Guelph inspires new community collaboration and contribution for Canada’s 150th

Encourage participation. Inspire understanding. Build community.

Those were the drivers behind The Guelph Community Foundation’s involvement in the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, a national small grants initiative to support local projects that build community and encourage engagement in our sesquicentennial.

Moments like Canada’s 150th don’t come around often. We knew 2017 was the spark to do something special in Guelph and create a lasting impact for the future. As we reached out to the Guelph community and asked local organizations to submit big ideas for projects to mark Canada’s 150th, we were overwhelmed by the response.

We saw a ideas centred around youth engagement and support – everything from mentoring, education and empowerment, to initiatives that explored diversity, the arts, and opportunities for youth at risk. We were inspired by initiatives that focused on fresh food for low-income and ethnically diverse neighbourhoods – going beyond food provision to include elements of training, social inclusion, and building capacity for residents to grow and preserve their own produce. And we learned about social service projects to provide support and encourage belonging for children, women, families, newcomers, and others in the community.

We were amazed by the quality and volume of ideas we received, as well as the diverse and creative range of projects. The Community Fund for Canada’s 150th inspired new and different organizations to engage with The Foundation. We also saw unprecedented collaboration and community partnerships emerge. In fact it wasn’t until our granting celebration that we fully realized just how many people were involved in the creation of projects – everyone sharing a common goal to bring our community together, and make it a better place.

Two projects in particular stood out for their community-building ingenuity. The Multicultural Food Project will be an enhancement to Guelph’s North End Harvest Market and plans to increase availability of ethno-specific fresh produce to low income families in our community. The project’s goal is to increase the understanding and capacity of residents to grow and preserve their own produce, especially culturally-specific produce. The ripple effect of this initiative is exciting – residents who can cultivate, grow and store their own produce will not only eat healthy foods, but learn a skillset to help them set up their own food stand at the market and earn money from their involvement in the future.

Another exciting initiative is a project led by the Guelph Youth Music Centre. Their performance, “Canada’s 150th Celebrated in Music by 150 Young Canadians”, will showcase cultural diversity and musical talent. The 150-strong youth engagement program will include singers, an Indigenous drumming circle, a barn dance, interactive activities and displays to recognize Canadian musical traditions over the last 150 years in Canada. Beyond the benefits to performers, the musical showcase will create a welcoming event for the community and appreciate how music, past and present, can unite us together.

Through our participation in the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, and a helping hand from some of our fundholders whose generous contributions allowed us to widen our collective impact, The Guelph Community Foundation provided community-building grants to 28 charities.

recipients-of-community-grants-fall-event-2016-high-resIn early October, community organizations gathered at Guelph’s River Run Centre for our annual granting celebration. There was a tangible energy of Canadian pride in the room, and an overwhelming sense that Guelph’s community is collectively more than the sum of its parts.

A bagpiper led the march of the Guelph Legion Colour Guard and the magnitude of Canada’s sesquicentennial began to set in. You could hear a pin drop when Indigenous leader Carol Tyler took the stage to perform a traditional ceremonial blessing – her words weaving together like flowing poetry, uniting us all in the vision of harmony, healing, and the power of belonging in this time and place together.

The many 2017 projects we were able to support, including youth- and food-focused initiatives, will have a sustained and tangible impact for Guelph. Canada’s 150th has also taught us an important lesson: When people come together around shared interests, there’s so much possibility to foster a sense of belonging for all, and continue to build the foundation of our community, and our country.

Guest post by Lianne Carter Ladner, Marketing & Communications Manager with The Guelph Community Foundation.

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