Highland Yard a win for the community
Under a blazing summer sun, Brandy Wilson of Haliburton gave thanks to the record crowd of 375 registered participants about to start the 47th annual Highland Yard running event this past Sunday morning in Minden that would go on to fundraise more than $20,000 for Places for People.
Wilson beamed with warmth, expressing gratitude to the runners and walkers that were gathering in front of her beside the Minden River Cone for their role in enabling Haliburton County Places for People Corporation to do what they do for people like her.
“I am people in the Places for People so I am a single mom with two kids. I love this community and wouldn’t want to live any where else. It is beautiful, safe and peaceful. The people in the community are kind, caring and generous. This is where I want to raise my children,” she said. “Places for People are striving to solve the large need for affordable housing one family at a time ... I would like to thank first the people from past years for coming out to this event as well as the volunteers [for their] contributions and donations, and mostly the members for Places for People that made it possible for me and my children to have affordable housing and a sense of financial security. Today, I thank everyone here and the donations to come that will result in other deserving families like mine who still need the hand up that I have been given by the hard work of Places for People and generosity of people like yourselves and members of the community.”
The record participation was a major contributor to surpassing the $20,000 goal this year, said Highland Yard race director Jack Russel.
Russel emailed the Minden Times, saying the event has raised $20,000 before due to “significant help” from banks, but this year’s total “was largely the result of pledges and donations collected by runners and volunteers.” This year’s participation easily surpassed the previous high of 344 from six years ago when Places for People assumed organization of the event.
In an interview before the event, Wilson said without Places for People she may have ended up homeless. The support she received has also given her children stability, which is a solid foundation for them to develop, establish social networks and be productive in school and life. After a divorce brought Wilson to the Highlands more than seven years ago, she lived in the unfinished basement of her parents with her young children. Not having to worry about housing has meant a better quality of life so she can enjoy the Highlands and be able to afford things such as camp and sporting equipment for her children. After years of part-time work, this past June she started a full-time customer service job at the SIRCH’s Thrift Warehouse in Haliburton. It’s a step to owning a future home, she said.
Places for People and its members just want to help.
One of those people at Places for People is its president John Rogers.
Before the start of the Highland Yard, he talked about Places for People’s vision: create secure, affordable rental housing in the county for those at risk of homelessness and to support tenants so it can make a positive difference in their lives.
Part of the tenant support program includes a small portion of the rent going toward a trust fund for their future needs, whether it’s to resolve unexpected expenses or take advantage of an opportunity. Access is negotiated, which leads to problem solving and education on personal finance management with the tenant’s Places for People coach. The residences, which have been renovated old buildings, are chosen for their proximity to shopping, schools and medical care.
Started in 1971, the Highland Yard race began over a beer between two Onondaga camp staff members, who wanted to decide who was faster in a foot race. Places for People took over the race six years ago, using it as a major fundraiser and opportunity to educate about what they do. It has averaged more than 300 participants.
Rogers said the money raised through the Highland Yard will benefit Places for People in two ways. One, to fund the creation of an eighth unit, located at the Cardiff property, as a secondary suite. Two, enable the first hiring for Places for People – a part-time administrative assistant. Currently, Places for People has two building locations in Minden, one in Carnarvon, one in Haliburton and one was recently added in Cardiff.
This year’s event included a two-kilometre, five-kilometre and 10-kilometre route. This year’s five-kilometre and 10-kilometre age group winners received a mug handcrafted by local potter Bernie Nicholson of Pottery in the Forest.
The top fundraising team was The Jones-Milligan Race Team with more than $4,255 raised.
At 85 years young, Dave Jones of Font Hill, Ont. participated 31 times in the Highland Yard. Jones, a cottager on Kushog Lake, was the top individual fundraiser with a little more than $4,250. Not far behind was Susan Russel, who raised $2,812. Another notable fundraiser was five-year-old Buddy, the smooth collie owned by Minden resident Neil Campbell, 75. They raised $1,150.
Like clockwork, Gary Clieff of Sarnia made the trip down to participate for the 41st time.
It was individuals like these who contribute to the success. And yet, the compassion exhibited by the collective, possessing the generous spirit directed to a common effort makes sure those that are challenged always feel supported with a hand up and never feel alone.
“I am a single mom, but with Places for People I am not alone. I have a strong team on my side and I know first-hand the gift the next family will receive because of you. Thank you, very much,” Wilson said, minutes before the Highland Yard started.