Champion continues community investments with $37,000 to six groups

by Stephen Dafoe

Champion Petfoods presented $37,000 to six community groups and initiatives Feb 23, part of its annual efforts to fund a variety of community activities.

Recipients of this year’s Champion Community Grants were the Orijen Sabretooths Basketball teams ($12,000), the Champion Morinville Foundation ($10,000), the MCHS Urban Agriculture Program ($7,500), the MCHS Media Program ($3,000), the Sturgeon Learning Centre ($2,500), and the Champion Regional Series ($2,000).

Leigh Newton, Champion Petfoods Stakeholder Relations Manager, said every year the company does something to support the community. “Champion has called Morinville home for over 20 years now, so we like to give back to make sure Morinville is a great place to work, learn and live,” Newton said.

Orijen Sabretooths

Topping the community investments this year was the Orijen Sabretooths Basketball Program, which received $12,000. Morinville Youth Basketball Association President James Bedford accepted the cheque from Newton and Mackenzie Pinch, Champion Stakeholder Relations Analyst.

Bedford said last year’s contribution was beneficial to the players who have grown in number thanks to Champion’s support. The funds allowed the association to buy new jerseys for the various teams.

The association has added a Mites program this year that has been well received in the community. As these young players advance to the Minis level, Bedford is planning to put the money to good use. “If a lot of these Mites carry on into Minis, they’re going to need more jerseys as well.”

Champion Morinville Foundation

Thomas Holmes was the recipient of a cheque for $10,000 on behalf of the Champion Morinville Foundation, a new group that will offer micro-grants to community initiatives.

Holmes said the Foundation would put a grant call out a few times a year with the Foundation’s board ultimately deciding who receives the funds.

“People will pitch ideas that connect around community engagement and innovation, little things. We will invite a select number of groups to come and present to a pitch party,” Holmes explained. “They’ll get five or 10 minutes to share their idea with the board, and we will determine what sort of micro-grants we’ll fund.”

MCHS programs well funded

Morinville Community High School received $10,500 in funding – $7,500 to the Urban Agriculture Program and $3,000 to the Media Program.

Urban Agriculture teacher Neil Korotash said the program would use the funds to continue to develop the outdoor classroom space the Urban Ag students have started at the school.

“We had the kids design it a year ago and this [past] fall they’ve started building it,” Korotash said, adding a pollinator garden and fruit trees are in place. “Most of this [funding] will go into putting in some of the benches and picnic tables, and hopefully the pergola that goes overtop of the picnic tables.

For MCHS teacher and MCTV head Greg Boutestein, the $3000 contribution will help media students continue to replace some studio gear and upgrade the station’s teleprompters. The program invested in a drone and GoPro camera with last year’s contribution and Newton noted the program has been able to do some commercial work for local companies with the equipment.

MCTV reporters were on hand to receive the cheque as well as interview recipients for the school’s TV program.

Sturgeon Learning Centre Scholarship

New to the list this year was the Sturgeon Learning Centre who received $2500 to create a scholarship program.
Morinville and Sturgeon Learning Centre Principal Greg Gibson said neither centre has a scholarship presently, so the funding will allow them to start one.

“We’re one of those school situations that are quite out of the box compared to other schools, so we are looking to start a scholarship that is ag-based and get students kind of motivated to complete their work through that way,” Gibson said. “We have a lot of adult learners, but we also have a lot of students who have had trouble at school and need a different environment.”

Champion Regional Series

The Champion Regional Series food and entertainment events received a $2,000 top up for 2017. The organizers – Smith Music, the Green Bean and Morinville News received $10,000 for 2016 to put on a series of food and entertainment events that are a little outside the norm. To date, two events have been held: Alberta Beef and Beatles, and Dinner Time in the Maritimes. Group spokesperson Paul Smith said the next two events are Eat, Drink and Be Irish – taking place Mar. 18, and Bison and Bluegrass – taking place Apr. 29.

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