After raising over $55,000 through a successful match challenge, the Muskoka Lakes Adopt-a-Home Committee is moving onto the next phase of fundraising for the creation of two Habitat for Humanity homes in Bala.
An anonymous group of donors from Friends of Muskoka offered to match up to $25,000 in donations for the project by the end of 2020. The community met and exceeded the challenge, which was an incredible result for fundraising leader and real estate broker Heather Scott. Scott leads the Muskoka Lakes Adopt-a-Home Committee and oversees the subcommittees for the project, which include committees for fundraising, build and construction, family selection and support, and marketing and communications. The fundraising goal for the next phase of the project is $150,000, so while the total can be intimidating, Scott said the success of the match challenge has given the team some momentum as they brainstorm ways to raise money during the pandemic.
“We do have such a wonderful community in Muskoka, whether that’s year-round residents, seasonal residents,” Scott said. “Everyone feels good about helping someone up out of a bad situation, so this was like the starting point to know that, alright, now we are actually on our way to making this happen.”
Scott recruited local lawyer Trisha Cowie to head up the fundraising committee for the build while also getting her business partner Christina Clayton on board to help out with raising money. The rest of the fundraising team was assembled by Cowie, and they’re now working to identify a list of major donors while also considering possible fundraising events like a golf tournament or online auction.
“It’s a very modified approach because normally you’d host an event with more than 50 people, even like a spaghetti dinner would be wonderful, but again, COVID has really impeded so many organizations and what we’re able to do,” Cowie said. “We’re trying to find the ways that we can work around that.”
Those interested in supporting the build can donate anytime by visiting Habitat for Humanity’s website, and locals can keep an eye out for sponsorship opportunities and other fundraising information on the local Habitat Facebook page. For those short on cash, Cowie said spreading the word about the project can also make a big difference.
“Every single person in Township of Muskoka Lakes, or Muskoka in general, can help by commenting, liking and sharing the social media posts,” she said. “If you want to send out an email blast to some of your friends who you think might be able to contribute, that’s another way as well… There’s lots of ways for the entire community to come together to make this a success.”
It’s standard to raise the majority of the fundraising total before breaking ground on Habitat builds, said Kimberley Woodcock, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North, and the overall goal for the Bala project is $200,000. The original target was to break ground in October, but the Habitat team is ready to extend plans beyond the fall should COVID continue to impact the project’s timeline. At the latest, they plan to break ground next spring, but in the meantime, locals can start expressing their interest in the homes by going online.
“We have a link on our website to an eligibility questionnaire and that is the starting point for all of our applications, so if there were people in the Bala area who were interested in being considered, they can go on right now to our website and fill out that eligibility questionnaire,” Woodcock said. “We will respond, and we’ll definitely file the applications who meet the eligibility screening.”
Though it’s still early in the process, Woodcock and the rest of the team are excited to continue fundraising and making progress toward the creation of two affordable, accessible homes at 1016 Elm Street.
“We haven’t had a build in Bala for over a decade, so this piece of property that we’re building on has been with us since 2011,” Woodcock said. “We’re just thrilled to be able to realize two Habitat homes for hardworking families who need a hand up.”
To contribute to the cause, go to the Habitat Ontario Gateway North website and select the Bala Build Project. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates about future events and sponsorship opportunities, and email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about volunteer opportunities.
To learn more about the project, read our past coverage below.