Letter: Writer hopes to rally Big Lake families to support hall

Association is currently seeking new members

To the Expositor:

I am writing this letter with the hopes that the local families of the Big Lake area, both young and old, will have an understanding of the current situation and the township’s thoughts on either selling off the property and the talk circulating around of demolishing the building. And hopefully step forward in trying to help us keep our much-loved building and property.

A brief history of the Big Lake School House. The property was donated by a local family under the condition that if it were ever to be closed the property would be deeded back to the donator’s family. That did not happen and instead, it was turned over to the Sandfield Township. The family did not dispute this at the time, but descendants on that family are still partaking in our community events to this day.  

The Big Lake Community Association (BLCA) and past students have great pride in our building. Recipients of our generous donations over the past years do as well. Donations such as bursaries, local school fair items, local food banks, donations to the Manor and the thousands of dollars to the local Hospital Auxiliary are all accomplishments achieved by the BLCA using the building we are currently speaking of. On top of those accomplishments, we’ve held events for those in need as well as many families have used the building for their family/group gatherings. The local Women’s Institute has used it for years for their group gatherings. Not to mention the organizations and government groups renting it out has provided a source of income to support our small organization. We held weekly euchre for the seniors between the months of mid-May to mid-October. We purchased playground equipment for the young families to use as recreation for their children. The school and property is used by the young and the old alike.

As a result of all of this the BLCA has been an almost completely self-sustaining entity with many benefactors. To my knowledge there are no other such groups in the Central Manitoulin area that have been so accomplished and of minimal financial burden to the township. We pay all of our own expenses: heat, hydro, telephone, organizational insurances, yard maintenances and still manage to donate to others. We have efficiently fundraised for building additions and improvements, playground equipment and more. We provide opportunities for the local constituents to meet and events such as euchre and fundraising dinners providing local talent as entertainment. We have been financially independent and we support local.

Currently the building is leased from the township. This past year and a half have been a difficult as experienced by all of a local, provincial, national and international level due to the global pandemic, COVID 19. For health and safety reasons we have chosen not to hold our annual events, weekly events, BLCA meetings and all our sources of income have stopped completely. 

It has been brought to our attention that the winter of 2019/2020 unfortunately caused a problem with the ice damage on the roof. This damage was quite extensive and tore and moved a vent, causing rips in the steel roof as well as damaging a portion of the chimney causing additional damage to the steel braces to the chimney and the roof surrounding that area. As a result, there was water that leaked through the tears causing damage and mold internally. The extent of the water damage will not be determined until a portion of the ceiling is removed as there is no attic in the area of the building. 

We understand temporary repairs have been completed to the roof. We would like to suggest that the proper repairs be covered under the insurance policy carried by the township on the building in support of maintaining their community organizations so we can continue to give back. The only expense we are currently aware of that the township pays for on behalf of the property and organization is this insurance. It is approximately $3,000 a year. Due to the lack of income for the current year and the foreseeable future, we do not find it feasible to cover any additional expenses at this time and have no current plans of opening the building for public use until it is deemed safe to do so.

We are a proud group; proud of our heritage and our accomplishments. Inside of the loved schoolhouse we have maintained its heritage in many ways such as war veteran memorials, honoraries to past members, Women’s Institute commemorations and possibly even more importantly, a wall designated to photos of past students and teachers. We make every effort to remember and cherish the memories of the past in the community. 

At zero cost to the township (other than the insurance on the building they own) we feel it is a noble way for the township to support their communities and our organization within it. To specify our clarity in our future intensions, significant and underlying pride in our heritage and pride in our past accomplishments should be more than adequate reasons why our beloved old schoolhouse building should be maintained by the township until the pandemic is over and we can have the opportunity to regroup and return to the level of success we experienced in the past to provide support to our local community.

We are currently looking for additional members, volunteers, donations and suggestions to help us to save our only community and heritage based building.

Please feel free to contact us at 705-348-0123 or email loisdm13@gmail.com.

Sincerely,

Big Lake Community Association