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Stirling MILL competing for McDougall cash

Delhi News-Record 2020-05-22 21:54:47

Wearing a mask and gloves, James Reid plays a banjo outside the Stirling-Rawdon Public Library. He's curator of the Stirling Musical Instrument Lending Library. Organizers are asking the public to vote daily to win a cash prize in a local firm's online contest. Shane Slimmon

They have the public demand and the plan, but to reach some higher notes, the folks behind the Stirling Musical Instrument Lending Library really need some cash.

Known as the MILL, the facility in the Stirling-Rawdon Public Library loans a wide array of instruments to all ages. It opened in January 2019 and serves the southern half of Hastings County, Quinte West, the eastern half of Northumberland County, and part of Peterborough County.

Now its board is competing for a cash prize from the McDougall Insurance and Financial Family Fund. The company is accepting votes online during May. In June, the top three community projects will receive cheques: $5,000 for first prize, $3,000 for second and $1,000 for third, executive assistant Caley Weese said. She added there are 89 contestants.

The MILL had a good first year but needs money to expand its offerings and reach, curator James Reid and secretary Elizabeth Slavin said.

“We really need to put effort into fundraising to build the MILL the way it needs to be,” Reid said, adding the volunteers are also seeking funding from other sources.

Slavin said it has about 90 patrons to date, including 10 family memberships. For $30 per year, a person can borrow an instrument for six weeks.

“They can keep switching around and trying different instruments. That happens a lot when we get children coming in,” Slavin said. Choices include guitars, keyboards, drums, woodwinds, brass, and more.

“We’re providing instruments at a very reasonable price,” she said.

Expansion plan

Reid and Slavin said MILL directors want to reach more people in the service area and are working on a “distant loan” program to allow residents beyond Stirling to pick up and drop off instruments at their local libraries. The Quinte West Public Library is the first to enroll and talks with others are underway.

Should the MILL receive a McDougall prize, they said, there is no shortage of uses for it.

The distant loan program will result in travel costs.

“Eventually we see that growing to a basic instrument collection being housed in some of the libraries,” said Reid.

That program will also increase the need for new instruments; donations of those are also accepted. Then there are the repairs.

“We have a backlog of instruments that require professional repairs that we simply can’t afford to do right now,” Reid said.

Concerts and workshops are also in the 2020 plan, as is an online registry of local music schools and teachers. Online programming is being considered.

Slavin said teachers have reported a lack of school instruments for students to borrow, and amid the pandemic, demand is expected to increase because people “want to have their own instrument.

“We can sort of fill that gap.”

Seeing people, especially youth, try new instruments “really is dynamite,” Reid said.

Curbside service

Some patrons have been able to keep their instruments through the COVID-19 pandemic. The MILL is scheduled to reopen Wednesday, May 27 from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. – solely for curbside pickup and dropoff. Patrons should clean their instruments before returning them.

Upon return, instruments will be quarantined for 72 hours, then disinfected and made available. Loans may be booked at stirlingmill.ca.

Votes for the Family Fund, meanwhile, may be cast once daily per person at https://binkd.co/KMVdA. The MILL’s entry video can be viewed on the page.

“I am more than ever certain that the MILL is hugely viable,” said Reid. “It’s a huge project that needs lots of support.”

Donations may be made online at tinyurl.com/smill20 and, if donations of $100 or more are made via the secretary, tax receipts are available. Those should be arranged via the website.

Stirling-Rawdon Public Library is at 43 West Front St. For more on the MILL, visit the MILL website or its Facebook page, or call 613-395-3257.