Nestled inside the old Zellers building at the Brockville shopping centre, Aaron Stevenson's love for music carries on.
When Aaron lost his life after being struck by a vehicle in 2013, his father, Willy Stevenson, knew something had to be done.
"We started having festivals here in Brockville to try and get music into the high schools in the area, and it morphed into what you see here - a lending library," said Stevenson.
The festivals are organized through a foundation called "Do it for Aaron" (DIFA), which has raised more than $60,000 for music programming at local schools.
Now, a new music lending library is open called Aaron's M.I.L.L. (Musical Instrument Lending Library)
"We kind of tried to take it a step further so we can get people in here to learn as well as borrow instruments and make it a safe and welcoming place to go," Stevenson said. "Basically, it's all done through our charity so it's a free service."
With the DIFA music festival on hold due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Stevenson and CEO Chris Hum believe Aaron's M.I.L.L. can still carry on the beat, hoping people interested in learning an instrument will take advantage of what is being offered.
"It's a really mind blowing thing because its free," said Hum beside a donated drum set and a wall of donated guitars. "We're providing an outlet. People get to treat this like their home living room. And a kid who's never seen a drum set before can come in and bang on the drums and play the piano."
Hum said the idea came from other lending libraries in the area.
"My first interaction with a musical instrument lending library was in Kingston, Ontario for Joe's M.I.L.L. They have sponsored different satellite communities that have mills as well—Picton, Sterling, Napanee, Watertown—and we are the latest of that network to open up," he said.
Right now, the team is looking to add new instruments and equipment, and anything is welcome.
"We'd like to be able to expand our collection and be able to lend out more instruments to people to take home and practice," said Hum.
"This first collection actually came from the Kingston M.I.L.L. They gave us a drum set, some guitars and keyboards and a digeridoo," Hum said with a chuckle.
"Every single day, people are bringing in donations, from PA systems, to new electric guitars, to keyboards, and these are some pretty fantastic instruments that are going to create a lot excitement for kids, seniors and anyone else who wants to come in and play within the M.I.L.L.," added hum.
PANDEMIC PROTECTIONS IN PLACE
COVID-19 safety protocols are in place at Aaron's M.I.L.L.. The rooms and instruments are sanitized after every use.
The organizers believe, with the ongoing pandemic, that music can help get people through this tough time.
"Social isolation leads to depression and I just find that if you can get out at least and try to learn an instrument, or at least jam with your buddies, it makes a person feel whole lot better," Stevenson said. "Music definitely helps the soul. I just want to get people out and let them know that it's here and hopefully we can help the people of the community."
"There are a lot of people right now who are facing social isolation issues, whether they are rural or urban," Hum added. "Music is sometimes an outlet for people who are feeling down. We've got a really, really unique operation here and I think we can help a lot of families."
Anyone interested in booking time at Aaron's M.I.L.L. can contact Willy Stevenson through the Do it For Aaron Facebook page.