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Trillium grants boost RFDA, Beendigen, gymnastics group

Newly-announced Ontario Trillium Foundation dollars will support local food security efforts, a women's shelter, and a gymnastics group.
Volker Kromm of the RFDA, MPP Kevin Holland, Marguerite Gagnon of Thunder Bay Gymnastics, and Tammy Boyd of Beendigen at the RFDA for a Trillium Foundation announcement on Thursday.

THUNDER BAY – Three local groups say an infusion of infrastructure funding through the Ontario Trillium Foundation will help them do what they do best even better.

The OTF capital grants, announced at the Regional Food Distribution Association (RFDA) on Wednesday, will support local food security efforts, a women’s shelter, and a local gymnastics group.

The RFDA received $150,000 towards a meat processing room it’s building at its Syndicate Avenue headquarters.

The organization, which coordinates and distributes food aid to dozens of food banks and other community groups across Northwestern Ontario, said that means more high-value protein foods for those who need assistance.

The room will allow the RFDA to cut and package meat at its Syndicate location. The organization currently pays a meat packing facility to do that work when it receives large meat donations.

“We're really excited to be able to handle more protein,” said executive director Volker Kromm. “The meats that are available were sort of out of reach for us… When some of the local producers have a surplus or there's a carcass across the network, we can't handle the bulk food.”

“We had an entire truckload during the pandemic of whole fish – Arctic char and trout. We weren’t able to process it because we didn't have the equipment. But now we can, if we have an offer like that.”

The facility, to be located inside the RFDA’s Syndicate Avenue warehouse, will also aid the RFDA’s food education and skill-building work, Kromm added.

“It's an opportunity to expose young people to this skillset that seems to be disappearing,” he said. “It is a dying art, and we have an opportunity to get to kind of re-engage. There are meat cutters that are volunteering for us. They'd love to be able to [share] their skills before they retire.”

The Trillium funds will go toward construction and help purchase stainless steel worktables, shelving, and sinks.

A previous funding announcement for the project covered design and supporting infrastructure like electrical and plumbing, Kromm said.

The room is expected to be operational by the end of summer 2024.

The RFDA is also planning to build two meat storage facilities in Ignace and Pickle Lake in the new year, something Kromm called first steps in wider plans to enhance availability of meat in smaller regional communities including First Nations.

A second OTF grant of $120,200 was awarded to Beendigen to replace 15- to 20-year-old windows at its Anishinabe Women’s Crisis Home.

The women's crisis home and family healing agency was founded to provide temporary shelter to Indigenous women and children fleeing abuse.

Aside from meeting a basic infrastructure replacement need and making the building more efficient, operations manager Tammy Boyd said the new triple-pane windows will also be a noticeable improvement for families who stay at the house.

None of the current windows in resident areas can be opened, she said.

“With them opening, it will promote more of a healthy balance with that traditional four direction winds coming in and providing more sunlight in the house,” she said.

The Thunder Bay Gymnastics Association received $69,300 to install new equipment including balance beams, an adjustable bar and soft vault training system, drill blocks, and landing mats.

“This is a huge thing for us as a not-for-profit,” said executive director Marguerite Gagnon. “We're always looking for ways we can improve ourselves, but also not spend a lot of money, because we want to keep things as affordable as possible.”

Gagnon said the new equipment will bring safety and training benefits, especially for younger and beginner gymnasts

Thunder Bay–Atikokan MPP Kevin Holland announced the funding at the RFDA on Wednesday.

“Our government is continuing to invest in the health of our residents and ensuring that they have access to safe and effective sporting and recreational programs,” he said. “Today's announcement of $340,000 addresses infrastructure needs, promotes healthy living, and ensures that our communities and agencies remain vibrant and sustainable.”

Ian Kaufman

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