Charged with raising $2.5 million towards the new Wellesley Township Recreation Centre, the fundraising committee got a big boost this week in the form a cheque for $1 million.
Bill Gies, who was born on a farm in St. Clements and who got his start as a developer in Wellesley, provided the signature on the cheque. His name will adorn the project’s main facility, which will be known as the Bill Gies Recreation Centre.
“I’m a builder and developer. I bought my first piece of land in Wellesley, a farm, in 1973, and then I proceeded to develop that land and we built some houses on there,” he said. “So when I heard that they want to build a community centre, I said, ‘OK, I’m willing to support it.’ That’s the reason why – I want to give back to the community.”
Gies’ quest to give something back was embraced by ‘Something for Everyone’ campaign chair Chris Martin.
“It’s very nice to see – nice to see the community respond like that,” Martin said of the reception to the fundraising campaign launched last month. “Bill has long been instrumental in our community, developing lands and homes in our township. It’s nice to see him want to pay back, and give back to the community later in his career like that.”
Martin noted the large donation both lends credibility to the project and helps ease the pressure at the start of a climb to $2.5 million.
His committee is looking after raising the public’s director contribution to the $27-million project.
Along with an NHL-sized rink, the 62,000-square-foot facility at Queens Bush and Hutchison roads in Wellesley village will include eight dressing rooms (two fully accessible), a dressing room for the Applejacks Junior C hockey team, a youth centre, seniors’ centre, a gymnasium that could serve as a community centre, meeting rooms, fitness rooms, a walking track, a commercial kitchen, a multi-use court, a skate park, active outdoor play centre, two soccer fields and outdoor walking trails.
There’s room on the site for a future second ice pad and outdoor pool, as well.
The township is also in negotiations to include space for the community health centre at the location, with costs to be recovered from leasing the space.
“We are very grateful to Bill for his generous donation that helps us get the campaign closer to our fundraising goal of $2.5 million,” said Martin, noting Gies’ donation will be food for thought to others contemplating a contribution. “Although the campaign is off to an impressive start there is still a significant amount of work to be done to engage with the community so we can all take ownership in this tremendous facility.”
Gies said the construction of the new complex will provide recreational activities that didn’t exist when he was born in St. Clements 90 years ago.
“I recall the very first arena that they put up. I went rollerskating there, and they would rent those strap-on roller skates there. That was about 70 years ago,” he chuckled.
Given that he’s hoping to do more development work in the township, the connection with the community will likely remain.
“I’ve got my son, James Gies, and my grandson, Reagan Gies, who are also involved in the construction business. They can carry that on for the next 50 years, since I carried it on for the first 50 years.”
For Wellesley Township Mayor Joe Nowak, who’s known Gies for years, the generous donation came as no surprise.
“He’s always been really keen to try and do something for the community. I remember even years ago, he helped us with the library when he went ahead to renovate the library – he put some money into that. He’s a community guy, that’s for sure,” said Nowak.
“I’m sure that’ll be a catalyst for others to give some consideration to help out. We still have the $2.5 million that we’re looking for.”