Message From Linda

A Message from Linda 2021

It is hardly news that 2020 was a rough year for our community and beyond, especially for our arts professionals whose primary work had been suddenly shut down and the possible secondary or tertiary avenues of income were also impacted by this pandemic. As we move forward into 2021, recovery in the arts sector is slow and uncertain at best.

I have been both amazed and inspired by the work that artists in our community have been doing despite these hardships. Using all of their creative skills, they made live theatre and musical experiences, beautiful art, designs, accessories and clothing, and jewelry. They also lit up this city with magnificent light displays over these winter weeks. Artists from all mediums have been acting in volunteer roles, such as sewing masks and other PPE for front line workers all over Ontario. A heartfelt thank you to the artists whose work makes life more beautiful and meaningful.

Volunteerism

PAL Stratford depends on a volunteer base structure. Since 1999, the committed work by volunteers resulted in the purchase and the renovation of a heritage building with 5 apartments for independent living. The community support for PAL Stratford has been active and committed over these years. As we look ahead into 2021, PAL Stratford is embarking on a membership drive, to ensure our services are reaching the diverse constituency of people 55+ who have dedicated their lives to careers in the professional arts in our community. If you or anyone you know would like to volunteer, support the delivery of the services of PAL Stratford, and get more involved, please contact members@palstratford.org. If you have not already done so, please consider becoming a full PAL Stratford Member. For only $25 per year, you can support our work both materially, and participate more fully in our program and services.

Our Building

As some of you may be aware, our volunteer Board successfully retired the mortgage at 101 Brunswick at the end of 2019 – no mean feat! In keeping with our mandate, PAL Stratford has kept rents below the minimal affordable rental costs in Ontario, and last year decided to hold rental rates from the previous year in consideration of the pandemic. The income from rent barely meets the basic operational costs: insurance, utilities, snow removal, property management etc. and the historic building requires on-going repair and improvement. As a Board we prioritize these jobs from year to year. We also draw upon volunteer services in-kind for some of the upkeep: painting rooms, replacing flooring, maintaining gardens, small repairs etc. to keep the building safe and secure.

In addition, in the last two years since the mortgage was resolved, the Board has been in a process of planning for future growth. We have been researching what else is going on in the PAL’s across the country in much larger communities like Vancouver and Ottawa, and have had some discussions with local community project groups. This is a process that takes steady, comprehensive planning. The need for affordable housing in Stratford and area is high, and the vision of contributing to the creation of additional affordable housing for arts professionals continues. There is much work to be done, but I want to assure you, we are not standing still.

Delivering Our Services in Pandemic Times

Fundraising obligations and our commitment to make a space for art and culture helped us realize 2020’s Expect the Extraordinary: How the Light Gets In, an evening of hope, healing and inspiration. Details of this event are posted HERE and summarize this extraordinary evening. It is important to note that while this event is our primary annual fundraiser, our commitment in this COVID year, was to also support performers who usually donate their time and talents. We fundraised a significant amount so we could ensure each artist an honorarium.

A full 50% of the event proceeds were sent to AFC, which is a Canada-wide organization that is set up to give financial support directly to arts professionals in need. This event was brilliantly executed and the roster of artists amazing. While ticket sales did not meet our pre-Covid in- theatre shows, it provided the necessary funds for our continued operations and felt aligned with and appropriate to the demands of this time.

Community Outreach

PAL Stratford adheres to a code of confidentiality to those we support. The pandemic brought PAL back to basics for the time being, like the rest of us. Be simple, be safe and maintain as best we can. Though many of us in Stratford check-in with and offer assistance to our friends and neighbours (established social supports that are essential to physical and mental well-being) this pandemic has been particularly taxing and has gone on longer than any of us expected, which has its own costs. PAL’s services can fill in these gaps, offering help for arts professionals over the age of 55 who are struggling due to low income, age and disability. Supporting Cast’s support has continued, following Covid restrictions, supporting errands, grocery shopping and delivery, phone check-ins, referral and resource information, and advocacy. In post-Covid times, social groups, driving and transportation, household maintenance and tasks, will also resume.

Organizational Growth and Development:

The intersection of COVID with the Black Lives Matter movement last summer brought to the forefront our need to make equity, diversity and inclusion a priority. We formed an Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Task Force and our goal is to ensure our organization reflects our diverse community, and that our space and our services are inclusive. We have learned that best intentions are not enough. We, like most arts organizations in Canada, are participating in an active learning process to help us as a Board and organization examine and manifest changes towards this commitment.

Why Your Membership Counts: an Invitation to attend a Free Workshop

Your membership is a form of support and ensures our accountability to the community who has ultimately made PAL Stratford possible. We have refined membership levels and added a new Business level Membership, as well as a new free Apprenticeship level. If you or someone you know, whether an individual or business, shares our values, believes in the necessity of our mandate, and are not yet involved, please consider joining us. Membership is a way to engage with the community of arts professionals and all of us who support the arts. You can find more details about each membership level HERE.

We are continuing to develop membership benefits and are pleased to include an invitation to Members to participate in an upcoming workshop. Presented by the Naheyawin Centre, it is called Staying Warm: A Guide to Allyship in Action. If you hold a current individual or business membership you can attend this workshop free of charge. A special invitation to members will be emailed very soon.

PAL wants to ensure our communication is transparent, clear and accessible. If you are a subscribed Member you will receive membership updates sent to your email. If you have access to the internet, you can continue to monitor news updates on our website. You can also keep tabs about events and programming on social media.

If you have ideas or questions that you want to share with us, feel free to contact any of our Board representatives.

If you want to volunteer and be part of PAL Stratford’s future growth or to join Supporting Cast volunteers, please let us know. A volunteer application form is on our website HERE, or contact us at supportingcast@palstratford.org or info@palstratford.org

Feel free to also contact me directly if you want to be part of this work. My deepest gratitude and appreciation for your support and care.

Linda Mackay

president@palstratford.org

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