Southend Com­mu­nity Cen­tre set­tles into new home

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page -

Southend Com­mu­nity Cen­tre mov­ing to for­mer Mira Road school.

When the Southend Com­mu­nity Cen­tre was es­sen­tially de­stroyed in the Thanks­giv­ing Day flood, few peo­ple were as deeply af­fected as Angie Mac­Don­ald.

Not only had she worked at the build­ing on Hil­lview Street in Sydney’s south end for the past 16 years, she met her hus­band, raised her chil­dren and formed some of her clos­est friend­ships there. That’s why this week’s move into the cen­tre’s new home in the for­mer Mira Road ele­men­tary school has been par­tic­u­larly emo­tional.

“I had a very close at­tach­ment and when the cen­tre was gone, I felt like a part of me kind of left,” said Mac­Don­ald, the cen­tre’s ad­min­is­tra­tor and pro­gram man­ager. “And this has kind of given me a new outlook, kind of like a new be­gin­ning. Just in the last week I’m so happy, I have more en­ergy, be­cause I know I have a good new se­cure place to go.”

And af­ter a brief tour on Tues­day, it’s not hard to see why she’s so de­lighted.

Even though it’s just the sec­ond day they’ve ac­tu­ally been op­er­at­ing out of their new home on Ge­orge Street next to the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Hos­pi­tal, and ren­o­va­tions are still un­der­way, the cen­tre is alive with the sounds of laugh­ter and chil­dren play­ing.

In dif­fer­ent sec­tions of the hall­ways kids in the af­ter­school pro­gram are play­ing bean­bag toss and rolling balls at colour­ful bowl­ing pins made out of two-litre soda bot­tles, while oth­ers are shoot­ing hoops and sit­ting around on the stage chat­ting in the spa­cious gym.

Of course it wasn’t an easy six months. Af­ter the flood, the cen­tre op­er­ated out of an old church on Spruce Street in Sydney, but space was tight and re­sources were lim­ited. Then in Jan­uary, a week af­ter their old home in the for­mer Wood­ill school went un­der the wreck­ing ball, the prov­ince an­nounced it was re­claim­ing the school from the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and leas­ing it to the Southend Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion for $1.

“It’s been a bru­tal jour­ney — I won’t lie,” said Mac­Don­ald.

“It’s like mov­ing into a new home with no fur­ni­ture — you’re start­ing all over. But the kids love it, we love it, the staff is happy and our vol­un­teers are happy that we’re here. It’s been a great tran­si­tion.”

The new build­ing also has sev­eral ad­van­tages. The gym is al­ready draw­ing in­ter­est from floor hockey games and drama groups, and the school, which has been empty since clos­ing in June, has a large grassy play area with soc­cer nets and plenty of play­ground equip­ment. The build­ing also has about 13 rooms, in­clud­ing a large taek­wondo dojo that was once three sep­a­rate class­rooms.

The re­sponse from the chil­dren has been over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive, said Mac­Don­ald, in­clud­ing Daniel MacDougall.

“I was sad about the other build­ing be­cause I had a lot of mem­o­ries there but now we’re on to big­ger and bet­ter things,” said the 10-year-old Sydney res­i­dent. “We didn’t have basketball nets at the other place and there’s a big­ger back yard I think. It’s nice.”

Mac­Don­ald said now that they’re set­tling into their new home, they want to hear from com­mu­nity-based, non-profit ac­tiv­i­ties and or­ga­ni­za­tions that need a space to set up.

“We want the doors to be re­volv­ing — dif­fer­ent pro­grams and lots of peo­ple us­ing the build­ing,” she said. “It’s a per­fect lit­tle spot for com­mu­nity pro­grams.”

The cen­tre will hold its of­fi­cial grand open­ing in early Septem­ber. In the mean­time, any­one in­ter­ested in us­ing the cen­tre can con­tact Mac­Don­ald at 902-574-6269 or on its Face­book page.

Brady Day watches in­tently af­ter shoot­ing a basketball at the hoop dur­ing the Southend Com­mu­nity Cen­tre af­ter-school pro­gram Tues­day. Look­ing on are af­ter-school worker Mikayla Mac­Don­ald, from left, Ty Mac­Don­ald, Anna Lawand and af­ter-school worker Erica MacNeil. The cen­tre, which lost its for­mer home on Hil­lview Street dur­ing the Thanks­giv­ing Day flood, now op­er­ates out of the for­mer school on Mira Road. $"1& #3&50/ 1045



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