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Benefit dinner once again shows spirit of community

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While the annual “Community Chest” benefit dinner at La Place Rendez-Vous on Sunday night brought in about $14,100 to provide financial aid to local families who may need help to cover medical costs, it was the spirit of community that truly made it a special event.

And perhaps this was best defined by guest speaker Todd Hamilton, a local cancer survivor, who delivered the message—“The ‘Community Chest’ is about helping neighbours when they need it most”—to the 250-plus people on hand.

While he recounted his serious bout with testicular cancer, Hamilton kept the tone light as he recalled some humorous moments he experienced while undergoing treatment, thanks to friends like Bruce Lidkea and John Gustafson.

“Friendship is the best medicine in the world,” he remarked. “All these people spent time with me, made me laugh, made me forget I was sick.”

Hamilton closed his remarks by urging the public to support the “Community Chest,” adding residents also can give the gift of life by filling out organ donor cards.

The feeling of goodwill towards others also was clearly felt by those in attendance.

“I think it’s a wonderful event,” said Val Martindale, who regularly attends the dinner along with her husband, Jim.

“I was involved with the first supper when I was a member of the Fort Frances Lions Club. We’ve seen it grow into this wonderful community event,” she added.

“This is a most giving community. And thanks to the ‘Community Chest,’ people can feel they have that support if they need it,” Martindale added. “There’s no stigma attached.”

“It’s a good cause,” echoed Vanessa Hebert, executive co-ordinator of the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau.

“For the volunteer bureau, it’s good PR to get out for something like this,” she added. “We’ve been contacted by people who have need of the ‘Community Chest,’ and we were able to get them in touch with who they needed to talk to.

“It’s good to come out and meet the people who are behind it all.”

“You meet a lot of nice people here,” agreed Guy Donaldson, who co-owns and operates Robin’s Donuts and Robin’s Express here along with his wife, Kelly Spicer.

“It’s good food and it’s all for a good cause.”

While of the organizers noted the event made slightly less money than last year (which brought in $16,100), it definitely was another success.

“I thought the event went very well,” said Linda Hamilton, who has been involved in organizing the annual dinner through the “Spirit of Christmas.”

“Of course, it’s something that’s particularly close to my heart. We’ve helped a lot of people,’” she added, noting every year the event is a testament to co-operation among local groups and service clubs.

“I think things went extremely well,” said Georges Blanc, who helped organize the dinner as both co-owner of the Rendez-Vous and a member of the local Knights of Columbus.

The $14,100 total included proceeds from tickets sales, raffles, penny auction, and silent and live auctions. The total also included nine cash donations from groups and individuals, including $500 from the KCs.

Larry Cousineau once again emceed the evening. “I think things went great,” he noted afterwards, adding the support for the cause before the event (the donated prizes and food) was as heartfelt as those who came out to attend and bid on items.

There also were plaque presentations to volunteers who had helped out the “Community Chest” with its fundraising efforts, including Blanc, Mark Jones, president of the local Kiwanis Club, Cecil Duffy of the Knights of Columbus, Dick Bird of the Fort Frances Lions Club, Linda Hamilton of the “Spirit of Christmas,” Mike Scott of Canada Safeway, Jean and Lin Boileau, Ted and Ruth Brockie, and George Bartlett.

“It makes me proud to live in such a caring community,” Bird said after receiving his plaque.

The dinner consisted of cream of asparagus soup, salad, roast beef and gravy, roasted potatoes, baby carrots, homemade cabbage rolls and perogies, and turtle cheesecake.

The food was donated by various individuals and suppliers to offset the cost of the meal. The Muskie boys’ hockey team assisted the Rendez-Vous staff in serving it.

Dinner-goers also were kept busy buying raffle tickets and bidding on items up for grabs in the silent auction. And the evening was topped off with a live auction, featuring auctioneer Telford Advent.

A plethora of items were donated by local businesses, service clubs, and individuals for the auctions and raffles.

The event was a co-operative effort of the Rendez-Vous staff, the local Kiwanis and Lions clubs, Knights of Columbus, and the “Spirit of Christmas” committee.

The purpose of the “Community Chest” is to provide financial aid to local families who may need help to cover medical costs, for which it receives requests on a regular basis.

In the past year, 52 cheques—totalling $26,746.17—were issued to individuals or families in need, including Carol and Cal Stafford and the McCoy family.

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