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What are people so afraid of?

September 20th,2023 | Valley Voices

By Ellie Wilkinson

As Low Down, editor-in-chief Trevor Greenaway reminded us in his Sept. 13 editorial, “Wakefield centre’s AGM key to its future”, the Wakefield Cooperative Community Centre membership has an important decision to make very soon. Later in the fall, there will be a vote to decide whether we begin negotiations with the municipality regarding ownership and responsibility of the building.

As a resident, cooperative member, regular volunteer, member of MING (membership involvement group) and most recently, an interim cooperative board member, I have given a lot of serious thought to this matter. I recently sat on a governance committee of MING to review the cooperative’s bylaws and a board committee to review the offer from the municipality to take on ownership of the building.

Initially, I was committed to the cooperative continuing to own the building. I was proud that our centre was one of the very few community centres in the country owned and run by the membership. I have many friends who worked hard to get the original 1,000 members necessary to get grants to support building our beautiful community centre.

However, as I talked with many people and came to understand the annual pressure to remain sustainable and find funds to hire staff and care for an ageing building, my opinion has changed. I have been on the committee that has gone over the municipal offer line by line and have made suggested changes and additional asks. I came away from the membership meeting on June 20, when La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux was available to answer questions about the offer, feeling satisfied that the municipality and the cooperative could form a productive partnership.

So I am wondering, what scares people about the municipality owning, maintaining, and repairing the community centre building? The municipality has no desire to run programs and events. They have said they will leave that totally up to the cooperative. The municipality will not throw the very successful Monday Seniors Coffee Club or any other group out on the street. We will still have our library, youth centre, Theatre Wakefield productions, TaDa! Festival, film festivals, movie nights and more! We will still have the rink, skate park, basketball and pickleball courts. We will still celebrate Canada Day, International Women’s Day, the Voulez Vous Coucher Avec Moi hospital fundraiser and many other community events. The sky (or the community) is the limit! We won’t have all the headaches and expenses associated with building ownership.

We will still need a strong, collaborative, dedicated board of directors, keen volunteers, happy, hard-working staff, and an engaged community and membership to keep the centre vibrant. As a former community centre board chair Sally Swan recently wrote, “The centre is not just a building.”

I urge all cooperative members to go to the centre’s website and visit the Future of the Centre page in the “About Us” section, review the documents and the FAQs. Be ready to make an informed decision this fall.

Ellie Wilkinson is a resident of Chelsea.

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