Local march planned for MMIWG

Jennifer Kelley of the Friendship Centre and MLA Martin Long at last year’s Red Dress event at green square. File photo

Masha Scheele

A physical distancing walk will be held in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) this October in Hinton.

This will be the fifth annual event for MMIWG hosted by the Hinton Friendship Centre Society, but this year looks a little bit different than other years due to COVID-19.

“We will be doing a walk with physical distance and we are hoping to have some items to give [away],” said Lisa Higgerty, co-executive director of the Hinton Friendship Centre Society.

The event is held on Oct. 4, but plans have not been finalized yet. Friendship Centre staff are planning to have the walk end in the Green Square, similar to other years.

Indigenous dancers and drummers performed in Green square last year.

Last year, red dresses appeared around town on Oct. 4, something that sparked a lot of discussion and conversation amongst residents.

The red dresses blowing in the wind served as a reminder of the more than 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada since 1980, according to police reports, and part of the REDdress project.

Last year was also the third year red dresses were displayed in Hinton and even though the Friendship Centre received a lot of support, many people still didn’t know what the significance of the red dresses was, according to Friendship Centre staff.

Staff added that it is good when people question the purpose of the red dresses because it helps to raise awareness and start conversation.

The red dresses mark the absence of the women who are no longer with their loved ones, but another big issue to address is the fact that missing indigenous women sometimes go unreported, Higgerty said last year.

The Friendship Centre holds a group each week for the families of missing and murdered women and girls, as well as a therapeutic program in Edson and Hinton.

The REDdress project was initially started by Winnipeg-based Métis artist Jaime Black in 2010 and is an aesthetic response to a critical national issue.

Jaime Black is an emerging, metis multidisciplinary artist, who attempts to create dialogue around social and political issues through her artwork.

Since then, Sisters in Spirit honours the memory of those women and girls in Canada every Oct. 4 with vigils and events. The artist hoped to draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against indigenous women.

Last year, Mayor Marcel Michaels declared Oct. 4 as missing and murdered indigenous women and girls honouring and awareness day to be acknowledged every year.

Legion prepping wellness kits for seniors

Tyler Waugh

The Hinton Legion is leveraging a New Horizons grant to assemble and distribute around 2,000 health and wellness kits to local seniors in the coming month.

The Legion applied for the grant in July and obtained the $20,000 grant over the past month, with the proceeds to be added to support from local businesses to obtain contents for the kit.

“We wanted to give (seniors) some help staying safe and New Horizons is for projects that help seniors,” said Beryl Whitney, a Legion board member who led the project.

“We figured around $10 a bag. We want to put in a mask, gloves, some hand sanitizer and lip stuff in there. We want to put some playing cards and maybe some other items in them as well.”

Whitney said there will be one bag available per person and seniors can reserve their bag by calling the Legion at (780) 865-3116.

Residents at Pine Valley Lodge and Hinton Continuing Care will have bags dropped off for them by the Legion.

Whitney said the plan is to have seniors come by the Legion to pick up the bags, though if they require delivery that might be arranged as well.

In other Legion news, Whitney said that the annual Remembrance Day service may be held outside by the cenotaph at the Legion instead of indoors at the Hinton Centre as has been the norm over the years.

“We’ve thought about having the ceremony broadcast inside the Legion as well so that we can accommodate seniors … about 100 of them with 50 up and 50 down,” said Whitney, adding that there may also be some tents erected outside to protect some people against the elements.

There has been no final decision made, said Whitney, and details will be released closer to the  Nov. 11 event. 

Communication is key, says RCMP

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Resident questions welcome at Oct. 21 virtual town hall

The Hinton RCMP are inviting Hinton and area residents to take part in a virtual town hall this October.

“COVID-19 is impacting all of us and our ability to meet with groups of people and the RCMP is, of course, no exception,” said Staff Sgt. Chris Murphy of the Hinton RCMP detachment.

Murphy added that the community has done well in its response to a challenging 2020, and everyone is trying to change their approaches to continue with every day life.

“The RCMP felt it was important that we try to explore some other alternatives and my hope is the virtual [town hall] will actually have more people participating because I know there are barriers for people to get to a certain location at a certain time,” Murphy said.

This town hall, which will be available online similar to Town of Hinton council meetings, may allow more citizens the opportunity to participate. With the assistance of the Town of Hinton, the virtual town hall allows the RCMP the ability to communicate with the individuals that call this area home.

Citizens can send in questions prior to the event, or type in their questions in a live feed throughout the event. Throughout their presentation, someone will be monitoring the live feed to record all additional questions.

