Tillotson fund commits spring grant money to “bridging the gap”

By Gordon Lambie

In a normal year, The Tillotson Coaticook Fund gives out financial assistance grants to organizations in the Coaticook, Stanstead, Ayer’s Cliff, North Hatley, Lennoxville and Cookshire areas of up to $10,000 twice a year, once in spring and once in the fall. This year, the application deadline for the spring fell on March 11, but according to the chair of the fund’s advisory committee, Michael Everett, the groups that applied will have to wait until the fall for news on whether they will receive funding.
“Because of the COVID-19 episode we’ve decided not to give out any money to the different organizations but to focus our funds on basically food banks in the Eastern Townships,” Everett said, explaining that the fund has made the unprecedented decision to use its spring funding period to give $40,000 to three local organizations. “The group we’re trying to reach are the people who have been laid off or have made applications for unemployment but haven’t received any money.”
Recognizing that it will take some time for the government safety nets to come into effect, but that people still need to eat during that time, the advisory committee decided to donate $20,000 to the Coaticook volunteer action centre (CAB) and $10,000 each to the Stanstead CAB and to the Lennoxville and District Community Aid.
“We’re just trying to bridge the gap,” the committee chair said, noting that the people in need in this scenario are, in many cases, people who are not used to relying on food banks or voucher programs for help.
“We’re really happy because we’re expecting a lot of people to call who are between jobs,” said Marjorie Tyroler, Director of the Coaticook CAB. “We’re already had phone calls from people who have lost jobs at the different factories here, but we’re expecting more will call in the future so we’re really grateful to have that donation.”
Tyroler said that she suspects that people in need are holding back from asking for help because of the unusual circumstances.
“I want to let people in the Coaticook MRC know that if they’ve lost their jobs they should not hesitate to call us,” she said. “They probably feel that there are people who need it more, but we’re ready for them and there’s no shame in this.”
The director also emphasized the confidentiality and cleanliness of the CAB’s services for people who feel concerned.
“I think that what people are probably doing is loading up their credit cards, and that’s a really bad idea,” she said. “They should just come for help.”
“The Tillotson fund will allow us to support families that have been perhaps temporarily laid off but need some help or support in terms of their grocery purchases,” said Mylène Labonté, Director of the Stanstead CAB, sharing that right now her focus is on trying to get the word out to people in the Stanstead and Ayer’s Cliff communities.
Sylvie Gilbert Fowlis, Executive Director of Community Aid, called the donation a “wonderful gesture” and said that people in the communities her organization serves can reach out by phone on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Although Community Aid is known for its work with seniors in the community, the Executive Director said that the organization is happy to be able to put its existing infrastructure to work in a way that can also be helpful to people facing unexpected struggles as a result of the pandemic.
The Coaticook CAB can be reached at 819-849-7011 extension 239 for the food bank and extension 225 for their meals on wheels program
The Stanstead CAB has asked that people contact them by email at reception@cabstanstead.org
Lennoxville and District Community Aid can be reached at 819 821 4779.

Published in the Wednesday, April 8 edition of The Record.

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