Friends of Old School recognized by Ontario Historical Society for preservation work

Mindemoya Old School

MINDEMOYA—For their tremendous efforts in the preservation of the Mindemoya Continuation School, Friends of the Mindemoya Old School (FOMOS) have been recognized with a prestigious award from the Ontario Historical Society (OHS).

“We’ve been working very hard and it is really nice to see our efforts recognized like this,” stated Jan McQuay, president of FOMOS on the group receiving the 2021-2022 Heritage Conservation Award from the OHS. “It’s such an honour to have our efforts recognized.”

Daniel Dishaw, OHS communications and outreach manager, said in the announcement, “it is my pleasure to announce that the 2021-2022 Heritage Conservation Award has been presented to FOMOS for their continued dedication to the preservation of the Mindemoya Continuation School as a significant heritage structure in Central Manitoulin Township. The Heritage Conservation Award recognizes an exceptional contribution towards the conservation, preservation, or restoration of built-heritage or natural-heritage in Ontario.” 

“Since 2014, when FOMOS formed, the members have worked tirelessly to lobby council, to grow public support for the cause, and to revitalize the role of the structure within the community,” said Mr. Dishaw. “In 2021, FOMOS became incorporated through affiliation with the OHS in a further attempt to support the preservation of the structure and to further formalize their group. Their work to date has delayed the demolition, and their creative problem-solving techniques assist greatly in working toward a long-term preservation solution for this important heritage structure in the community.”

“FOMOS’ efforts over almost a decade has helped to ensure that this impressive heritage building will be preserved and enjoyed for generations to come,” said Mr. Dishaw. 

“The OHS honours and awards committee is pleased to recognize FOMOS with the Heritage Conservation Award,” said Mr. Dishaw.

FOMOS was nominated for the award by Jim Smith, of Mindemoya. He told The Expositor the reason he had nominated FOMOS for this award, “I felt FOMOS, over the past few years, has put forth a huge effort to preserve one of Ontario’s heritage buildings, namely the old Continuation/Consolidated School in Mindemoya. My summary pointed out the merits of the building and itemized many of the fundraising and community awareness campaigns initiated by this dedicated group.”

“FOMOS has made application to be considered for several heritage grants, the receipt of which would allow the structure to be repurposed to once again become of great benefit to our community,” said Mr. Smith. “Recognition of the FOMOS campaign by OHS will lend even more validity to requests for funding. A 21-year lease, albeit conditional, has been negotiated with Central Manitoulin Council which will at least temporarily postpone demolition of the school. Receipt of this grant funding will absolve taxpayers completely from any financial burden and will allow FOMOS to meet further monetary deadlines placed upon them in the lease.”

Mr. Smith said, “FOMOS has been endorsed by both provincial and federal parliamentary representatives, and now has received recognition from OHS through the awarding of this honour. I wish to add my personal congratulations on the receipt of this much deserved award. Keep up the good work, FOMOS!”

Ms. McQuay stated after the award announcement, “we are thrilled to accept the 2021-22 Heritage Conservation Award from OHS, an organization with a province-wide scope. This award is for outstanding achievement towards the conservation, preservation, or restoration of a built-in heritage or natural-heritage site in Ontario.”

“Founded in 1888, the OHS is a non-profit corporation and registered charity,” said Ms. McQuay. “It’s a non-government group bringing together people interested in preserving some aspect of Ontario’s history.”

“Since 2016, many local people, former residents and friends have worked to keep the Mindemoya Old School, and I want to acknowledge all their efforts and dedication,” stated Ms. McQuay. “About two years ago, we realized that in order to save this historical building, we would have to incorporate. Like so many other groups, we turned to OHS, and in January 2021, FOMOS became a non-for-profit corporation affiliated with OHS.”

Ms. McQuay stressed, “incorporation was the key. It meant that we could put together a business plan and negotiate a 21-year lease. Now we are working with an architectural firm to develop a plan to restore the building, starting with a new roof. This historical building will become a vibrant centre for artists, artisans and other compatible businesses, enhancing the importance of Mindemoya for tourism. It will also house a much-needed seniors’ centre to serve our elderly population.”

“We have come a long way, through the dedication and hard work of many people,” Ms. McQuay continued. “There are too many to thank individually, but I particularly want to thank our board members: Malen Brynildsen, Alison McAllister, Karen Mackenzie, Aaron Quesnel and Lynn Quesnel. I would also like to thank Jim Smith for his work, and for nominating our group for this prestigious award. Lastly, many thanks for Rob Leverty and the OHS for guiding and assisting us in our journey to save the Old School.”

“It is great news,” stated Mr. Dishaw. “It is a fantastic project.”

“The committee that reviews the nominations was pleased with their nomination, and we are very pleased with their win,” continued Mr. Dishaw. “The heritage conservation award receives a good number and variety of nominees every year.”

“FOMOS has been doing great work. We support the group in its efforts to fulfill the local mandate they have done a great job mobilizing the support of the community and keeping the building upright,” added Mr. Dishaw.