What a treat to sit in Molson House last week!

It harkened back to the days when Formosa Spring Brewery offered cross country ski equipment and trails on the grounds of the 200 acre brewery property, hot food in the kitchen at the farmhouse, and skating on the pond by what is now Molson House.

Those were heady days before Lollapalooza and Edge Fest in the 80's and 90's. Those were days when you could cross country ski forever, right beside Highway 400, on acres and acres of fields set aside by a brewery for its people.

When Molson bought Formosa Spring, it continued the same corporate community involvement. The ski equipment faded from the barn, the hot dogs no longer were dispatched from the farmhouse, but people still skated on the pond. Concerts, young people, thousands of cars and decibels of loud speakers kept the Molson commitment loud and clear.

When Molson made the difficult decision to close its Barrie operations in 1999, it gave Barrie and its people a final gift... $2 million to be gifted over a 10 year period to be used for charitable ventures deemed worthy and accessible to all. In all, over 40 groups have benefitted from Molson funding, and they cover the arts, downtown, sports, recreation with projects that are major and minor in nature.

Last week Molson's Doug Vance announced year six of the awards and handed out cheques to four very grateful groups of community efforts. In all 26 groups sent in applications for funding for a variety of projects... for small amounts for small things, and for big amounts for big things.

A team of seven community leaders reads all the submissions (an onerous task) and scores them according to criteria established at the end of each year in preparation for the next year. The 25 proposals were reduced to 12 and the committee began its deliberations in February.

So last week is really the culmination of likely a year of effort... months of effort on the part of the groups generating proposals for funding, hours of reading and discussing and arguing, and then a happy lunch hour celebrating those fortunate enough to benefit from MolsonĀ¹s continued corporate generosity.

Three groups, all cultural in nature, received $20,000 each for equipment that allows them to move to a new level. Gryphon Theatre will build an imposing sign that helps theatre users direct patrons to their events. King Edward Choir's 80 voices will be able to purchase the music and risers to produce Handel's Messiah on November 26. One of my very favourite of Handel's works, the Messiah, when produced well, is life moving.

And the Huronia Symphony, Barrie's 39 year amateur orchestra will use its money to buy four tympani. The Symphony has long been a proving ground for young musicians heading into professional careers, and the gift from established musicians of great skill who just can't get or give enough of performance.

With $20,000 to each of these organizations, the committee was left to select one recipient of $140,000. There were several requests for large amounts of money, all worthy, all justifiable, all beneficial.

Hospice Simcoe was the recipient selected this year. It was a particularly bittersweet decision since Hospice lost its founder, Kathy Irvin, just four weeks ago. On the verge of raising funds to build its own facility the Home For Hospice project will be a true community event, with the home construction industry and all its ancillary businesses coming together to make this happen.

What a fabulous kick start to this project, to receive such a bonus at its fundraising outset.

The Hospice crowd, including staff and volunteers, should be proud of a proposal that was thorough, heartening, and which explained diligently the valuable work of Hospice in this community.

Hospice demonstrates its guiding principles through the statement by Rev. Colin MacDonald: "the stature of a city is best measured in how it treats its most vulnerable citizens."

Well, we're fortunate to have so many volunteer organizations doing so many good things. We're fortunate to have Molson still standing at Molson House handing out cheques.

To Doug Vance and Molson... thank you! To the symphony, the theatre, the choir... thank you! To Hospice, you prove just how big Barrie's stature really is! Blessings!

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