Murphy and other RCMP members will work through the list of questions to address each concern, and will reach out to anyone if their concerns aren’t addressed within the time of the event.

“In order for us to do our job effectively, communication is key. Communicating with the residents of Hinton and Yellowhead County and giving them the opportunity to voice any concerns, to ask any questions,” Murphy said.

Members of the RCMP will share some messages, provide an update with statistics, identify some of the trends, talk about their priorities, and share how their targets and objectives are being accomplished.

RCMP is continuing to closely monitor property crime trends, which have almost completely remained positive this year. This means there has been a reduction in those types of crime compared to 2019.

“In 2019, we had some really high numbers. There were some priorities and initiatives that were implemented in April this year and we’ve seen a reduction throughout the first two quarters,” Murphy said.

The detachment runs its fiscal year from April 1 to the end of March, which means they are just finishing their second quarter. 

Thus far, in these first two quarters there has been a reduction almost across the board. One area of concern was the break and enters, which has seen a decrease of 60 per cent, or 44 fewer incidents compared to the same time period in 2019.

One area that has increased throughout the summer months is family violence. This doesn’t mean charges are always being laid in these incidents, as there are many times RCMP are called to a domestic disturbance in a home setting that doesn’t lead to a criminal charge.

These types of calls give the RCMP the opportunity to work with partner agencies in the community and make referrals for families that may be in a state of crisis.

Hinton RCMP have received 154 family violence calls so far in 2020, which compares to 121 calls in 2019 in the same time period, 122 in 2018, 100 in 2017 and 128 in 2016.

“That was something we kind of expected as we went into COVID-19 with some of the stressors attached to that, also with the economy as well,” Murphy said.

Fortunately, in the first few months of the pandemic, these incidents didn’t rise and the increase only started in the last two months.

“People are getting a little bit nervous about funding, and the government grants. There is a lot of stress right now on a lot of people. It has been a long haul, six months into this, there are some people that are tired,” Murphy added.

Through previous experience, Murphy noted that when the economy is struggling and people are out of work, calls for service typically increase. Although this isn’t always the case.

He added that policing isn’t going to fix that issue and that it has to be a community effort from several community agencies that continue to come together in Hinton. These agencies can address some of the underlying issues or concerns.

Questions from residents for the RCMP town hall are encouraged in advance by email, but are also welcome through the Youtube live chat. The town hall takes place on Oct. 21 from 7 – 9 pm and will also be available to watch online after completion.

Hinton hosts first pro disc golf tour event

Tyler Waugh Photo
The pro players were joined by amateur participants at the Foothills Disc Golf Challenge held Sept. 19 at the Hinton Disc Golf Course. Among the amateur  participants from around western Canada were locals like Isaac Cherry, who finished third in the junior under 15 division.

Tyler Waugh

The rain held off as more than 50 players – including 10 pros – competed in Hinton’s first sanctioned Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) event Sept. 19.

The Foothills Disc Golf Challenge has been a while in the making before making its debut as part of the North Woods Tour.

“It was amazing to be able to bring players of such high caliber to our course in Hinton. The tournament also attracted many intermediate and novice players from across the province, as word of mouth has spread about how unique and fun our course is,” said Tanya Nodder, who organized the event and was also part of the group who helped develop the course in Hinton.

“Pro players were really impressed with our technical, well-maintained course, especially considering it was designed and maintained by non professional disc golfers and volunteers.”

Nick Smith, a young professional disc golfer out of Edmonton, earned first place in the pro division with a score of nine under par over the course of two rounds, followed by Chad Gamelin of Sherwood Park, who finished with a total of  eight under par.

Local Matt Goodfellow earned second place in the advanced division, finishing four shots back of Andrew Noel of Edmonton with an eight over par. Hans van Klaveren earned second place in the men’s masters over 40 division, finishing six shots back with a 13 over par.

Other notable local finishes include John Duncan, who took first place in the novice division with a nine over par, and Isaac Cherry, who finished third in the junior under 15 division.

There was a Hinton Disc Golf Association event scheduled for Hinton earlier in the summer, but was postponed due to COVID. The PDGA approved tournament play again mid-summer and Nodder began taking steps to get the sanctioned event off the ground.

“Near the end of August I saw only one available weekend that didn’t have a tourney in our region, so I decided I would do it, and I quickly jumped on the last opportunity to request a PDGA tournament,” Nodder said, adding that there were approvals needed from the Town of Hinton and the PDGA.

“Once approvals were in place and I paid the sanctioning fee, it was just a matter of organizing the details, getting sponsors for prizes, and setting up the event page where players can find the tournament listed on the www.discgolfscene.com webpage and register online.”

