Just An Observation: Committed communities can make a difference

Despite the extreme challenge in a small town, big things can get done

As a community, you don’t always need a lot of money, but there definitely needs to be a commitment.

That has been clearly shown in the 12 months, courtesy of two huge successes witnessed in the small town of Bashaw.

First was the tremendous effort in getting hundreds of thousands of dollars raised — and won in contests — to pay for a larger gymnasium and various other improvements for the new school.

What made this so astounding was just how dedicated the entire community was in gathering donations, ensuring former residents and students could contribute in some way and the enormous online rallying campaign that was made in one final push to get the last bit of money to get the project over the edge. And while the campaign had a part in winning a huge corporate donation prize, the overall project and support for it was the ultimate decision maker in the victory.

Second was the four-year effort by the Bashaw Fire Department to replace an old ‘bread van’ rescue unit that had been patched together with ‘spit and duct tape’ for many years.

Through the dedication and work of the firefighters, they scraped together around $80,000 in donations — the majority of which were generated through small fundraisers. Those included the annual pancake breakfast, barbecues and volunteering their time at various community events.

That said, the overall community showed how much it appreciates what firefighters give up to serve others by giving when and where they could.

Be it through service groups like the Elks and the Legion or from businesses they work for — such as Ember Resources and Rahr Malting — or via organizations like Bashaw Minor Hockey, one would be hard pressed to find somebody in or around Bashaw that didn’t in some way make a contribution to the new rescue unit.

Decades ago, this was exactly how things got done in small rural communities. People banded together in order to get all sorts of facilities constructed, to pay for various projects to benefit residents or to help provide a service that was necessary for the community to move forward.

What has changed over the last 20 years or so is that the focus has been splintered in communities.

One group goes after money for its project, while another hopes to find funds for its project and yet others rally for the population to support them. And so it goes, in place after place, with less money being split between charitable and other worthwhile projects.

For this perspective, there are two main reasons as to why this ‘split’ is occurring.

The first is the aspect that many people don’t have nearly as much disposable income nowadays — whether of their own accord (too much debt) or not (not getting paid enough) — to hand out to organizations. Combine that with the supposed attitude of many these days of ‘what will it do for me?’, and you have an equation that equals far less giving.

Less obvious is the other reason — too many organizations that need to rely on the public because governments can no longer afford to dish out money for every type of project that comes along.

Back in the day, government had funds available for construction and operation of various facilities and had no qualms in being able to provide some extra to community projects.

With higher costs for products, services, wages, insurance, equipment — I could go on but you get the drift — there often times isn’t even enough left to finish the project properly the first time, let alone spend a bit extra on some wish list item on a non-profits bucket list.

Which is why you see even groups that provide publicly available services, hospitals most notably, trying to raise money through lotteries in order to get necessary equipment and other items so they can keep operating at a certain level.

So, maybe what Bashaw has accomplished recently could be a good example for others nearby, in Alberta or across the country.

Work more on collaboration to see community projects done right the first time, with community dollars, instead of battling each other to get a penny for your specific idea. It may help accomplish greater things.

But that is…just an observation.

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