By Darren Lum
Voters showed their support for the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust and Rotary Club of Minden during the Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) Community Champions contest, resulting in a win for both groups.
The two organizations were among five Community Champions finalists who were chosen by an OHTO selection panel after a nomination process inviting “locals and admirers of Ontario’s Highlands” included the recognition of “an organization that went above and beyond this past year to strengthen the local community, advocate for the environment, or help preserve our natural wonders.”
Each of these organizations are being rewarded with $3,000 for their respective causes after they finished with the most votes made between Sept. 24 and Oct. 8 to earn the OHTO designation along with The Grind Pembroke, which is a volunteer-driven charitable organization serving marginalized, low-to-no-income community members in Renfrew County.
The Minden Rotary Club is a social service club comprised of volunteers that works to improve and enhance the community in a variety of ways, and is expected to use the $3,000 to support Fuel for Warmth, which provides help to low-to-no income residents in heating their homes.
Club president Lynda Litwin said in an email message she was thrilled to learn about this opportunity, particularly during these “difficult times to help to support small communities.”
She adds winning proved this community could compete with larger centres where the other nominated organizations are located.
“The results show that smaller communities can win these grant opportunities against larger communities. We want to thank everyone that voted for Minden Rotary. I am so grateful that we have creative members that are looking for new ways to raise funds so we can continue to support the growing needs in our community,” she wrote in an email.
Rotarian Andy Campbell, who served as a contact for OHTO during the contest, said winning gives the club an opportunity to help Minden more.
“By having this award given to the Rotary Club of Minden we will now be able to re-direct some of the funds we have collected through our fundraising activities to some other worthwhile causes in the community,” he said.
Fuel for Warmth was chosen as a recipient by the Rotary Club because of the club’s focus helping with housing and heating.
“We all know housing is a challenge and even in addition to housing, heating is a challenge. Fuel for Warmth has got a great program with the food bank and the Minden Rotary Club is a big supporter of the food bank, so this fit right in,” he said.
The club has a long-standing tradition of helping around Minden Hills, whether its through its membership, volunteering, or supporting causes financially.
The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust is an organization that provides stewardship to five ecologically important properties in Haliburton County, including the Barnum Creek Nature Reserve and the Dahl Forest.
HHLT chairperson of the board, Shelley Hunt said the organization was excited about being named a Community Champion.
“We’re just so proud to be part of this Haliburton [County] community. It’s just such a supportive community and we were just delighted to get enough votes to get the funding,” she said.
Hunt said there was hope to use the money towards covering part of the expenses to expand the parking area at the Barnum Creek Nature Reserve, but were not able to because of timing related to when the funding can be used. Instead, it will help with maintaining the open areas at the reserve, which is an important habitat for species at risk, who use the area for foraging, nesting and/or basking.
The votes received are a clear indication of support from the community, Hunt said.
“It tells us that we are doing meaningful things in the community and appreciated by the community. It really is a vote of confidence for the work that the Land Trust is doing and for being able to maintain properties like Barnum Creek and Dahl Forest that are open for public use,” she said.