COVID forced a couple of changes to protocol, including participants being required to sign a waiver, and also the move from a physical scorecard to online scoring.

“It worked very well, and had its challenges, mainly that many new players had never used it before, so there were some learning curves and lots of questions,” Nodder said.

“But in the end greatly saved time and manual calculations for scores and payouts.”

Nodder feels like this can become an annual event and that the inaugural competition provided some valuable feedback from participants, including the pros themselves.

One of the improvement suggestions was to cut a few more trees down off the fairway to create multiple lines out of the thickly treed areas where discs commonly land.

“Hitting trees is a theme on our course, but also creates a lot of fun when you get through! But this seems like a good suggestion,” said Nodder.

The other suggestion visiting had was the need for a designated parking lot. Expanding parking capacity is something the group is working on in partnership with the Town and the Hinton Mountain Bike Association.

Nodder reiterated that feedback was incredibly positive about the course.

“The course has been wonderfully maintained by the HDGA and volunteers this summer. With fairways raked, trails maintained, brush and grass trimmed, and the installation of the new teepads, the course looked great so there was nothing needed in preparation,” she said.

Nodder began playing disc golf in 2005 and started attending PDGA sanctioned events beginning in 2018. Besides organizing the sanctioned event on the weekend she also competed, finishing second in the ladies division.

Melvin embraces the ‘beginning of new things’

Submitted Photo
Joan Melvin has embraced her ‘commencement’ from her role of community development coordinator at FCSS after 12 years. While she found the role rewarding, she is looking forward to new experiences.

Masha Scheele

After 12 years of working for the Town of Hinton Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), Joan Melvin is moving on.

Instead of calling it retirement, Melvin refers to her next chapter as commencement.

“I like the word better. It seems to be more apropo to the next phase of my life. Retirement has so many implications that I don’t really favour, so I came up with a new word for it and I call it commencement. Because this is the beginning of new things, not the end of old things,” Melvin said.

Melvin worked as the community development coordinator at FCSS, leading community programs such as Hello Hinton to welcome newcomers, Interagency to connect non-profit agencies, Board Development to help non-profit boards thrive, and the Community Dinner Program to build community and connection.

“It was 12 years that were among the best of my life and I mean that in all sincerity,” Melvin said.

The position gave her the opportunity to help make Hinton a better place to live, work, and play.

Getting to know people over the years within and outside of the organization was both wonderful and rewarding, she added.

“[There are] some incredible people doing incredible work in our community and I was very proud to be a part of that whole process,” she said.

Although not born in Hinton, Melvin grew up in Hinton after her father moved her family to Hinton in 1956 for a new start.

They moved over from the coal branch when the coal mines were closing and the pulp mill in Hinton was just opening.

Melvin remembered her dad saying that Hinton was going to have paved streets, and that seemed very civilized.

“My dad actually worked for the Town in the Public Works department for a period of time when we first came here in the late 1950’s. So when I got a job at the Town it was kind of exciting for me to know I was working in the place my dad had once worked,” Melvin said.

As a child, Melvin attended Crescent Valley Elementary School and Harry Collinge High School, before leaving town for a number of years in search of her future.

She briefly moved back in the late 1970s, and always came back to visit her family.

It wasn’t until 2006 that she decided to move back to help take care of her mom.

Just prior to moving back, she had lived in Vancouver for 30 years and worked as a telecommunications technologist. With no similar jobs available in Hinton, she made a career change and took courses through MacEwan University in Hinton for her diploma in social work.

After completing her practicum with the Town of Hinton, she became an employee.

Over the years, she enjoyed making a positive difference in people’s lives and her and her colleagues became like family.

“There are so many opportunities throughout the volunteer system to stay connected in many different ways. I think I’ll miss my work family, but otherwise I’m still in town and I can still make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.

She appreciates the opportunity she was given by the Town of Hinton for those years of employment that were so rewarding personally.

“I would really like to make note that I’m very proud to be a sister in the Unifor union as well,” she said.

The retirement notice from the Town of Hinton stated that throughout her time with FCSS, Melvin’s commitment to making Hinton a great place to call home has made her an invaluable part of the FCSS team.

Melvin looks forward to exploring more of the area and getting outdoors whenever she wants.

In her commencement, she decided to make Hinton her permanent home. 

“It has taken a whole lifetime to build up what I have in this community, to go somewhere else, I don’t have enough years left in me to create that anywhere else. That feeling of truly belonging somewhere, where people care about you and it’s very fulfilling and quite wonderful,” she said.

She noted that she just hiked Ogre Canyon near Brule, which was her first time there, despite living in the area for so long. There are many places just like that she hopes to see.

