On February 24th some 40 Georgian Bay Estonians and friends gathered at Heavenly Café in Collingwood to celebrate, Estonia's 105th Independence Day, Vabariigi aastapäev, catch up with friends, and to learn more about the KESKUS project.
Kadri Munro welcomed everyone and started the evening with everyone joining to sing the Estonian national anthem. She noted that while the date celebrates Estonian independence, it more sombrely marks a full year of war in Ukraine.
Kadri had moved to the Georgian Bay area several years ago and founded the Georgian Bay Eestlased (“GBE”) group when she kept running into local Estonians. Kadri recounted some of those chance meetings, and how indeed it was only five years earlier that the first GBE gathering took place, celebrating Vabariigi aastapäev at a local pub. Pandemic years paused the event, but the tradition is set with a third annual gathering, and the first at warm and welcoming Heavenly Café, owned by Estonian Heli Vogrin.
Kadri then gave the floor to the KESKUS project and International Estonian Centre Inc. board chair Heili Toome who introduced fellow board members in attendance, Hans Kukk and Martin Tiidus, and introduced the project. Development manager David Kalm reviewed the schedule to KESKUS opening (read more here) and project lead Ellen Valter noted that as we celebrate Estonian independence, we also make a commitment to the future, to build KESKUS, our beacon of freedom.
Ellen thanked all donors and especially those in the room who had donated at the $100,000, $25,000 and $10,000 levels. She announced that a new Viru vanemad donation had just been made at the event and asked all to dig deep saying, “if not us, then who?”
After the brief formalities wrapped up, all enjoyed the delicious sandwiches and snacks prepared by Heli, and courtesy of Estonian Arts Centre, the charity associated with KESKUS.
Kris Puhvel, who now lives in the Collingwood area, was one participant who was delighted to join local Estonian activities, saying "growing up in Montreal and now living far from the Estonian connections I had there, it's great to find such a vibrant and welcoming community here in my own backyard. I have been following progress on the KESKUS project, and was happy to attend this Vabariigi aastapäev event. I look forward to my kids being part of it all too!"
The room buzzed as old friends caught up and new connections were made. Thanks for organizing the evening go to Heli Vogrin and her team, and to Kadri Munro, Martin Pede, Ellen Valter, Heili Toome and Kristina Kalm.
The event was a great opportunity for the Estonian community in Collingwood to come together and celebrate EV 105. Collingwood is a 2-hour drive from Toronto and with its unique terrain and climate where the Niagara Escarpment meets Georgian Bay, it is a destination for recreation in both summer and winter.
KESKUS International Estonian Centre in downtown Toronto will be a dynamic hub showcasing our rich heritage and promoting Estonian innovation. It will be a vibrant gathering place for Estonians of all generations and backgrounds to connect, celebrate, and share our culture and achievements with each other and the world.
All KESKUS valued donors make a critical difference
Please join our growing list of capital campaign donors. The KESKUS International Estonian Centre’s donor categories are Kalevipoja laud for gifts over $100,000 (including naming rights for specific areas), Koidula gild, which is from $50,000-99,999, Viru vanemad for gifts of $10,000-$49,999, and Kungla rahvas for gifts up to $10,000.
To make a donation, please call +1.647.250.7136 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations may be made as a family gift, or in honour of an individual or family. All Canadian, U.S. and Estonian donations are issued a tax receipt. KESKUS leadership donors are recognized here.
To follow the construction journey and for KESKUS updates: