GRAVENHURST - It’s no small victory for Rotary, for the local impoverished and certainly not for Little.
The Gravenhurst Rotary Club’s challenge to match $200,000 in donations to the Community Bursary Endowment Fund ended this week with a $100,000 donation from the Williams family. From left to right at the announcement Sept. 10 are fund chair Ken Little, Phyllis and daughter Lynda Williams and Rotary Club president Stephen Hayhurst.
Photo by Neil Etienne
Biting back his tears of joy this past Monday, Sept. 10 during the Rotary Club’s lunchtime meeting, Rotary member Ken Little, chair of the club’s Community Bursary Endowment Fund, announced that thanks to another major generous donation, his challenge is complete.
In April of this year, the chair received an anonymous $200,000 donation with a caveat that the funds must be matched by another $200,000 or the difference must be returned. Little had one year to complete his task and as of this week, it is complete.
Local longtime resident Phyllis Williams and her family donated $100,000 to the bursary program, putting the club well over its challenge goal and meaning some $833,000 is now in the fund’s coffers to support local people trying to move onto a post-secondary education achieve their goals.
“The impoverished have such a difficult time overcoming that,” Williams said.
Mrs. Williams’ late husband Glen was a clerk and treasurer for the Town of Gravenhurst for several decades, starting in the later 1940s. He also became the secretary for the local water and light commission before becoming the first clerk and administrator for the District of Muskoka in 1970. He was also a lake-front lot developer and helped with the creation of Bracebridge’s Pines senior residence.
She said through Glen’s work in public service, he grew very sensitive to the community around him.
“He was always concerned about the taxpayer; they bore the cost of the town,” Williams said. “He always felt the best thing to help the taxpayer was to educate them.”
And that is why she chose to support the Rotary’s endeavours.
“After reading the newspaper articles about it (the fund challenge), I felt that’s what I should do,” she added. “I think that’s what he (Glen) would have wanted, too.”
Although modest about her own generosity Mrs. Williams earned great praise from the committee chair who had to pause to compose himself when speaking about what the donation means to the Rotary Club and its efforts to support local education and growth for those who otherwise would not be able to afford it.
“She understands how she and Glen and her family have been blessed during their lives with good fortune, as a result of hard work and dedication,” Little said in praise.
“I get a little teary to think about it, but it’s so wonderful the (Williams) family saw fit to support us,” Little added. “It was such a surprise.”
He added that the whole experience of his “challenge” was touching.
“The community is really embracing this program and sees the value of helping those in need, from Gravenhurst, get the education they deserve,” he said.
When Rotary kick-started the bursary fund three years ago with $50,000, he hoped it would find success, added Little. “I have some pretty wild dreams, but not like this.”
In 2011 bursaries were handed out to local students; this year has seen about 13 given out and Little said with the ballooning of the fund to more than $830,000 now “at least twice as many youth will be helped next year.”
A specific bursary will be named in honour of the donors, known as the “Glen and Phyllis Williams Family Bursary.”