Support from the city was too little, too late for the Vernon Elks Club and their application for a once-in-100-years federal grant was denied.
The Vernon Elks No. 45 turned 100 on March 30, 2020, and applied for a grant through the Heritage Canada Legacy Fund worth nearly $100,000. The funds would be used to celebrate the anniversary, beautify the space, replace two 30-year-old furnaces and cover renovation costs to make the building more accessible, complete with an elevator installation and bathroom alterations.
But the service club needed to prove the City of Vernon was behind them.
A letter of support was provided by the mayor in October 2020, but the funder said the Elks’ application failed to “demonstrate tangible and meaningful support from the municipality.”
“The level of support provided by the Corporation of the City of Vernon was deemed insufficient to meet this criterion since the information included in your application does not demonstrate that the municipality commits to provide a cash or in-kind contribution to support the project,” the first notice said.
The matter then came before council on March 8, 2021, and some councillors said they felt “blindsided” as the issue was now a year old and this is the first many of them heard about it.
Councillors were told that historically, the city doesn’t provide not-for-profit organizations with funding for their building but rather encourages them to apply for funding through the discretionary grant program.
One councillor, however, thought this was a strategy the city was using to obtain the building, which it showed interest in.
“It looks a little bit like we’re forcing them out,” Coun. Brian Quiring said in March.
“They need us to get this grant and we’re not going to give them what they need because we want their property.”
At the March 22 meeting and after a great deal of discussion and media attention, council agreed to donate $5,000 to the Elks, contingent on the success of their grant application.
But it was too late.
By the time the letter from the city was presented at the federal level, the funders said they would stand by their previous decision, explained Elaine Gallacher, an independent grant writer who has worked with the Elks on this since 2019.
With the letter of denial from Canada Heritage, deeming the project ineligible and providing no opportunity to appeal, the Elks are left with nothing.
“It has been devastating,” Gallacher said.
“Having to keep going after support from some of our representatives, it’s sad that there wasn’t any easy cooperation.”
Now, starting from scratch, the Elks are looking to raise the funds on their own.
A GoFundMe page called Vernon Elks Renovation Fund has already raised more than $2,600 of its $100,000 goal.
The Elks have also teamed with the Armstrong Regional Co-op gas bars for the Fuel up the Community Fundraiser.
Motorists can donate their Co-op cashback using membership number #86001 in-store, at the pumps and now, at the COOP ARC Liquor Store near Walmart in Vernon.
“Businesses or contractors that can contribute to some of those renovations would be helpful of course,” Gallacher said.
For more information about the campaign, call 250-549-1883 and leave a message or email firstname.lastname@example.org.