Centennial Community Gardens in need of more executive to prevent dissolving

Above: Timothy McIllwraith (left) and Lyra Cooper (right) took part in the first round of the watermelon eating contest put on by the Morinville Centennial Community Gardens during Alberta Culture Days on Sunday, Sept. 24. Culture Days is one of several community events the society is involved in. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

by Stephen Dafoe

After 13 years, the Morinville Centennial Community Gardens (MCCG) could be ending.

Valerie Loseth started the gardens in 2011 after getting the idea from a trip to Vancouver. With ten plots in its inaugural year, the society soon expanded to include a second location at Champlain Heights Park in 2012. Today, there is a waiting list for gardening plots.

But it is not a lack of willing gardeners causing the current situation. Instead, more executive members are needed to run the society, meaning it may be forced to close and its assets turned over to a charity.

Members were advised of the society’s potential fate in an Oct. 30 email.

President Johanna Silver told MorinvilleNews.com that the MCCG Board currently has three members, including herself. With her term ending and her inability to continue in that capacity, the society is down to two members. Provincial society rules require a minimum of three people to hold a quorum.

“We have over 30 gardeners registered, plus many people in the community access the public gardens through the season,” Silver explained. “Everyone has their reasons for not being able to take on an executive position with us. Some are already on other boards and committees within the community, some have work obligations, and others just aren’t interested in engaging in the process.”

Silver said attendance at monthly garden meetings and Annual General Meetings has been quite low the last few years despite a wait list for garden plots.

We really struggle for engagement from our members,” Silver said, noting that provincial rules require the society to file an annual return, including an audited financial statement. “Our bylaws state we require five executive positions to be filled. Though one person can hold multiple positions on the board, to have quorum, a minimum of three board members is required. With my departure as President, that leaves two people and, therefore, no ability to have a quorum at meetings.

As such, a special meeting will be called for Monday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. at the Rendez-Vous Centre, at which time the society will vote on whether it will carry on or dissolve. If dissolution is chosen, the society will vote on which charity gets its remaining funds.

“We are very hopeful that the Nov. 20 meeting will result in filling the vacant executive positions,” Silver said. “Our society has done so much good in the town, and it would be disappointing to see the opportunities the Community Gardens provides no longer be available.”

Silver, who says she is not much of a gardener, has enjoyed helping plan community events with the town and other organizations, including the Morinville Community Library and Morinville Art Club, over the past few years.

“Hosting events like Alberta Culture Days and Morinville Pride has been a highlight of my term as President,” she said. “It would be heartbreaking to not have that continue going forward. We have made great strides this year in plans to make the public gardens side more self-sustainable and requiring less volunteer hours to maintain it. We have people wanting to rent our plots, but someone has to manage the rentals.”

Silver said those looking to be a part of the group as volunteer executive board members can anticipate 10 to 15 hours per month when the board is full. That time commitment includes in-person meetings monthly, twice-monthly work bees from May to October, and the occasional community events.

We have some amazing things planned for the upcoming 2024 season, but it takes planning and commitment to see it through,” Silver said. “Anyone interested in volunteering with us will not be thrown into the roles unassisted. We offer support and mentorship to those new in the roles. We truly understand that many hands make light work.”

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