As he starts another year as Jasper Centre board chair, Donny White is nearer to realizing a vision.
“There’s still a way to go, but I’m closer now,” he says of his dreams for the centre.
White was in reflective mood after the Jasper Cultural & Historical Centre’s annual general meeting and election of officers on Thursday, January 27.
Three new faces were welcomed to the board: Gail Johnson, Vance Sanderson and Vivan Farley. There were two departures: Henry Mulatz and Cheri Shapley.
In his report for the AGM, White said 2021 was probably the greatest “rollercoaster year” since the Jasper Centre opened in 1988.
Highlights of the report include:
• Attendance at the centre increased in 2021, partly because it was able to host outdoor events in August, like the Car Classics and town festival;
• Memberships, tuck shop sales and media coverage have also risen;
• A $250,000 donation from Toronto businessman Richard Rooney, who had already contributed $25,000 in 2020;
• The awarding of a $10,000 federal government grant based on revenues lost in 2020 because of COVID-19;
The plan to hire a building manager to oversee all aspects of the building and grounds;
Installing a new bookkeeping system, transferring data from a previous programme put in place by Cheri Shapley and Barb Weinberger in 2020; and
The centre has a new group of volunteers anxious to get involved with front desk, special events, accessioning and, hopefully, programming.
Around 20 people attended the AGM and election of officers. The meeting was open to the public, although only members were allowed to vote.
Copies of White’s annual report were available.
White said the year began with the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a windstorm that damaged the centre’s roof; it was later discovered that the entire surface membrane needed replacing.
On top of this, the front/rear steps, and the sidewalk leading to the centre, needed upgrading. There was also a brick-and-mortar project for the façade.
Estimates for the work were about $200,000. Plus, another $100,000 was required for annual operating expenses.
“Undaunted, the board set to raising funds, not an easy task during a pandemic and when competing with the town for a long-awaited swimming pool and the fire hall already build.
“However, not only did the citizens of Maple Creek rise to the occasion, but so too did many former students, families of former students, former residents, and friends of Maple Creek from across Canada.”
By the end of December, almost $150,000 had been realized in donations – on top of which came a $250,000 cheque from Richard Rooney.
“The generosity of Mr. Rooney’s donation was truly a heart-stopping moment as we opened the envelope and held a cheque for a quarter of a million dollars in our hands with the simple words, ‘use where most needed’.
“This amazing donation will now allow us to proceed with all the work required and provide a breathing space to plan ahead for the coming year with some level of comfort.
“The Jasper Centre, the town of Maple Creek and the southwest corner of this province owes Mr. Rooney a huge debt of gratitude for ensuring the largest year- round arts & heritage centre in the immediate southwest will live to fight another day – a true patron of the arts.”
White said that 2021 proved a better overall year than 2020 – despite the many road-blocks encountered.
“From all appearances 2022 will be a challenge with the fourth wave not yet peaking. However, we are confident, (apart from programming revenues lost) that 2022 will result in a return to some semblance of normalcy.”