“I have no intention of slowing down, I am probably going to speed up a little bit,” Melvin said.

She is also looking forward to a time when events are allowed again and when the pandemic subsides so she can get back to doing things that a lot of people have been missing.

Community grants accepting fall applications

Masha Scheele

The Community Grant Program (CGP) is accepting local grant applications for the 2020 fall intake with $19,180 of available funds.

No online applications have been received by the Town and due to the nature of receiving documents during the pandemic, administration could not account for paper versions yet.

“I’m not aware of any received, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there haven’t been any. For context, we usually don’t see submissions until the last week of availability,” said Josh Yaworski, Hinton’s communications coordinator.

Without knowing when larger events will resume, this may have an impact on how many submissions are sent in for this grant intake as there are often applications for events.

Non-profit and community group operations may be scaled down due to pandemic impacts as well as the limited pot available to be awarded, Yaworski stated.

Each year, the Community Grant Program supports local one-time projects and initiatives, operating expenses of organizations in their development stages, and events for the public.

Two intakes for non-profit organizations usually take place each year in the spring and fall, but due to COVID-19, Administration was unable to conduct the spring intake for the grant.

The grant is funded from the Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE) Reserve. The available contribution in 2020 is $19,180 based on 2019 ATE net revenue, which is a decrease from earlier years.

Up to 30 per cent or a maximum of $120,000 can be allocated annually to the CGP from the ATE reserve as per Town policy #078.

Administration anticipated a larger amount during the 2020 budget process, but CAO Emily Olsen explained during a council meeting in July that due to an unanticipated amount of write offs required for unpaid ATE fines this number was reduced. 

There is also less ATE revenue overall due to the reduction in operational ATE locations within the community.

In the fall of 2019, $29,727 was available for the second yearly intake and CGP applications added up to a total request of $39,000. Only $26,000 was awarded to three local non-profit organizations on Nov. 19.

In 2019, a total of $54,050 was available, down from $119,047 in 2018, and $243,181 in 2016.

From 1999 to now, the Town of Hinton has provided $1.58M in funding to local non-profit organizations through the Quality of Life and Community Grant programs.

Applications must meet certain eligibility requirements, including a price tag between $1,000 and $10,000, support of eligible expenditures, an approval of funding on a matching grant basis, and that any previous funds from the Town met reporting requirements.

These applications are then reviewed and ranked, using council-approved criteria, by the Hinton grant funding advisory committee. This committee makes recommendations to council in the awarding of Community Grant Program funding.

The committee is made up of five members, all of which are voted on by Council.

There is often turnover as terms on the committee are for one year, and the Town recently sent out a notice to apply as a member for this committee. Committee member applications are due by Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.

The grant applications are ranked based on needs assessment, analysis and planning with measurable targets and outcomes, cost-benefit value, degree of financial need of applicant/how much self-help, demonstration of thorough project plan, number of people impacted and how, financial stability and planning, and credible previous management of project/activity/organization.

Non profit organizations can apply at the Government Centre with a physical application, download the PDF from the Town of Hinton website, or use the live form on the website.

The application requires information regarding the organization, the project, finances, and so on.

An Applicants’ Guide is available online and the Hinton Connects team can answer questions about the application.

All applications must be in before Oct. 6. For more information or to view all application options, go to hinton.ca/cgp.

CERB and tourism curb summer food bank demand

Masha Scheele

After an enormous spike in food bank demand right after the pandemic hit Alberta in the spring, it dropped during summer months below last year’s average numbers.

“I think between the tourism industry being pretty strong in the last half of summer, which means the part time employees are getting lots of hours making beds at hotels or pumping gas, and the fact that CERB is still active, we have low numbers,” said Bernie Kreiner, chairperson of the food bank.

Families in need of the food bank throughout summer months were lower than expected, which was great news, Kreiner said.

Numbers in the spring were around 80 to 85 families per week, which dropped down below 50 in late June. Fifty families per week was last year’s average.

There were around 60 new families within the first 60 days after mid-March. Kreiner noted that when people realized CERB was going to continue providing funds, they went out to do their own grocery shopping.

In some cases CERB was sent out to people on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), which they will have to pay back at some point.

“There were some early mistakes made,” Kreiner said.

The food bank expects to see a rise of families in need of the food bank, but the question remains as to when and how many.

As CERB winds down, Kreiner expects the demand to pick up again. So far into September, demand remains similar compared to July and August.

The food bank appreciated the extraordinary donations in early pandemic months, which were necessary to meet increased demand. The food bank building is located on 124 Market Street and is open on Tuesday evenings. 

Food hampers for those who are sick or in self isolation will still be available through contacting the Food Bank at 780-865-6256.