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Sturgeon County council sends aid to community groups

Non-profits struggle during pandemic

Sturgeon County council has shelled out some $90,000 to help its community groups make ends meet during the pandemic.

Council agreed to issue one-time operational grants totalling $89,400 to 28 non-profit groups in the county affected by the COVID-19 pandemic following an in-camera briefing Feb. 23.

Non-profit groups have been under pressure across Alberta as the pandemic made traditional money-makers such as rentals and mass gatherings impossible. The provincial government sent out some $30 million in support for food banks, seniors' groups, and other organizations in May 2020 in response to these pressures. 

Sturgeon County’s non-profits were able to manage their expenses without county support for most of last year, but their situations took a turn for the worse last winter, Mayor Alanna Hnatiw said in an interview.

Celin Stenner of the Rivière Qui Barre Agricultural Society (which runs the community’s arena) said her group’s troubles started last November when the province shut down team sports and all but eliminated the group’s revenue.

“Basically, all of our fundraising has been stalled because of the restrictions,” Stenner said, including the community’s well-known family hockey tournament in January.

Citing a recent county survey, Hnatiw said some 60 per cent of the county’s community groups had taken a significant financial impact due to the pandemic, with 45 per cent saying it had cost them the money they would normally use to pay for utilities and insurance. 

“Those are hard costs you can’t carry over or defer,” Hnatiw said, and these groups couldn’t turn to their usual methods of fundraising to pay them. 

“We have to protect the viability of these not-for-profits as much as we can.” 

Council agreed to give additional cash to 17 community associations, nine seniors’ associations, and two arenas. Seniors’ groups will receive $600 each, community associations $2,000 each, and the Calahoo and Rivière Qui Barre arenas $25,000 each.

Stenner said the county’s grant would help cover the arena’s utility costs, which often averaged $4,000 a month for electricity alone. The group was also working to finance a massive renovation to the old Camilla School gym. 

Stenner said the arena was the community hub of Rivière Qui Barre and host to meetings, weddings, hockey games, and other events year-round. She said the arena should stay afloat for the near future so long as there was not another sports shutdown. 

Hnatiw said the county would continue to work with community groups on their post-pandemic plans. 

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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