AVONMORE – If you have attended a community event in Avonmore, there is a very good chance the Avonmore Community Athletic Association had a role to play in its organization. For 53 years, this volunteer-run organization has been working to provide social and athletic opportunities for residents. “Our primary goal is to help make Avonmore a great place to live,” explained Sophie Branchaud, the current ACAA president. Branchaud explained that the organization provides opportunities throughout the year for the community to come together and enjoy social activities.
In 1969, Mavis Wert, Eunice Henderson, Yvette Delaney, Audrey Bush, Iva Bush and Grace McElheran joined together to organize a summer sports’ program for girls. Each contributed $10 toward the purchase of sports’ equipment and then organized a summer sports’ program.
A family fun night was held as the summer ended, which was followed by a Halloween party and euchre fundraiser. Branchaud added that these community events began as what is described as a “golden era of recreation for the village of Avonmore.” To facilitate receiving grants, the Avonmore Sports’ Committee was formed in 1970, and soon after was renamed the Avonmore Community Athletic Association. Since its founding, several community members have served as president, including Eunice Henderson, Grace McElheran, Marcel Chenier, Paul Suprenant, Jim Wert, Kerry Adams, Jamie Baker, Jeff Johnson, Carrie Couturier and Josee Poirier.
Currently the ACAA board includes Sophie Branchaud, president; Josee Poirier, vice president; Kerry Adams, treasurer; Elizabeth Harps, secretary; Carrie Couturier, events’ committee chair; Tara Lynn Chenier, sports’ committee chair; Victoria Butzer, pool committee chair; Kerri Mainville, village beautification committee chair; Mary Jane Hakvoort, NSP committee chair and North Stormont Place facilities’ manager, Laurie McAlear.
Over the following decades, the ACAA continues to provide activities and opportunities for the community it serves, as well as collaborating with other community organizations. Social events, fitness and training programs for children as well as assisting in the maintenance of North Stormont and the beautification of Avonmore are achieved through the committees of volunteers in the ACAA.
Branchaud mentioned during the 53-year history of the ACAA, the organization has been involved in a few large projects. In 1970, the ACAA raised funds to add lights to the local baseball diamond, and later projects included purchasing and converting the former Avonmore Public School into a community centre and fundraising for a community pool.
One of the more recent ACAA projects has been the replacement of “our old play structure with a brand-new playground at the park. In 2019 the playground in Avonmore was removed and the organization began investigating its replacement. She described how the organization discussed several additions to the replacement of the play structure, as well as envisioning a concrete pad with year-round use capability, a walking path and landscaping details.
Successful fundraising and grant applications have resulted in raising over $140,000 out of the $160,000 needed to complete the project. She mentioned the playground was installed in 2021; with the concrete pad to be installed in 2022; and in 2023 it is planned that the gardens, benches and walking path be installed. Branchaud thanked the local businesses and families for their generosity, mentioning how all sponsors would be recognized “by incorporating customized bricks into a portion of [their] walking path.”
She mentioned the importance of community support to ACAA over the past 53 years, explaining how “the community quickly recognized what those six moms had accomplished in such a short time back in the summer of ’69 and their enthusiasm was contagious.” This led to funding and support from the community, with the present organization “building on the legacy they’ve created,” with the community continuing to support the work of the AACA through supporting fundraising efforts, bottle drive events and participating in programming.
When asked about the effect on the ACAA by the COVID-19 pandemic, Branchaud commented how challenging it has been to accomplish the organization’s goal of bringing the community together. “For two years, meetings had to be held via Zoom, all events were suspended, all sports and swim programming was suspended, and our hall, NSP, was left vacant.” She explained the events’ committee kept the community engaged “through online events and contests, which was wonderful,” continuing the organization is looking forward to in-person community events.
With provincial pandemic precautions beginning to ease, the ACAA is looking forward to a full calendar of events in the upcoming months. These include Ladies Night, an Easter Egg Hunt, Canada Day festivities as well as Halloween and Christmas parties. There are plans for Youth Soccer and T-ball as well as swimming lessons being initiated by the sports’ committee and village beautification committee is looking to enhance the beauty of Avonmore. Branchaud continued how “because of our incredible volunteer base, every penny raised by the group goes right back into the community through programming, events, and projects.”
She mentioned ACAA members are looking forward to the return of the community programming and events. They are also looking forward to seeing old friends and neighbours as well as the new families who have since moved into the community since 2020.
Branchaud perhaps summed up the connection between the community and the ACAA best when she stated “We’re very fortunate to live in a place where a small neighbourhood can come together to achieve so very much. We all take great pride in our village and what we’re able to accomplish together.”
Carolyn Thompson Goddard, grew up in Chesterville and attended North Dundas District High School. After completing her BA in Political Science at Carleton University she has worked as a medical secretary and library technician. In 2020 she graduated from Algonquin College with a diploma in Journalism and has been a reporter and column writer for The Chesterville Record for over 10 years.