By now, it’s cliché to say that 2020 was a tough year. There’s hardly an aspect of life that wasn’t impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the flow of updates and information could easily become overwhelming. Look closer, though, and you’ll find examples of communities coming together, people responding proactively to new challenges, and businesses adapting to serve their clientele safely. Without further ado, here are a handful of good news stories from the year that was.
Keeping a small business afloat in the midst of a pandemic is hard, especially in a small community like Warkworth. While local institution The Bakery had thrived in previous years, the difficulties of social distancing and the cancellation of local events caused a significant downturn. Owners Jessica Root and Jason Butler had already announced the decision to close when they encountered what they describe as “a tsunami of support.”
In the course of a few days, a locally organized GoFundMe campaign in support of The Bakery raised over $26,000. The crowdsourced donations allowed Root and Butler to keep their doors open and switch their focus to baking pizzas for a takeout-hungry public. It’s a sound investment for a community of 600 people – Root and Butler are active volunteers in Warkworth and intend to pass down the business to their daughters when they retire.
The GoFundMe page for The Bakery was still active at the time of writing, but now you can also support the business with a takeout order.
In only its second year of operation, Edwin Binney’s Community Garden in Lindsay managed to harvest 12,700 lbs of produce and provide fresh food to over 1,500 individuals in need. The garden more than doubled its yield from 2019 by expanding the plowed area and planting successive crops throughout the season. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the diligent work of a team managing to work through COVID-19 restrictions and adverse weather. Their efforts helped improve food security throughout their community by serving quality ingredients to school nutrition programs, food banks, and more.
Other partners in the project include Crayola Canada, Fleming College, Bob Mark New Holland, and Hill’s Florist and Greenhouses. With the addition of 100 fruit trees this season, the garden is expected to provide even more healthy food in years to come.
Sweet and charming gestures stand out even more this year, and Sarah Chomko’s gingerbread Bobcaygeon is a prime example. This year’s Santa Day Gingerbread Contest in Fenelon Falls was cancelled, but rather than skip her annual project, Chomko got creative. A gingerbread version of Bobcaygeon was the result, complete with recognizable landmarks like Bigley’s Shoes. The model is proudly on display in the window of Bobcaygeon Bakery (9 King St. E) over the holidays. Anyone who admires the confectionery feat is encouraged to sponsor a building or make a donation. All contributions will go to support Women’s Resources, a charitable organization that supports women and children who have experienced abuse.
Performing arts venues face unique struggles, having been able to offer limited or no seating since March 2020. Lindsay’s Academy Theatre serves a vital role in the local arts and culture scene, but found itself in need of support after months of being closed to the public. In response a range of local artists stepped up to raise some much-needed funds. Among them was Juno-winning country musician James Barker, Strumbellas members Darryl James, Jeremy Drury, and Jon Hembrey, Tyler Kyte and Nick Rose of Dwayne Gretzky, among others. The Lindsay Drive-In, which offered an outdoor venue that permitted appropriate distancing, served as the venue for a two-date benefit concert.
The sold out “Home Again” event ended up raising $40,000 for the Academy theatre. As the kickoff to a long-term fundraising campaign, the concerts helped a 125-year-old Lindsay institution remain solvent and safeguard its future.
The pandemic has inspired an appetite for local outdoor activities, and fortunately some Kawarthas Northumberland groups were well-positioned to meet that demand. Treetop Trekking, which operates an adventure park in Ganaraska Forest outside Port Hope, took home the top award for Ontario’s Attraction of the Year this fall. Treetop Trekking offers an aerial obstacle course through the forest canopy, complete with Tarzan swings, suspension bridges, and ziplines, making for a unique escape from the everyday.
The award was granted by Attractions Ontario, a tourism industry trade association. Treetop Trekking also operates adventure parks in Barrie, Brampton, Hamilton, Huntsville, and Stouffville, and all locations can now display the accolade alongside their #SafeTravels stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council in recognition of rigorous Covid-19 safety protocols.
Speaking of the Safe Travels stamp: shopping in-person or visiting an event went from a fun excursion to a potentially fraught decision this year. While many businesses have been thorough, responsive, and clear in their safety protocols, reviewing those practices one by one can eat up time. In response to the need to allow people to make an informed decision at a glance, the World Travel and Tourism Council, in partnership with over 200 tourism groups, created the Safe Travels stamp. The green badge is an indicator that an organization has adopted a hygiene and safety standard recognized worldwide. Wherever it appears on restaurants or accommodation rentals or shops, the stamp is proof that an organization has had its protocols professionally vetted.
It’s important to note that a business may have practices that meet or exceed the Safe Travels standard without displaying the stamp, as owners must first submit a formal application. That said, it’s a useful shorthand. Below you’ll find a partial list of businesses that had already been approved at the time of this writing.