Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Appreciating Volunteers

Last week, I had the honour of being asked by a highly-respected Pelham resident to consider joining the Board of a long-standing and significant Niagara arts group.

I phrase it that way, because the individual that was inviting me to the Board knows about volunteering. She knows that volunteering is a conscious choice. She knows that to join a Board (in this case) is a choice that one must make given all other commitments and engagements in one’s life.

Wouldn’t you say it’s the same with all types of volunteerism?

All volunteers make a conscious choice to give of their time and of their talents to improve some part of our community or our region for the benefit of others.

Sometimes we don’t think of it that way. Sometimes we feel that we must volunteer or maybe our kids won’t have a coach. We might feel forced to volunteer.

But, in reality, if you are the one stepping up to the plate and volunteering, it is your conscience choice to act – to make that commitment.

I believe that all acts of volunteerism are sacred acts. Volunteers give of themselves, without any personal benefit, to help another person or to make community a better place.

This goes for the many coaches and conveners of the various sports in Pelham and for members of the Town’s outstanding Service Clubs. It’s the same with the specially appointed members of Town Committees like those that volunteer on the Library Board, the Active Transportation Committee, the Downtown Beautification Committee, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, and the Pelham Community Policing Committee.

The same commitment is given with more community based endeavours like the Farmer’s Market Committee, the Bandshell Committee, the Pelham Art Festival committee, the Pelham Horticultural Society, the Communities In Bloom committee, and the hundreds of other volunteers in our community.

In this way, I am very pleased that tonight is Pelham’s Annual Volunteer Appreciation. It is extremely important to honour and thank the hundreds of volunteers that work to make our community better.

On your behalf, this evening I will offer special thanks to the hundreds of volunteers in our Town who work tirelessly to build and improve our community. I will thank them for their vision of a better community, their dedication to acting on that vision, and their generosity of sharing their time, talents, and treasures for the benefit of others.

Next time you get a chance, I encourage you to thank a volunteer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Revitalizing Our Downtowns

Will you help promote the Town’s multi-million application to the Federal and Provincial Governments to revitalize Pelham’s downtowns? Will you also help finalize the Community Improvement Plan for our downtowns?

You see, the Federal and Provincial governments recently agreed to jointly fund an infrastructure improvement program called Build Canada.

In October, Town Council directed staff to prepare a Build Canada application for the revitalization of the Fonthill and Fenwick downtown cores.

Why our downtowns? Well, according to a 2007 Regional telephone survey, when asked “What areas in your city or town do you think need development/ growth?” nearly 50% of Pelham residents said “urban areas / downtowns.” In addition, it’s the municipal project that best fits the application.

Based on a 2002 Beautification Plan, Pelham’s $7.1 million project would include a series of major infrastructure developments: water, waste-water, and storm-water improvements of nearly $1.5 million; burying of hydro cables for $2.25 million; road work of $1.5 million; and proper streetscaping – accommodation for pedestrians and cyclists, better parking, brickwork, decorative lampposts, benches and planters – of nearly $0.5 million. (There’s another nearly $1.5 million for the environmental assessment, engineering, and contingencies.)

If successful, the Town will receive $4.76 million in funding from the Federal and Provincial governments. The balance of the funding would come from the Town’s various reserves and reserve funds, and long-term debt.

I assure you that our senior staff is developing an excellent application. But, because this could make such a major improvement for Pelham, and because Pelham has never received any significant Federal or Provincial funding, we are also organizing a significant lobby effort.

We have already spoken to Ontario Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman, MP Dean Allison, and MPP Tim Hudak. The Welland/Pelham Chamber of Commerce endorses the proposal and hopefully the Pelham Business Association will do the same. I know of a number of individual businesses that offered to send letters of support.

Therefore, we are inviting you and your neighbours to send a letter of support for this exciting proposal. How? Please check out the Town’s website at for more about Pelham’s application and contact information for the Federal and Provincial decision-makers.

Finally, the Town’s consultant is in the final stages of developing recommendations for incentives (like a fa├žade improvement fund) and tax-increment financing to assist downtown land-owners to improve their properties. The consultant will host a public meeting on Monday, November 24 from 7:00 PM at Pelham Station #1, 177 Highway #20 West, Fonthill. I hope you can join us.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Park Dedication Address

Today, we remember those brave men and women who have served, and who continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict, and peace.
We honour those valiant men and women for their courage, their commitment, and their devotion to Canada.
They willingly gave of their lives and their futures –- so that we might live in peace.
How fitting, on this the 90th Anniversary of the end of the First World War, that we dedicate this Veteran’s Park to them and to their memory.
How fitting that we stand on their bricks -- stand on their names -- just as our society stands upon the freedoms for which they fought.
Our veterans did more than “stand on guard” for these principles, they sacrificed for them; they sacrificed for us.
And, so, we dedicate this beautiful Pelham Veteran’s Park, in their honour.
Their names, their sacrifices, are engraved here for us to see.  May they also be engraved in our minds and on our hearts.
As a result, let us be thankful.  Let us rededicate ourselves to peace.  And let us never forget.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Join Us At Pelham’s Remembrance Day

As you know from people donning the familiar poppy, Remembrance Day is almost upon us.

This Remembrance Day will be a very special occasion in Pelham. Not only will it be the 90th Anniversary of the end of the First World War, but the Veteran’s Park will be officially dedicated at the cenotaph.

In fact, nearly 600 veterans, families, individuals, schools, businesses, and service clubs have purchased and engraved bricks from the Pelham Veteran's Park committee and donated $120,000 to beautify the cenotaph.

More than 340 Veterans 12"X12" bricks have been purchased and engraved with the Veteran's name, rank, branch of service, and the words “Lest We Forget” with a red poppy. More than 200 Citizens 6"X12" bricks have been purchased and engraved with a citizen's or family’s name. And, more than 40 corporate 12"X12" bricks have been purchased and engraved with the business’s logo. There are other donors of $1,000 or more, each “purchasing” a bench, a light post, a war marker, the flag pole, a sign, or shrubbery.

A new flag pole, accent lights, a decorative fence, and a specially engraved sign have all been installed. The park includes distinctive markers for World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Peacekeeping Missions, and Afghanistan. All the work was designed and completed by DeKorte Landscaping.

The official dedication of the Veteran’s Park will occur immediately after the Legion’s Remembrance Day service at 11:00 on November 11 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Fonthill.

The dedication will feature greetings by the Veteran’s Park Chair, Gerry Berkhout, and an explanation of the park’s vision by Jack DeKorte. Because of the importance of the park’s dedication, Dean Allison, MP, Tim Hudak, MPP, and Peter Partington, Regional Chair will each participate. Chair Partington will present a special sign to mark the section of Regional Road #20 from Rice Road to Station Street as “Veteran’s Way.” I, too, will speak on behalf of you and other Pelham residents about the importance of Remembrance Day and the park.

In addition, Jeff Brazeau, a Canadian soldier stationed in Afghanistan, will provide a current perspective. Then, the St. Ann School Choir will sing “There Is A Place.” Finally, Don Cotter, President of the Legion, and other dignitaries will officially dedicate Veteran’s Park.

More than ever, this year’s service will be a very important and moving dedication to honour the service and sacrifice of our Veterans. I hope you will be able to join us on Remembrance Day.