting for Wilberforce from all over the world,” Watson added.

Dahms said she was the first person to hear Wilberforce had won June 3 – her employer is a MacDougall client and received a note from the company’s head office about an hour before results went live.

“I was just so excited – I didn’t know what to do, whether I should post it,” she said. “By the time I’d called some members, MacDougall had posted the results. Everyone found out pretty quickly – it’s just a great thing, huge for the Loop Troupe and the Wilberforce community.”

The group will look to purchase and install soundproofing baffles along the walls and purchase better audio equipment. Watson said it will help with acoustics during live performances, and also for events such as weddings, funerals, graduations, and special functions and parties.