Bill Bennet

Bill Bennet

$253,000 of gaming grants given to Williams Lake charities

Four Williams Lake community organizations received $253,000 in gaming grants last week.

Four community organizations received a total of $253,000 in community gaming grants last week. Bill Bennett, minister of community sports and cultural development met with the recipients at the Child Development Centre on Second Avenue for a round table discussion to make the announcement and hear what the recipients have to offer the community.

“Part of my ministry includes giving away money, which in today’s fiscal climate is kind of rare. I think I’m one of the ministers that has a ministry that still has money in it. As long as people gamble and buy lottery tickets we’ll be OK,” Bennett said.

The community gaming program was reduced for about almost two years, however, when Christy Clark won the leadership and became premier, one of the very first things she did was re-established the community gaming fund to its original level, something that Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett fully supported, Bennett said.

He’d been in the Cariboo a few days on tour with Barnett to help celebrate community gaming grants in Quesnel and 100 Mile House as well as Williams Lake.

“When you see the things that the money buys, it really is a tremendous program. If I had my druthers, I’d enhance it and try to add more to it if it was possible. I know that the money each of your organizations receive will do lots of good things,” Bennett told the recipients.

The grants included $25,000 to the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society, $75,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Williams Lake, $60,000 to the Central Cariboo Hospice Palliative Care Society and $93,500 to the Cariboo Chilcotin Child Development Centre Association.

Lorraine Levitt executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters told Bennett she was extremely relieved to receive the grant.

“After the last year or two of uncertainty, this has been an exciting and surprising announcement,” Levitt said, adding she was relieved to see the short form of the application for gaming has been released.

Hospice society executive director Kate McDonough described her organization as “really small” and very appreciative of gaming funds that helped fund two palliative rooms and a family room at Deni House.

Diana French, chair of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society said her organization has been active since the 1990s when regions were developing land use management plans.

“We have a wide variety of interests— water specifically, and encouraging people to be water and waste wise. School programs are one of the main things we do and gaming funds help us continue to be active.”

CCCDCA executive director Nancy Gale said gaming grants have helped fund her organization’s activities for a long time.

“We’ve been around for 35 years and just did some renovations to the front of our building. One of the young tradesmen that came in here put his hands on his hip, looked up, and said, ‘it’s just smaller than I remember.’ We not only have kids, but we have grandkids that are coming to the CDC now,” Gale said.

The money will also help with the CDC’s outreach.

“This time in the gaming application we noted that crime prevention is a component so we’re trying to do some work in that area. If we know that we’ve got a youth that’s criminally involved and there are young kids in the family that are exposed then we’re hoping with this new infusion of gaming dollars we’ll be able to work more closely with the RCMP and make that connection between services that we provide and the community to find some ways to address those issues,” Gale said.

Mayor Kerry Cook said all of the recipients provide leadership in the community year after year and truly make a difference.

Levitt asked Bennett whether there will be a return to three-year funding terms for organizations, and heard he prefers the idea of the longer term.

“It would be a government policy change and I cannot make that on my own or make any promises, but I understand that it’s difficult to plan and it’s also an issue of being stressed not knowing if you’re going to have money from year to year,” Bennett said, adding the gaming program is “grossly oversubscribed,” receiving more applications for funds than there is money.

“It doesn’t hurt to have an MLA that’s bird-dogging the applications and finding out what their constituents have applied for,” Bennett added.