Charitable offer symbolizes bridging of campus and community

In an effort to support the Laurier Brantford YMCA Athletics and Recreation complex plans, Edith and Roger Davis, founders of the Davis Fuels distribution company, donated $1 million to the cause of its construction. The formal announcement of the donation was made on Mar. 18.

“We are very grateful for the generosity from the Davis family,” said the vice president of the Hamilton/Burlington/Brantford regional YMCAs, Bryan Webber. “They’ve made a significant investment in the future health of the Brantford and Brant County communities.”

The donation is one of many that the Davis family has made to the community. They have made donations in the past to support various groups, organizations and institutions in the county, a list that includes the Brant Sports Complex, the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, Brant United Way, Brant Waterways Foundation and even the Brantford Charity Airshow. The couple has also donated to Laurier as part of their continued support for the growing campus, and its effect on the community. In honour of their contributions, the aquatic centre at the facility shall bear their family name, an addition to the annex passageway between the Research Academic Centre East and West that is named after the family’s company.

“The gift from the Davis family is a significant donation for a project that will have a major impact on the Brantford campus. It will bring more athletics and recreation for the campus and downtown,” commented Brian Rosborough, the campus’ Senior Executive Officer.

The family’s donation comes in a continued support from the local community of a growing campus that is said to be revitalizing a downtown that was once suffering from economic hardship. Laurier’s incursion into downtown Brantford, at first, was perceived as invasive by some of the downtown residents, due to the increase of property value and resulting in partial gentrification. Douglas Blackie, a resident of the community, explained that many were opposed to the effects of the university’s growth at first, but soon learned to accept the progress the campus was bringing. Now, it has become a point of embrace, rather than resentment.

“Laurier has had a transformational effect on the community, and this project will further enhance our impact on the downtown,” said Rosborough.

Regarding the complex, set to undergo initial construction this summer, Blackie spoke on how he believes the downtown’s residents feel about it, “Eighty per cent of the people I talk to said they were all for.”

Rosborough noted that the university has not met any resistance from local residents to its plans to build the complex, and believes that it is a symbol of integration between the university and the community. Funding for the $58.4 million cost has come from federal, provincial and municipal parties, as well as the Student Union, the university itself and donations like the Davis’ in support of the YMCA and university’s co-operation in the complex.

“One of the reasons I think it’s been so well supported is because of the nature of the collaboration with two key institutions—the YMCA and Laurier—to bring a new important resource to the downtown,” Rosborough stated. “We feel we’ve been well supported.”

Rosborough explicated that the YMCA’s partnership should function as an integration agent that should bridge the university and downtown together. The 130,000 sq. foot facility will serve both the students and the local community. Rosborough again emphasized the importance of the YMCA partnership, noting that the YMCA will distribute its membership fees for families with lower incomes that might otherwise be unable to afford the costs. He added that the university should also become a more accessible place for local residents, even for those “who might otherwise not be destined for university.”

With the plans in place to upgrade the athletics and recreation facilities in the Brantford downtown, the YMCA and university are optimistic in what can be achieved in the community. Construction is expected to be completed in 2016.

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