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Hundreds attend new Optimist Hall opening

by David Meyer

ALMA - After the ribbons were cut and the speeches made, Perth-Wellington MPP John Wilkinson remarked that the new Optimist building here has “got to be the most beautiful community hall per capita in Ontario.”

He might also have said that for an opening, the building attracted one of the highest percentages of a community’s population.

Over 200 people fit comfortably inside the spacious building for a grand opening ceremony at noon on June 24, including a large portion of the Alma Public School student body, led by piper Liam MacDonald.

The students performed the national anthem and offered other music as well.

Optimist Club member and master of ceremonies Dave Geddes said the ground breaking had been done last May, and the building seemed to grow so fast it was like, “Add water and stir.”

Perth-Wellington MP Gary Schellenberger was unable to attend because of the postal dispute and parliament still sitting. Lee Gudgeon attended on his behalf and said, “Projects like this one are important.”

The federal, provincial, and municipal government each came up with one third of the cost of the $1.5-million building.

“Congratulations for all your hard work in bringing this project to fruition,” Gudgeon said.

Wilkinson told the school children assembled for the outdoor part of the ceremony, “Your moms and dads came together to build this.”

He noted there was no provincial flag present, so he brought one along.

“This is really one of the most beautiful halls in rural Ontario and you can be proud of it,” Wilkinson said.

Mayor Bruce Whale said the hall project had been on the drawing board since he got on council about seven years ago, when Wallace Cumming donated the land for a park.

He noted that 20 years ago, the Optimist Club had developed another community hall from an old church, but simply outgrew it.

“This  project would not have been made possible without the financial contribution of the federal and provincial governments, and the contributions of the Alma Optimist Club and community members,” Whale said.

Optimist Club president Les Skerritt said, “This is pretty awesome.”

He said it has been a long time goal, and thanked “everybody that supported me over the last five years,” noting that there was help from the club and the community.

He said he learned “Something will happen if your keep pushing and you don’t quit.”

Geddes then noted that while Cumming donated the land for the park, “He didn’t expect something like this.”

Geddes then introduced Cumming’s sister, Alberta Auger, who told the audience about times in Alma many years ago. She was a teacher but taught only boys. That was just prior to World War II.

“It’s a beautiful building,” she said.

Geddes then introduced Mapleton councillor Mike Downey, who sat on the building committee.

Downey said he was thrilled to see the public school children at the grand opening, since many of them had attended the previous year’s sod turning ceremony.

“We had a lot of community help from a lot of people,” he said.

Dunn Construction built the building, and owner Al Dunn told the group, “I hope you get the same enjoyment of this building as we had in building it.” While it had an official opening at midday, Alma planned to keep on celebrating, with a second ceremony that evening that included clowns, face painting, and a dance starting at 6pm.



July 1, 2011


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