CIBC commits $4,500 over three years to Blyth Festival - April 5, 2018
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
CIBC CEO Victor Dodig has committed his company to $1,500 per year to the Blyth Festival for the next three years after an impassioned plea from a current employee.
The process began with Blyth’s Lissa Kolkman, who decided to write to Dodig, inviting him to spend a day in Blyth. Kolkman, who has worked for the bank for 14 years (eight of which were in Blyth), made the decision to write her company’s CEO when she received word that the Blyth branch would be closing.
“I am writing a letter as an invitation for you to join me as a guest in my great village for a day. It’s an invitation to be my guest, but also an invitation to explore more, expand more and choose a different view,” Kolkman began her letter. “Rural Ontario really is different and has different needs than urban centres. Our rural Ontario and rural Canada as a whole are struggling to be heard over the din of big cities. I invite you to hear our voice.”
In an interview with The Citizen, Kolkman said that she was “shocked, but not surprised” when she found out her home branch would be closing.
It was then, when a friend spoke to Kolkman about it being her “home” branch that news of the closure really began to sink in. Not only is the Blyth location her home branch because it’s where she’s worked for the last eight years, but it’s also the branch in her home community of Blyth.
She said that writing Dodig that letter was cathartic for her, but, as a long-time advocate for all things Blyth, also a sincere invitation to share her community with the head of her company. Not only did she want to show him that things in Blyth are getting more exciting by the day, thanks to advancements on a number of projects and funding announcements, but she also wanted to show him why the community is so important to so many people.
In her letter, Kolkman spoke about many of the great features of Blyth, including the Blyth Festival, Memorial Hall and the Blyth 14/19 project. She also focused on a number of family-run businesses, such as Sparling’s Propane until recently, Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company, the Hubbard’s rutabaga plant and businesses run by local families like the Scrimgeours, who just sold their grocery store after years of community ownership, Howsons and Gussos, as well as The Old Mill and Bainton’s, Blyth Farm Cheese and Blyth Building Supplies, which was only recently sold to Home Hardware.
She also mentioned the new development slated for the north end of town as well as many other potential projects for the future.
Kolkman said she never expected a response, so she was pretty surprised when Dodig personally wrote her back. He thanked her for her invitation, saying that he hoped to visit Huron County one day, but added that the company would be making a donation to the Blyth Festival in the amount of $1,500 per year for the next three years.
She said she’s pleased with the donation after the business decision that’s been made. However, had Dodig accepted her invitation, she did have a plan for a day in Blyth.
She said would have taken him around town and shown him the Greenway Trail and the main street before perhaps a coffee at Queens Bakery and lunch at the Part II Bistro, followed by a visit to Cowbell and several other local businesses. She said she just really wanted to show off her village if given the chance.
Last week, Kolkman and a handful of other CIBC employees presented the Blyth Festival with the first of the three cheques, which was accepted by General Manager Rachael King and Artistic Director Gil Garratt.