Thanks to a decision by Bradford council, one of the town's "best kept secrets" will be able to continue its strong work in the community.
At its regular meeting Tuesday, council asked staff to update the use agreement for the Tec-We-Gwill Hall to permit use to the Tec-We-Gwill Women’s Institute one day per week or a total of 52 days per year starting in 2024.
The updated agreement is expected to allow the institute to provide their planned programming as currently booked, which includes: 10 monthly meetings and the annual district meeting, 10 senior lunches, 24 workshop events and three talent concerts.
The 52 days per year would be included in the annual rate the institute pays for the hall, which was $275 in 2023, according to an April report from Mike O’Hare, manager of parks and property. To book any additional days in the hall for any further programs or events, the institute would then be charged the municipal permit fees.
As a result, staff anticipate no impact on the town’s finances, according to a report from Terry Foran, director of community services.
Other options presented by staff included limiting the group's use to just 12 days per year or offering them the option to buy back the hall from the town.
The decision came after a presentation from Liz Moore, president of the Bond Head Women’s Institute and convener with the Tec-We-Gwill Women’s Institute, who highlighted the value the institutes bring to the area.
“Recently we were asked the value of our service, and when we did the math, we realized the number of volunteer hours in a year equated to almost three people — that’s three people — working full time in the community,” she said.
With 50 members and growing, the two institutes include teachers, nurses, social workers, accountants, farmers and bankers.
Moore explained that as a not-for-profit, all of the funds the group raises are donated back into the community and as a result the group works to keep their operating costs as low as possible.
“We are so grateful to all of you here, the mayor and council, thank you so much for your partnership over last seven years. You have provided us a space at the Tec-We-Gwill Hall at a very reasonable price that does not cripple our operating budget,” she said.
Since being founded in 1947, Moore said the institute has focused on four key areas: donations, education, community support and advocacy and inclusion.
The institute has supported charities including:
- Bra Bank
- The Loft
- The Clothes Line
- Bears, Books and Blankets
- food banks
- music festivals
The institute has supported educational workshops including:
- South Asian cooking
- A coffee tour
- Canning workshop
The institute has supported community programs including:
- the Christmas Craft Sale
- a community garden
- community lunches
The institute has supported advocacy and inclusion programs including:
- talent shows
- the Omnivore composting initiative
- children’s music events
- hosting South Simcoe Police Services’ Scram to the Scam program
Moore explained the group’s current model of service delivery has a focus on healthy communities and is strengthened by partnerships with local organizations.
“We are a passionate, dedicated group of women. We are striving to make a difference. We have a solid history and foundation of education and support within this community. It is that history that has us committed to the future,” she said.
Members of council had only positive things to say in response to the presentation.
Mayor James Leduc thanked Moore and the group for the presentation, and called it a learning exercise.
“You’re right; you are the best kept secret. ... I knew about you, but I didn’t know that much about your group. ... I really commend all of you,” he said.
Ward 5 Coun. Peter Ferragine echoed the mayor’s sentiment, and agreed that the group provides a lot for the community while being inclusive for others in a way that staff are unable to facilitate.
He was also quick to endorse the approved changes to the use agreement and acknowledged the group is flexible to help allow other groups access to the hall.
Deputy Mayor Raj Sandhu thanked the group both for their presentation and for all their work within the community.
Ward 1 Coun. Cheraldean Duhaney praised the group for their commitment to and accomplishments in the community.
“These services, we need it more than ever. ... It’s good to see that women are stepping forward, as always right, and actually doing things in our community that will benefit not just women, but everyone in our community,” she said.
Ward 4 Coun. Joseph Giordano stressed the importance of strong, caring women, and fought back tears while discussing some of the difficulties his own mother faced.
“She didn’t always have friends that were accessible, but through schools or programs like yours ... it’s important. I understand how women, in general, need to have those safe spaces or those places where they can connect,” he said.
The matter was returning to council after previously being discussed during the regular meeting of council on April 4, where the report from O’Hare showed that in 2019 of the 149 days the hall was booked, only 15 days were reserved by non-Tec-We-Gwill groups, including the historical society, a garden club, the town and other private users.
That report came at the request of Ferragine, and began with residents being upset about not being able to book the days they desired to use the space.
The Tec-We-Gwill Hall is located on Line 10, west of County Road 27, in Newton Robinson.
-- With files from Patrick Bales