It was cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead who said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
And that quote, in and of itself, speaks volumes about the propensity for change in our region.
In recent years, Williamsburg, consistently, has been the village worth leaving for a number of entities.
Canadian Tire packed up and shipped out of town more than a decade ago in favour of a much larger facility in Morrisburg, while the village has lost a bank (at least twice in recent memory), grocery store, pharmacy, and other services throughout several years.
Today, it is the Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry County Library board of directors that has voted in favour of removing another amenity from the tiny, rural hamlet.
This decision comes on the heels of the Township of South Dundas choosing to uproot its current headquarters, which also houses Williamsburg’s library branch, in favour of a larger facility in Morrisburg, mere blocks from the St. Lawrence River. (The saving grace may be that the adult education school, T.R. Leger, will be taking on ownership of the building in Williamsburg, and expanding its services, but it is most unlikely the library will remain.)
But, of course, Williamsburg is far from the only local village to come out on the losing end.
Chesterville was left to deal with the burden of Nestlé’s closing its factory doors, while Winchester has been dealt a soft hand at times, with small shops closing their doors and leaving lasting vacancies in its downtown core.
Other settlements, including South Mountain, Inkerman, Morewood, Dixons Corners, and Brinston, while all having a sprinkling of business representation, have dealt with turnover and loss.
It is the great dichotomy of our age, however. Municipal politicians representing both the north and south of Dundas County are plowing forward with expansive plans to increase residential rates, which will ultimately be a boon for the population in certain villages.
However, to lure homeowners, certain necessities go a long way in laying out the welcome mat.
Buyers, naturally, will be looking for attractive home prices and a manageable municipal tax rate, but services are vital.
Banks, post offices, libraries, churches, restaurants, and convenience stores remain integral parts in the turning wheel of village survival, and without them, our communities become nothing more than bedrooms. It is a lasting sentence to become known as nothing more than a gateway to somewhere that offers more.
But there is a fight in all of us. Avonmore residents very nearly slayed the banking giant known as Scotiabank in an effort to keep their village branch intact, while those living in Williamsburg are manning the turret in the battle to save a library.
In order to thrive, and ultimately survive, our small rural communities need amenities, just the same as we need the help of neighbours and the will to wake and face each and every day.
The waves of change are treacherous, but if prepared, our communities remain far removed from the precipice of becoming a vestige of what once was.