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No, it’s not time to throw in the towel

March 29th,2023 | Valley Voices

By Karen Bays

I am writing as a co-op member of the Centre Wakefield La Pêche (CWLP), in response to Trevor Greenway’s opinion piece in the Low Down (“Wakefield centre needs municipal rescue,” March 22 edition).

Trevor reminded us of the continuing problems with the CWLP and dredged up recent conflict to emphasize the point. He suggested the centre throw in the towel and hand the centre over to the municipality of La Pêche to manage and operate.

Trevor’s solution is an obvious one. Most community centres are municipally-owned and supported by local tax dollars. CWLP is not. It is a not-for-profit cooperative owned by its members and operated according to its bylaws (developed 10-plus years ago) and must conform to the regulations of the C-67.2- Cooperatives Act — Government of Quebec.

The municipality supports the centre through small grants for programs and events, as it does for other centres in La Pêche.

It also finances the municipal library housed within the centre. Many members of the co-op are unaware they are the owners of a multi-million dollar building and are the collective responsible for the operation and practices of the centre. They elect volunteer boards, who are given the daunting task to manage an aging asset, and offer recreation and cultural programs for La Pêche and beyond.

Staff and instructors are hired to support the centre’s broad mandate. Members might believe the centre can finance itself on what it earns in revenue [it] conjures up, but stability is challenging.

In response to some of the challenges facing the centre, a group of concerned co-op members was formed in January to help the centre keep the doors open, support good governance and have a role in planning the future. This Membership Involvement Group is open to all. We are developing a productive working relationship with the centre’s current board. Visit the members page on the centre’s website to find out more.

Picture the centre as a three-legged stool…. The three legs are the members, the board, and the staff/instructors/volunteers. For 10-plus years, the three-legged stool has managed to meet its mandate and obligations. But not without problems and turmoil.

The disharmony and disappointment has been costly to both the centre and the community.

No, Trevor. It is not time to throw in the towel and give up. But, it may be time to consider another leg and become a four-legged stool; one that can take the centre and this community into the future. Perhaps that fourth leg is the municipality. Maybe it’s the MRC, a private partnership, a merger with another organization. What we need is open dialogue, transparency and an engaged membership to address our future decisions and direction.

Karen Bays is a member of the Centre Wakefield La Pêche and the Membership Involvement Group.

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