The Halifax Curling Club (HCC) is the oldest continuously operating curling club in North America, founded in 1824. That record was put to the test not once but twice, and my story will describe how this happened and the importance of curling volunteers and their generosity in times of need.
Imagine if I wrote to you today asking to give money to your club to keep the doors open….in October 1998, this happened to HCC. The only way the club could find a way to survive was to ask just over 40 members to contribute money in the form of repayable bonds. Substantial contributions were made, ranging from $1,000 to $15,000, and totalling over $120,000 in all (not pocket change!). Donors were issued bonds with a repayment schedule that was uncertain due to the financial picture of the club. The good news is that the club was able to keep the doors open and continue to offer curling in the south end of Halifax because of these generous donors.
Turn the clock forward to Feb.15, 2015. Following a major snow storm, then rain and flash freezing, the roof of the club collapsed, leaving almost 300 members without a home to curl in. The board reached out to the other clubs in the area (4) to request ice time that HCC could rent in order to continue the league play for the duration of the season and were fortunate to receive support. Meanwhile, a building committee was formed to face the daunting task of rebuilding the facility in under one year. With the talents of our members and a local contractor, and countless hours of sweat equity, this feat was accomplished and the “new and improved” HCC facility re-opened in February 2016.
They say adversity builds resilience and from the threat of closure and the devastating roof collapse, the club is now stronger than ever. Membership is at an all time high, our Learning and Development programs are full and our community outreach programs are thriving. In November 2018, the club joined the WCT with an event called the Stu Sells 1824 Halifax Classic, and we will continue to run this as the premier men’s event in Atlantic Canada.
Last summer, the club introduced pickle ball as an off-season sport with great success and will likely host a Provincial championship event this year. We ran a “Rocks and Rings” program at our local elementary schools and tripled our Junior registration as a result. We even started teaching blind and hearing impaired children how to curl, and have plans to make our facility accessible for all abilities!
Realizing we are still not in a sound financial position, our board agreed in January that it was time to recognize the bondholders and share this story with our membership. We need to learn from the situations of the past, and to remind ourselves to continue on the path of financial sustainability, and never end up depending on members like we did in 1998.
So on this special day, February 22, we will be acknowledging the generosity of those bondholders who have agreed to forgive their loan to the club by honouring them in a formal evening of music, food, curling and of course, some laughs. This is what makes curling special…people who care enough to put others ahead of themselves for the better good!
Happy Curling Day in Canada!!!