Fundraising efforts for a new community hall in Fox Valley received a good boost with a very successful three-week online auction that helped to bring the dream of a new communal gathering space another step closer.
The online Facebook auction took place from Oct. 1-21 as an alternative way to raise funds during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grand total was announced in early November after all payments were made, and the auction raised $72,760 for the new community hall building fund.
Cassandra Obritsch, the chairperson of the new hall committee, is thrilled with the great support for the online auction.
“That was the push we needed, because of the pandemic it's been really hard,” she told the Prairie Post. “Our usual fundraising efforts where we have community activities, even our Chase the Ace that was going towards the new hall, are just sort of at standstill. We couldn't do our traditional efforts, so then we did this online auction.”
Their Fox Valley new community hall online auction was based on similar online fundraising initiatives held this past summer by HALO Air Ambulance and in Maple Creek for a new swimming pool. It turned out to be a very successful format and there was wide support for the community hall online auction.
“It was not solely the Fox Valley community,” she noted. “The auction items donated came from Maple Creek, Leader, Eatonia, Medicine Hat, just everywhere. People just came together and were rooting for us, and then even the successful bidders. We had people as far away as Calgary who had bid on items and won. So it was amazing.”
The new hall committee started its work during the initial months of 2019. The fundraising initiative was launched to address the need for a new facility that will better fit the requirements of the community.
The current hall is over 50 years old and will need extensive renovation, but its size and layout are also not suitable for modern requirements of a public facility.
The existing hall is the hub of the community, although that has unfortunately also changed during the current pandemic. During more regular times it has been used for all kinds of functions and activities, varying from weddings to graduations and birthday celebrations, different fundraisers, drama performances, and even funeral functions.
“The hall itself can only fit 250 people comfortably,” she said. “Due to the fact that we now have Richmound, Burstall and Fox Valley as one community in our school, we have more graduates and we can't host that many people in there.”
The limitations of the existing hall were also evident when the existing community hall was used as an evacuation centre in October 2017 during the large wildfire that swept through the area.
“We just found even for that we couldn't have hosted the number of people we would need to,” she said. “So ideally this new hall will be all of that. It will be our evacuation centre for the community and surrounding areas, it would be a space where we can have these large functions, and we need it. The building itself doesn't meet our needs anymore. It also needs a lot of expensive repairs, which I don't think we can keep up with anymore. It just doesn't quite meet our needs.”
The existing building has various practical limitations. The kitchen and bar are located in the same area, and there is not enough room for a number of people to work in. The building also does not conform with modern wheelchair accessibility requirements. There is a ramp at the front entrance for wheelchair access, but the washrooms are not equipped for people in a wheelchair.
The proposed new hall will be located on a vacant lot next to the existing community hall on Centre Street. There are already some concept designs for the new building, and various items that will be included in the design.
The front entrance will be on street level with no need for a ramp to provide wheelchair access, and the washrooms will be large enough for wheelchair users. The intention is to have separate kitchen and bar areas. The goal is to have a building that will accommodate at least 400 people for functions and other activities. Other desired items will be a built-in stage and storage area at the front of the hall, which will make is easy to store tables and chairs when they are not in use.
The estimated cost of a new community hall will be $1.1 million. The various fundraising efforts have already succeeded in raising over $800,000. There have been some significant financial contributions. The R.M. of Fox Valley No. 171 donated $500,000 to the project and Richardson Pioneer Ltd. made a donation of $50,000.
Fox Valley was successful in winning an official Saskatchewan Roughriders block party, which took place in the community on June 13, 2019. This event raised over $20,000 for the new hall.
The fundraising activities will continue towards achieving the goal of building a new community hall. Obritsch said they are still hopeful to secure a federal or provincial grant towards the construction of the new building.
“That would be ideal if we could get one of the grants,” she mentioned. “There are so many infrastructure grants and community spaces grants and all of these things. It would be so great if we could just secure one of them. I think that would give us the final bit we need to move forward.”
Anyone who wants to support the fundraising for the new community hall or who wants to make an individual or corporate donation can contact the hall committee through the Fox Valley New Community Hall Facebook page or they can reach the committee through enquiries at the R.M. or Village of Fox Valley.