Ray Johnson from Lower Island Cove believes the local development association on the north shore of Conception Bay is in trouble
The organization, which was founded about two decades ago, has lost members and had difficulty recruiting new ones in recent months.
The North Shore Regional Development Association has been responsible for advocating for other community groups who needed assistance applying for provincial grants, getting student workers and other community activities.
Over the past few months, former members decided to resign their executive positions. Johnson explained it’s because they have put in many years and financial obligations were getting difficult. He also said finding new members may be beneficial.
Johnson is acting chair of the association, which covers unincorporated communities along the roughly 35-kilometre span between Kingston and Low Point, but said he cannot hold the position on a permanent basis.
“I was asked to act as a chair and bring forth a new committee,” he said. “If that doesn’t happen, the association will dissolve.”
Johnson is a member of Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers, and spends quite a bit of time on tour. He also chairs the Flambro Head Heritage Society, among other community activities.
Involvement has been on the decline in recent years, and Johnson said it has been difficult recruiting members. Finances are a big part of that problem.
“Right now there are expenses being incurred,” Johnson explained. “It can’t come from me or you, or anyone else.”
The organization has been self-sufficient, and the committee has been responsible for fundraising efforts. It has received government support in the past, but Johnson said the support is no longer available.
“There have been members paying out of pocket,” he continued. “I have even put a few dollars in myself.”
He described previously getting support from the government, especially local MHA and Finance Minister Charlene Johnson. Lately, he added, there has been no government support to help save the organization.
“We asked (the government), ‘Would you consider some emergency funding?’” Johnson said. “There has been no funding.”
He explained the funding would have only been required for a short period of time, when either a new executive gets put in place or the organization folds. The funding would be used to pay the electricity and phone bill.
The group is hosting a public meeting on April 24, and it may be the last chance to save the organization.
The remaining members will host the meeting at the Ronnie Johnson Community Centre in Western Bay. If there is not enough participation, it will no longer continue.
Recruiting new members
Johnson returned from touring April 14. After settling in back home he read an article in The Telegram about a meeting in Heart’s Content for the provincial Progressive Conservative party. There was a turnout of 126 people.
“Why can’t people turn out for something like this,” he stated. “We are all tied up with politics, but not in the right fashion.
“It’s time for attitudes to start changing in the community.”
When asked what he meant, he said the involvement needs to start in schools.
“Don’t you think we have to consider the youth coming up through,” he said. “We have to see our young people getting more involved. What better way to tell the students what’s going on?”
Johnson also believes the community should be working collectively.
“We’re not going to lose our identity if we work together,” he said. “If we can find a way with the development association to work on our behalf, we’re all going to benefit from it.”
Johnson encourages anyone and everyone from the area to attend the meeting, which will begin at 8 p.m. April 24.
“I hope people will come to grips with this, and on the 24th we’ll have a fantastic turnout,” he said. “I don't want to see it dissolve.”