North Shore volunteer group meeting more like a wake

Ray Johnson says possibility of separate organization in future

Published on May 5, 2014
Ray Johnson is acting chair of the North Shore Regional Development Association, an organization that is on the verge of breaking down.
Compass file photo

With a deep sigh, Ray Johnson, in defeat, mummed the words, “The North Shore Regional Development Association just folded.”

By Laura Griffin

Special to the Compass

The association has been struggling financially in recent years. With the resignation of many senior members, the fate of the group was in the hands of the public.

So April 24, Johnson, the acting chairman, held a meeting at the Ronnie Johnson Community Centre in Western Bay to put a new executive in place.

Johnson hoped the event would have a big turnout, but with only some 20 people in attendance, the meeting took what Johnson called a “somber” turn.

“We didn’t get enough people turning up to the event, and people in attendance didn’t show interest in a new development association,” said Johnson.

Instead, they discussed the difficulties to keep the group alive.

“They were a little bit lenient that they felt the expense occurred and they money owing. They didn’t want to take on that responsibility,” said Johnson.

He said there were a number of factors why the group was in trouble, such as three fish plants in the Conception Bay area shutting down, people on night shift work could not attend and there has always been difficulties for the group to communicate with the public and themselves.

“Personally speaking, people are not interested in volunteering anymore,” Johnson said.

No new chapter yet

The association, founded more than two decades ago, formerly helped carry out projects for communities from Kingston to Low Point on Route 70.

The organization listened to the people if they needed concerns, “taken to the forefront” by reaching out to government and organizations for assistance.

Although the association has folded, Johnson personally believes there is, “great potential in Newfoundland,” and hopes this doesn’t hinder other possibilities.

As it stands, there are no plans for a new chapter of the association, although there is hope for the future.

“I spoke to some people before I came on tour,” explained Johnson, who is a member of the band Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers. “Some people may create a volunteer committee, but nothing like the (association), and take on a full fledged roll.”

A deeper meaning

Johnson explained if the trend of shutting down volunteer organizations continues – not just on the north shore of Conception Bay, but throughout Newfoundland and Labrador – we could lose communities and our identity.

“I don’t know if it will be recognizable anymore, that doesn’t mean it won’t be good,” said Johnson. “Truth be known, Newfoundland is in a boom, as they say, in the North East Avalon,”

“That’s why people won’t take those low paying jobs (outside the greater St. John’s area).”

So, what does that say to the younger generation?

“It should tell them they have to take the responsibility of providing a next page stability plan for the rural areas and the urban areas,” said Johnson.