YWCA Muskoka has been given the all-clear to use the Terry Fox Auditorium at the Gravenhurst Centennial Centre for free to host the 2024 YWCA Canada Annual Membership Meeting in June 2024.
The YWCA will not have to pay $2,478.09 to use the auditorium, a meeting room, and the kitchen.
Council gave their thumbs up to the idea during the Sept. 19 meeting. However, Mayor Heidi Lorenz and Coun. Peter M. Johnston and Randy Jorgensen voted against the idea citing unfairness to other not-for-profits who pay to use town facilities.
Coun. Erin Strength said she doesn’t believe this is precedent-setting. “It will be bringing several national delegates to Gravenhurst,” she claimed, adding it could turn out to be an investment for the town if some of the attendees decide to return for a visit.
Lorenz listed off some of the organizations that paid to rent town facilities in the past 12 months, including the Rotary Club of Gravenhurst, Gravenhurst High School, South Muskoka Minor Hockey Association, and Skate Muskoka. She pointed some paid a lower fee since they’re not-for-profits. “We will have a lineup out of the door to give this space away for free,” she said.
Shawna Patterson, Director of Recreation and Culture, told council around 15 organizations request to use the auditorium per year.
Lorenz added this isn’t about not wanting to support the YWCA, but about being fair to other organizations that use town facilities. “I have a real hard time saying that one group in this community is getting a freebie where nobody else is,” she continued.
Strength said while the town would be losing out on the minimal profit, she expects the YWCA to continue to invest in the community through its various programs.
Jorgensen reminded council that when representatives from YWCA requested council waive the rental fees in Aug., they also asked council to improve the internet at the facility. He suggested that’s what they should be doing rather than giving the organization a free pass.
“We have to be careful if we are doing that on a regular basis because there are a lot of charities out there that would be looking for donations from the town,” he said.
According to YWCA Canada’s website, the upcoming meeting will be the 132nd in the organization’s history. They explain the meeting is the main forum for members from across the country to strategize and network.