(Published in the North Grenville Times, Sept., 2014)
In a recent issue Peter Johnston bid a fond farewell to one of our community’s tireless animators, Doug Hendry. Peter gave him deserved praise for his civic involvement, volunteerism and contribution to the local music scene. Having worked with Doug on many events hosted by the Oxford Mills Community Association in Maplewood Hall, I can tell you he was the kind of volunteer who was often the last one to leave, turning out the lights and locking up, after having swept the Hall thoroughly. Quiet and unsung for the most part until Peter’s warm tribute.
When I think of Doug’s departure, I immediately think of other community builders like Brent Kelaher, who left for greener pastures over a year ago and Bradley Scissons who left more recently in August. They all left North Grenville because the work they or their partners wanted either disappeared or never arrived. How can we develop as a community unless we develop the kind of jobs that keep people like Doug, Brent and Bradley rooted here? We have to create the right conditions to both attract investment and to build connections with one another in order to maintain the community we all cherish. In my mind, social development and economic development go hand in hand and should feed off each other. We can’t have one without the other.
I believe generousity is a defining feature of the community in Kemptville and the surrounding area. It’s a result of the sense of interdependence people feel and that is fostered by making connections with each other. Great things happen when people get together and get to know one another. For that to happen we need places and spaces to rub shoulders – we need sports facilities, festivals, parks and institutions like the Farmers’ Market – walkable, pedestrian- friendly, bike-friendly places. We also need cafes and restaurants where people can meet and do a bit of business together. I’d venture to say that more small business deals have been concluded in places like Geronimo’s or Butler’s Victorian Pantry than anywhere else in North Grenville.
I’m sure small town or rural connectedness is part of the attraction to people who are looking for a place to live, start a family and/or retire. It’s not just the price of homes compared to Ottawa. If we build homes without building and maintaining community; if we fail to create local jobs here in North Grenville, we’ll lose. We’ll lose more civic-minded people like Doug Hendry, Brent Kelaher and Bradley Scissions and that would be a shame.