As Grimsby’s population grows, community ties will be more important than ever

The Newcomers and Neighbors Club of Grimsby and Area meet regularly in the park for coffee

As Grimsby’s population grows over the coming decades, residents’ groups and the municipality will play a vital role in building a welcoming community for all.

In August 2021, Niagara Region has updated its population growth forecast, forecasting the region’s population to grow to 694,000 by 2051.

As part of this, Grimsby is expected to accommodate an additional 7,000 residents by 2052, leading to increased demand for services and a potentially increased need for community groups.

Harry Schlange, the city’s chief administrative officer, said that in order to accommodate new residents, the city is directing funds towards improving community facilities.

This includes investing $21 million in the modernization of the Peach King Center and new building pickleball courts, according to Schlange.

The construction of the new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital and the resulting improved health care will also help convince people to come to the city, he said.

Once people move into the city, community groups will play a role in welcoming and connecting residents.

And the Newcomers and Neighbors Club of Grimsby and Area aims to do just that, connecting both those new to the area and long-time residents.

Sandi Ward, Chair of Newcomers and Neighbors of Grimsby and Area, said it can often be difficult for people to meet when moving to a new community, especially when they are retired or do not have existing connections in the community.

“If they haven’t moved around a lot, it’s very difficult (to meet new people),” she said.

But the club is there to connect newcomers with the community, and it offers a host of activities, from hikes on the Bruce Trail to card games and wine tastings.

“You can do as much or as little as you want,” said Jocelyn Geoghegan who joined the club after retirement.

Suddenly Geoghegan had a lot more free time and realized she had to be social, so she praised the club for filling that gap.

“Being part of the group gives me a sense of community that maybe has been lost,” she said.

The club is part of the National Newcomers Association of Canada (NNAC), but bucks the trend by allowing long-term residents to stay in the club, when there is usually a deadline , usually three years after a member moves to the area. .

According to Ward, the NNAC has seen a reduction in member clubs during the pandemic, from 87 to 55 clubs.

However, the Grimsby club have been one of the few to have grown during this time, growing from 75 members in 2019 to 95 in July 2022.

Ward attributes this to the shift to virtual activities and meetings, such as a virtual book club.

Then, when restrictions permitted, they met in small groups in the park.

“On the colder days we sat in small groups,” Ward said. “And (we) were looking at each other and saying ‘we must be crazy! But because we did that, we stuck together and stayed connected.

To learn more about the Newcomers Club, visit grimsbynewcomers.ca