Great turnout on May 14 for Alma hall groundbreaking ceremony

Over 200 locals attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Alma community hall on May 14, including a large contingent from Alma Public School.

Councillor Mike Downey, who also chaired the building committee, said it was fitting the children were present for the event, considering they will benefit from the hall and look after it in the future.

Perth-Wellington MPP John Wilkinson thanked the Alma Optimist Club for its tireless work on making the new hall a reality.

The provincial and federal governments have each contributed over $520,000 towards the hall, with Mapleton Township covering the remainder of the $1,561,700 price tag. The Alma Optimist club has committed to raising $300,000 towards the township’s portion.

Wilkinson called the Alma project a great example of how partnerships can “make the community a better place for our children.”

Mayor John Green thanked the building committee for its “foresight and dedication,” as well as the provincial and federal governments for their contributions.

“This will be a focal point of this community for many years to come,” Green said.

President of the Optimist Club Dave Geddes  thanked Green, Schellenberger, and Wilkinson for their governments’ contributions, noting the old Alma hall had become obsolete.

Downey again thanked the ­Alma Optimists, including Tony Rowe and Les Skerritt, who, he said, “put their heart and soul into [the project].”

Downey also stressed the important role played by township staff, and especially the township’s original partner on the Alma site, the late Wallace Cumming.

Downey said Cumming’s memory “will live on” through the park that bears his name and the new community hall.

Cumming’s sister, Alberta Auger, said she was proud to speak on behalf of her brother, and thanked all those who are helping to make the hall a reality.

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Now that construction has begun, the Alma Optimist Club is also step­ping up its work to find donors to help pay for its portion.

The club was formed in 1972, and has focused on op­por­­tunities for youth since its inception.

Twelve years ago, Wallace Cumming donated 30 acres of land in Alma to the club, to be developed as parkland. In order to avoid a big tax burden, the club turned that land over to Mapleton Township, with the intent of collaborating on turn­ing the land into a multi-use facility.

Since then, the land has re­ceived a picnic shelter, walk­ing trail, tobbogan hill, a play­ground equipment area and tree plantings, and it hosts an annual tractor pull and car show.

Five years ago, the club de­termined that its hall can no longer serve the needs of the community due to struc­tural deficiencies and a lack of handicap access. So the Op­timists entered into an agree­ment with Mapleton to co-develop a new community hall. The township will own the building and the club will assume the day-to-day operations.

The goal is to support the community with a central faci­lity at the park to be enjoyed by the entire town.

A building committee was formed in January of 2009, and it obtained conceptual plans. The groups also applied for a federal-provincial grant through the township, and was successful in obtaining a two-thirds grant to help cover the costs. Mapleton is paying half of the final one-third cost, and the club is sharing that cost, needing to raise $300,000.

The club, hoping to open the hall on Nov. 26, has launched a major fundraising initiative, and is seeking corporate and personal donations. To donate call: Ray Grose, 846-5329 or 846-5481;  Lloyd Scott, 846-0317 or 846-5871; or Linda Avery, 843-3229.