Rural community halls across the province were once gathering areas for locals, but are now facing an uncertain future.
Multiple halls across Brazeau County are currently facing the threat of a shutdown, with volunteers saying there simply isn’t enough people willing to give their time to keep the buildings open.
Brazeau County Reeve Bart Guyon says council is actively looking into the problem, and is concerned about the future of the halls.
"It’s certainly a concern. These community groups and community halls kind of keeps the community going. But we also understand there is volunteer burnout," he says. “People just don’t have as much time anymore. Everybody is kind of struggling these days so there’s not much time to give.”
Guyon adds through the years the county has always supported community halls by grants and funding.
Easyford Hall is one that has approached the county for help not because they were sinking financially, but because they had no staffing.
Guyon says the county is looking at taking that hall over by running it for a year to see if they can make it viable. If not, the community will be asked for other options as to what to do with the building.
That would be the new protocol in dealing with community halls asking for a takeover, with Guyon adding no other halls have formally contacted the county about their risk of closure.
Volunteers say it simply isn't the economic factors that are making a shut down a reality, it's that no people are volunteering.
President of the community club for Violet Grove Hall, Pauline Mahan and Sharon Breitkreuz from Carnwood Hall agree that their halls are sailing into uncertain seas with the drop in people willing to give their time.
The closure of the Violet Grove Hall is imminent if even a couple of people decide to stop volunteering according to Mahan, placing some concern with younger generation’s attitude towards community halls.
“The community hall was a location to congregate, and it’s changed with the world of social media. The need for a hall has just dwindled away,' she adds. "Getting volunteers is an ongoing challenge. It’s difficult, our executive group has dwindled down to a few.”
Breitkreuz says they have had success with renting the hall out for the majority of the summer, but a lack of volunteers has taken its toll.
“Less people are at functions put on by the hall, and we are having quite a hard time with volunteers, we don’t have very many. There are a handful running it," she says.
The former President of Cynthia Hall Troy Peters says since he left the helm there, no one has came up to replace him.
“It’s on its way out, no one has stepped up to replace me. It’s such a small community, nearly everyone in town has volunteered," adding the county grants help, but sometimes isn't enough. “Funding that is available compared to the bills, there just isn’t a lot of money. No one has the funding and the time to help out. The economic downturn killed us.”
Linda Kelly is the Treasurer of Whitby Hall, which is the largest hall in Brazeau County. She says volunteers are also in short supply there.
“Volunteers are always lacking. There are 5-6 always there, but we could use some volunteers always.”
Kelly adds that the younger generation has no desire in giving their time as the core group of volunteers grow older, with three of their members in their seventies and one being in their eighties.
Looking forward Reeve Guyon says the clients ultimately make the decision as to what kind of events are held at the local hall, but hopes a revitalization will occur.
“We have to look at ways of marketing them and finding new ideas to bring these things back to life.”
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