Canadian Underwriter

Hope Fills a Pool

June 17, 2013  

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Since 2009, two major production plants and the provincial government’s Rideau Regional Centre have shut down, cutting more than 1,500 jobs and closing the only community pool in Smiths Falls, Ont.  These economic losses dealt a knockdown blow to the small town’s 9,000 residents.

Knocked down but not out, thanks to W.J. Wood Brokers and The Hub – a non-profit recreation, arts and athletic association, established by finance, health, fitness and business professionals in Smiths Falls last year. Together, they were determined to find a way to refurbish and re-open the pool where children could learn to swim safely, lifeguards could be trained, arthritic seniors could exercise comfortably, and swim teams could aim for the Olympics.

“Filling our pool became a symbol of hope for the whole community to rally around,” says Cathy Wood, a partner with her husband Robbie in the family business, W.J. Wood Brokers, located in Smiths Falls.  After working in the business since 1998 and 1987 respectively, the couple purchased the firm in 2009 from Robbie’s father, Bill, who had purchased it with his father, Jack, in 1965.

“We had been looking for a significant way to get involved in the community where so many people are suffering real hardship,” Cathy explains. “When we heard about The Hub’s vision for the pool, we knew we could help.”

The Rideau Regional Centre and pool were purchased by the Gallipeau family in recent years and renamed The Gallipeau Centre. The Centre is insured by W.J. Wood Brokers. Although the development plans did not include operating the public pool, the community-minded owners were willing to consider leasing the facility to The Hub at a minimal rate, if financing could be found to repair, open and manage it.

Enter Aviva Insurance and their one million dollar Aviva Community Fund.

“The timing was perfect,” says Cathy. “Members of the Gallipeau family and The Hub came with us to Aviva’s 2012 campaign kickoff in Hull, Quebec. After that event, we agreed to enter the online contest in hopes of winning the $99,000 needed to ‘fill our pool!’”

With Cathy taking the lead role, the group pooled their talents and came up with all sorts of fun and innovative ways to get the all-important votes – and keep them coming. In one memorable event, a photo was taken of the derelict, empty pool filled with smiling, hopeful residents holding signs that spelled out, Please, Fill Our Pool!

The town’s Santa Claus parade also provided an opportunity to hand out business cards with voting instructions.

“It’s surprising how many unexpected benefits you reap,” notes Cathy. “For me, it happened while I was filming the Santa Claus parade to post on our voting website. I zeroed in for a close-up of an elderly lady smiling and waving at the people on the floats.  I didn’t know her but a couple of months later, I received a note from her grandson who said his grandmother had just passed away and his family was tickled to have that last video of her looking so happy.”

The community-wide campaign was a huge success.

“It really took our whole community working together, as well as generous votes from our neighbours in Perth,” explains Cathy. “When it became apparent their proposal for a splash pad wasn’t going to make it to the next round, they shifted their votes to help us get into the semi-finals and beyond!”

While winning the $99,000 grand prize means The Hub’s vision is now a concrete plan that will go forward this year, it also requires an ongoing commitment to ensure the pool’s maintenance, management, programs and staffing are sustainable.

“I’ve signed up for The Hub’s fundraising committee to help keep our pool and its athletic programming going for a long time to come,” says Cathy. “The hours and hours of work are so worth it when you see the wonderful way our community has come together.”


Copyright 2013 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the May 2013 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.