Thursday, June 13, 2024

Long-Time Community Volunteers Say Goodbye to Meaford

Fourteen years ago when Wayne and Mary Bryant moved to Meaford, they embraced all that the community had to offer. During these 14 years, they have in turn contributed all they have to offer. The Bryants have contributed energy and endless hours as volunteers with amateur theatre, the Meaford United Church, the Meaford Food Bank and Community Gardens, and the Scarecrow Invasion and Family Festival.

The time has come again for them to move, this time to Goderich,

Their theatre days in Meaford started when they answered a call for actors for one of Harley Greenfield’s plays, Brown Grass Farms. “Harley put out a call and two people showed up, Mary and me,” said Wayne. “That was the start of the Meaford Community Theatre. We branched out into Remembrance Day shows. Our troupe steadily grew to, say, 20 active members. We were always looking for our own place. Then we struck a good deal with the municipality to use the Woodford Hall, now the home of the Meaford Theatre Company.”

Whether in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, or the Northwest Territories, Wayne and Mary have embraced the communities that they have lived in by pursuing their interests, lending their skills where needed, and learning new skills as they go along. Wayne’s interest in history and culture led him to join the Grey County Historical Society where he served as director of operations, organizing monthly gatherings. He has been actively involved in the Meaford United Church, served as chair of the board for a couple of years, and he has been a member of the Beaver Valley Probus Club.

For me, I need to be a part of my community,” said Mary. “I can’t imagine otherwise, I need to contribute. I might have skill to lend, or I might discover a new skill.”

Perhaps Mary’s greatest contributions are the community gardens at Victoria Village and the former Georgian Bay Community School. “In 2008, while I was a member of the food bank board, I was thinking we should be offering fresh veggies,” Mary said. “Wayne and I had met a woman in Tai Chi class who owned a vacant lot that could, with concerted effort, be made into a community garden where we could grow fresh vegetables. Heather Reid, Sandy Farrow, and I commandeered our husbands to help. It took a couple of years, but we made a garden.

When the land sold, we talked to the GBSC principal, recruited the school’s Pursuit Class, and Mark Grahlman and Jan Chappelle, who taught the students about gardening. By 2011, we put a garden in at GBCS. By 2013, we were able to bring produce to the food bank.

We doubted that we were reaching everyone. We thought we should work with the residents of Victoria Village to help them grow food for themselves.”

Since 2014, Mary and her community garden volunteers have provided the food bank clients with fresh produce and selling surplus produce at the Church of Nazarene on a pay-what-you-can basis twice a week.

Wayne and Mary have been actively involved in the Meaford Scarecrow Invasion and Family Festival, Wayne as one of a crew of volunteers who cut corn stalks and deliver them to select locations for the annual downtown fall decorating spree, and Mary as lead on the annual apple pie contest.

Meaford has been everything their due diligence told them it would be, according to Mary. “We were told before we left Yellowknife, before we moved here, that we might always feel like we were from away. We have never found this to be the case in Meaford.

Wayne and Mary have sold their house and will be moving in late October. “I am not afraid to go to Goderich,” Mary said. “Having lived in Yellowknife, and now in Meaford, I see the possibilities to get involved. I have confidence from all these experiences that we can make a home in Goderich.”

Wayne and Mary are saying goodbye to their Meaford family of friends. “We didn’t have family in Meaford when we came. We built a family around the people we met here.

This time we are going toward family. It is the right time for us to go.”

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