Christmas has come early for a number of local charities.
Proceeds from the sale of the Warminster Legion, totalling $800,000, were gifted to 32 local charities and organizations as part of a bittersweet, but moving ceremony Sunday at the Orillia Legion. (Click here to read the original story about the closure of the Warminster Legion)
"It was an amazing and unbelievable event," said Carmine Stumpo, CEO and president of Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital. "It was a bit surreal."
Stumpo accepted three cheques, totalling $110,000, during the ceremony: $50,000 for the hospital's neo-natal unit, $50,000 toward the purchase of a new MRI suite and $10,000 toward mental health programs.
When he was asked to attend Sunday's event, he had no idea how much money the hospital was receiving.
"It was a surprise ... an incredible surprise," he told OrilliaMatters.
"I feel for the Warminster Legion for having to close, but for them to engage an entire community with donations and to handle the closure with such dignity and grace and turn it into a celebration for the community is inspiring," said Stumpo. "They put a lot of thought into this and deserve all the credit."
The Lighthouse Shelter received $25,000 as part of Sunday's event.
“We are at a loss for words,” said Linda Goodall, the executive director of the Lighthouse. “The donation is truly incredible.
"With the increase of costs, including food, this donation will go a long way to helping support over 1,000 people every week for our shelter and meal program, as well as sheltering up to 50 youth, men, and women in our emergency shelter," Goodall said.
“We are sad the legion has closed,” Goodall added, “But so grateful for the incredible legacy that it has left in our community.”
The Orillia Youth Centre (OYC) received $10,000 — a donation which OYC director Kevin Gangloff called “amazing,” adding that although it is a bittersweet day for the Warminster Legion, they can know that “the $10,000 will go a very long way in supporting youth.”
Mariposa House Hospice was “blown away and so appreciative” to have received $25,000, according to Lynn Thomas, who oversees donor relations.
“It was very moving and bittersweet to be in attendance to witness so many charities and community groups being helped in such a tangible way by Legion members, and know that these gifts will leave a lasting legacy in our community," said Thomas.
When asked what the money will be used for, Thomas replied, “One project we have discussed is to use the funds to screen in our back, covered deck. Residents and families, staff and volunteers use the space throughout the year as it faces the beautiful gardens and surrounding wooded area. It’s a therapeutic space for all to enjoy.
“We have served several veterans since opening in February 2021,” Thomas added. “The Warminster Legion’s gift will be honoured by a commemorative plaque, and we hope to have some of the members in for a tour and visit soon."
Couchiching Jubilee House (CJH) was also a lucky recipient and was granted $10,000.
Paige Jakobczak, the agency's fundraising coordinator, also expressed a mixture of sadness and gratitude to the Warminster Legion.
“This money is much needed,” Jakobczak explained, “as we are facing a worsening affordable housing crisis. This investment will keep people housed through our outreach program and long-term transitional housing program.”
Jakobczak added, “The impact of a gift like this will be felt for generations. When we keep families housed, children’s lives are stabilized, and they are able to break generational struggles with poverty and homelessness. I hope that the members of the Warminster Legion take comfort in knowing that this is their legacy.”
Many other local charities and organizations in need also received funding.
Warminster Legion members can know that “all their work has not been for nothing; we were able to help people out,” Warminster Legion VP Mike Lawlor said at the event.
“We put a lot of smiles on people’s faces today, and that takes the pain out of what we lost,” he concluded.
-- With files from Dave Dawson