Eric Bunnell’s People: Help needed for Christmas Cares

Sure, it’s just mid-June and not even summer yet.

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Sure, it’s just mid-June and not even summer yet.

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But Richard Auckland is already thinking Christmas.

Richard is incoming president of Christmas Care, the annual campaign in our town to ensure no one in St. Thomas and area goes without holiday fixin’s and children’s gifts. Last year, the organization delivered slightly more than 1,400 hampers to local families.

But Christmas Care is looking for a new home, and Richard is hoping the community’s always generous Christmas spirit is out there, even when cutting the grass is more on the mind than shoveling snow.

For four years, Christmas Care has enjoyed the use of 30,000 square feet of vacant space at an accommodating Elgin Centre, but the mall now has found a tenant for the last remains of the former Zeller’s location.

“The fact they have found a tenant, this is awesome for the community,” Richard says. The coming of a Jysk outlet is good for the mall, and it means more local jobs.

But with large warehouse spaces scarce in town – Richard says vacancy rate is just one per cent, the organization has been told – it’s not such good news for Christmas Care.

And recognizing that landlords also may be reluctant to commit to just a two-month rental, the organization is putting word out now that it is hoping to find a minimum of 15,000 square feet – preferably on a bus route and with a loading dock – for November and December.

Richard notes the city has offered the use of the Memorial Auditorium. It’s big enough for Christmas Care’s administration and toy collection, and the organization is grateful, but it still would have to find space for food collection and hamper assembly, splitting up operations.

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Hence, Richard donned his elf costume this week for a photo op and a plea.

“We are asking people to start considering whether they would have space available in November and December, or to keep that in their heads if space becomes available.”

Christmas Care’s email is

Filling the calendar

Space is also at a premium these days at the landmark Canada Southern railway station.

After losing bookings through two years of pandemic shutdowns, “There’s Thursday weddings, there’s Friday weddings, there’s Saturday weddings!” says Larry Longfield, executive director of building owner North America Railway Hall of Fame. Mondays, too.

But as good as it is to fill the station’s calendar again, “It’s bittersweet,” Larry recognizes.

“It’s a lot of weddings that were postponed and rescheduled from 2020 and 2021.”

And it could take the hall of fame as long as a decade to make up lost revenue.

But as people start getting together again, there’s also new space to gather at the historic station.

Volunteers in spring completed work turning long-vacant square footage in the Alma Suite on the second floor of the east end of the building into the Alma Hall, a 1,000-square-foot meeting room that now complements Anderson Dining Hall and the Farley Waiting Room on the station’s first floor. The second floor is accessible by elevator, and the room is licensed.

Unlike the Anderson and Farley rooms, fully restored to past glory, the walls of Alma Hall retain the shadows of years gone by on exposed brick. The rustic look has been appreciated on the station’s Facebook page where there are photos. Click to for a boo.

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Teeny Snoots


Maybe not an expression in Kalley Michnal’s vocabulary.

The St. Thomas resident is the founder of Teeny Snoots rat rescue, which works to save domesticated pets from thick fates. Since 2020, she and volunteers have rescued, doctored and re-homed close to 400 rats – and as far away as Montreal.

It began with an online ad.

“I was scrolling Kijiji, as one does, and saw a post titled ‘Rats $5 each’

“The photos were heartbreaking and showed ratties all squished together in a disgusting basket. So I messaged the person and went to their house expecting there to be 20 rats to take. In reality, there were over 200 young rats stuffed into literal China cabinets trying to share two small cans of wet cat food, no water and one tiny basket in a 45 C shed in someone’s backyard.”

And Teeny Snoots was born.

“I arranged a huge rescue with Pretty Lil Rats in Oshawa and we got them all out of there.”

All but five, which their owner kept in exchange for giving up the rest.

Kalley recognizes there’s an “ewwww” factor associated with pet rats.

“It’s so frustrating. People literally think they’re disposable because ‘they’re just rats.’ They’re not just rats.”

In search of a small pet to make her house more of a home, the microbiologist got her first pet rat four years ago.

“It’s really hard to describe how amazing rats are to people because everyone has their own idea of ​​what ‘incredible’ is.

“But when they meet the rats, they’re completely blown away. Rats are very emotionally, socially and cognitively intelligent. They connect very deeply with their rat and human families, and can truly die of heartbreak if they lose someone they love. They learn their names quickly, come when you call them, learn tricks, use litter boxes and learn key words.”

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Time, tide and deadlines being what they are, not to mention space, we’ll continue this conversation anon.

