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Former PAL Stratford president recognized for his contributions to local Performing Arts Lodge

As published in the Stratford Beacon Herald, December 4, 2016

Stratford’s Performing Arts Lodge knows how to take care of its own.

It proved that again Saturday when it presented an honourary lifetime membership to John Banks, the long-serving former board president who was instrumental in establishing the affordable housing facility in Stratford for senior members of the performing arts community.

The idea first started taking shape here in 1999, spearheaded by Stratford Festival founder Tom Patterson, and inspired by an existing Performing Arts Lodge in Toronto.

But it wasn’t until 2013 that PAL Place Stratford finally opened the doors to its first residents at the handsome heritage home at 101 Brunswick St.

“The beauty of what John did over those years, having been passed it from Tom Patterson and others, was to keep the dream alive,” said PAL Stratford board president John David Sterne during a brief ceremony Saturday. “And there were so many meetings that happened in the Elizabethan restaurant, and in John’s living room and dining room.”

Now, PAL Place has its own dedicated space for meetings called, not coincidentally, the Banks Meeting Room.

“I’m really quite touched,” said Banks, who received his lifetime membership from Sterne Saturday while standing just outside the room named in his honour.

He recalled how the initial concept for the local Performing Arts Lodge was a large building with 50 units, three quarters of which would be offered at the market rate, with the remainder offered as affordable housing.

“Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to work, and what came along was the opposite idea which was to start small and see the project grow,” said Banks. “And we now know which one was more successful.”

It was also successful because of the support of the city, city council, the Stratford Festival and “the many people who believed in the PAL concept,” he added.

It’s an important concept – supporting artists who, for one reason or another, find themselves struggling to make ends meet, and one that often goes unnoticed or unappreciated, suggested Banks.

“I think peoples’ impression of the artistic world comes from the people who are famous and do make a lot of money,” he said, “but there are whole cohorts of people behind them who are not as successful.”

In addition to providing affordable housing, PAL Stratford also offers support services to local members in need of assistance because of low income, age or disability.

The five units at 101 Brunswick St. are full, with a waiting list.

Here are some photos of the event.

Copyright © 2016 PAL Stratford (a chapter of PAL Canada)
Original web design and hosting donated in memory of former PAL board member Bruce Swerdfager.
Home page header images by Marg Boemer, Lynn Boehler, Amanda Ryan.
PAL Stratford logo design courtesy of Maxine Graham.