But to mention that Teeny Snoots is organizing a pocket pet photo day from 11 am to 5 pm Saturday at Southwest Pet at 1063 Talbot St.. Pocket pets include ratties, hedgies, bunnies, beardies, hammies and other similar small animals. Nail trimming and merch, too.

It’s a fund- and awareness-raising event, and rats are available for adoption as well. (You need a pic of a proper cage setup to apply.)

The rescue has a Facebook page at teenysnootsrescue.

Glad for Graney

It’s a save-the-date for sure.

St. Thomas is planning to fete hometown Major League Baseball great Jack “Glad” Graney a couple of days after his contribution to the sport as a pioneer-era broadcaster is recognized at Cooperstown.

Graney, the first player to head up to the broadcast booth from the field, among his many firsts in the sport, is to receive the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award on July 23 during this year’s Hall of Fame induction weekend.

A couple days later, the St. Thomas Economic Development Corp. is organizing a Graney evening July 27 at historic Emslie Field, when the St. Thomas Cardinals 14U team play the Sarnia Brigade.

Special guests are expected to include Graney’s granddaughter, Perry Smith, and Barbara Gregorich, author of Larry and Me, a bio of Graney and his pet Cleveland team mascot, Larry.

Plans are still in the works, and development corporation CEO Sean Dyke is hopeful of firm details next week, but says, “Our attempt is to turn it into a large-scale event to recognize the life of Jack Graney.”

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And if a column were to tease in advance, he says, “you can include food trucks, a brass band, a pipe band, ceremonial first pitches and (if all goes well) a look to the sky for a post-game celebration that will be better than fireworks.”

Better than fireworks?!?

“Oh, and there’s a ball game happening, too.”

Like I said, a definite save-the-date.

St. Thomas Minor Baseball, who Sean delights was quickly on board with the idea of ​​the fest, annually hosts the largest minor ball tournament in Ontario. It runs three weekends in summer in St. Thomas.

Fittingly, when St. Thomas commissioned the Graney centrepiece for a new roundabout on Fairview Avenue at Bill Martyn Parkway, just a throw away from the Doug Tarry ballplex, city council’s comments guided the Scott McKay artwork to feature Graney at bat facing a young girl pitcher – the past and future of the sport.

Oh. Larry is there, too.

Back to the book

And dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s, Bill Rayner is hoping to complete his book about Graney’s storied career in time for the evening. He’s a member of the former Graney Gang of local baseball fans who long mounted a campaign for Graney’s proper due.

Bill started writing an illustrated volume prior to Graney’s installation on the St. Thomas Wall of Fame in 2014 at the Joe Thornton Community Centre. However, disappointed that Graney was passed over not once but twice for the Frick award in 2015 and 2018, he put it aside.

“But Glad’s win in 2021 (when this year’s Frick was announced) once again renewed my keen interest in completing his story,” Bill says. And with editorial assistance from Debra Bagshaw, and working with the Aylmer Express, he is racing to get Three and Two Jack into print.

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The title comes from Graney’s nickname bestowed on him by his ability to draw walks from frustrated pitchers.

flower power

The bloom is back downtown.

Working 4 pm to midnight on Thursday, two teams of city park workers were to hang 231 baskets of wave petunias for the Downtown Development Board on lampposts along Talbot Street. (For the record, they are a hybrid called tidal wave silver.)

It’s another sign of our lives returning to normal, even if the new normal, after two years of pandemic.

Earlier in the day, 90 baskets went up through Pinafore Park of tidal wave pink.

Jordan Cernanec, a St. Thomas parks summer staffer, hangs one of 91 flower baskets Thursday at Pinafore Park.  Another 231 were destined for downtown.  (Eric Bunnell/Special to Postmedia Network)
Jordan Cernanec, a St. Thomas parks summer staffer, hangs one of 91 flower baskets Thursday at Pinafore Park. Another 231 were destined for downtown. (Eric Bunnell/Special to Postmedia Network) jpg, WD

spring time message

K. So maybe Shakespeare, it ain’t.

But it’s still a very welcome sign of spring, the message on the signboard on Wellington Road at Ferguson’s:

“We are blooming

Berries mid June ing”

(I’m told early strawberries already have been on the shelves at Howe’s Family Market on Highbury.)

And what possibly could go better with strawbs than rhubarb?

Rosy Rhubarb Festival makes its return this weekend to Shedden – the Rhubarb Capital of Ontario, don’t you know – after two long pandemic years without.

Sadly, however, without a traditional auction of winning baking. Public health says entries must be thrown out after judging.

The festival this year is a shortened two days, Saturday and Sunday at the Keystone Complex, but still with lots to see and do. Click to for event highlights.

Stay well.

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