The of­fi­cial open­ing of a com­mu­nity

Com­ple­tion of River­side Es­tates phase two cel­e­brated

The Casket - - Local - RICHARD MACKEN­ZIE richard­mac@the­cas­

“It takes a vil­lage to build a com­mu­nity.”

That was the line from Antigo­nish Af­ford­able Hous­ing So­ci­ety (AAHS) chair Colleen Cameron which did two things; first, it en­cap­su­lated the feel­ing of co­op­er­a­tion and ac­com­plish­ment for those in the room as phase two of the River­side Es­tates multi-fam­ily com­plex was of­fi­cially opened on Hope Lane Oct. 20. And two, it elicited the largest round of ap­plause dur­ing an event full of hand-clap­ping.

The of­fi­cial open­ing cel­e­bra­tion took place in the spa­cious com­mu­nity room which was part of phase two con­struc­tion. Also part of the phase was 10 rental units added to the four units con­structed in phase one, and opened in March of 2017.

“This is such a won­der­ful day for our com­mu­nity,” Cameron said in a pre­pared state­ment.

“Our so­ci­ety is about more than just build­ing a struc­ture for peo­ple to live in. We are build­ing homes en­abling peo­ple, who live on low in­comes and/or with dis­abil­i­ties, to par­tic­i­pate in shap­ing their own fu­tures, and to feel pride in their homes and in the com­mu­nity they have cre­ated around them.”

That sense of pride was pal­pa­ble when talk­ing to a cou­ple of res­i­dents who were still set­tling into their new units … hap­pily do­ing so.

“I love it,” Colleen Bul­ger, who moved in Aug. 31, said. “It’s so quiet and dust free; the neigh­bours are so friendly. It’s just, all around, a good place to live.”

Bul­ger, who has asthma, said her doc­tor kept in­sist­ing she find a new place to live con­sid­er­ing the dust which would ac­cu­mu­late in her last apart­ment; a base­ment unit in an older home in the area.

“We were vac­u­um­ing ev­ery day and my doc­tor was after me for two years; ‘find an­other place, you can’t stay there,’” she said, quot­ing her doc­tor.

“Here we have the heat pump and air ex­changer and the air is just pure, all of the time. I love it, it’s a dream come true.”

Neigh­bour Doreen Grant de­scribed her place and the com­plex as “beau­ti­ful.”

“There are no other words to de­scribe it … I’m very happy here,” Grant said, not­ing she has been in her new unit for around three weeks.

“I was one of the last ones to move in and I’m very, very happy,” she added. “Ev­ery­one is so nice in the com­mu­nity and that’s what we’re de­vel­op­ing here, a com­mu­nity.”

“Pocket of hope”

Amongst the speak­ers on the day was Sis­ter Stella Chafe rep­re­sent­ing the Sis­ters of St. Martha; a group the other speak­ers pointed to as pro­vid­ing con­stant and in­spi­ra­tional lead­er­ship when it came to an af­ford­able hous­ing project in the com­mu­nity.

Chafe also stressed the word “com­mu­nity.”

“It [the project] touches our deep be­lief in the value of build­ing com­mu­nity,” she said. “We see this project as a pocket of hope in the cen­tre of this com­mu­nity.”

Wayne Ezekiel, pres­i­dent of A.A. Munro In­sur­ance in Antigo­nish, spoke to the so­ci­ety be­ing awarded an Aviva Com­mu­nity Fund last year, which re­ally helped sup­port the con­struc­tion, par­tic­u­larly the com­mu­nity room which was host­ing the cel­e­bra­tion.

“Our com­mu­nity is health­ier to­day be­cause of this project,” Ezekiel said.

Government sup­port from all three lev­els was also noted dur­ing the event and each was rep­re­sented on the day, with the rep­re­sen­ta­tive speak­ing briefly.

“Hous­ing has a ma­jor im­pact on so­cial jus­tice, not just in our com­mu­nity but across Canada,” Cen­tral Nova MP Sean Fraser said.

“It doesn’t take long to fig­ure out, if you ac­tu­ally take time to in­vest in hous­ing, you are solv­ing

a lot of prob­lems that never would have come up in the first place. The cost of ad­dress­ing home­less­ness and hous­ing needs is a lot less than the cost of ig­nor­ing them,” he added.

Antigo­nish MLA Randy Delorey noted the amount of work and time the so­ci­ety has put into the River­side Es­tates project and noted, once they had a lit­tle mo­men­tum be­hind them with government and com­mu­nity sup­port, they were able to ac­com­plish a lot.

“Look at what you’ve done for the com­mu­nity of Antigo­nish,” he said, while ges­tur­ing around the com­mu­nity room to in­di­cate the whole com­plex.

Antigo­nish Mayor Lau­rie Boucher said the project was the main thing she wanted to talk about dur­ing a re­cent meeting with fel­low may­ors from across the province.

“We’re very unique and what makes us unique is the peo­ple we have,” she said. “I know you’ve heard me say this a num­ber of times but I re­ally be­lieve it’s true; we are so for­tu­nate in our com­mu­nity to have such pas­sion­ate, caring peo­ple with big hearts, and with­out their pas­sion and de­vo­tion, we wouldn’t be here to­day.”

Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of the County of Antigo­nish War­den Owen Mc­car­ron talked about the part­ner­ships in­volved in the project and how a qual­ity place to live can help a per­son in so many ways.

“This can pro­vide a great stan­dard of life; a qual­ity home to live in,” he said. “When we think of the so­cial de­ter­mi­nants of health, with think about the im­por­tance of hous­ing in mak­ing all the other pieces more func­tional.”

“Would never get here”

In talk­ing to re­porters after the event, Cameron said get­ting to the point of an of­fi­cial open­ing is “ab­so­lutely phe­nom­e­nal.”

“There were days that we just thought we would never get here, so to be here to­day and see this, the ex­cite­ment, it’s won­der­ful. Also to be talk­ing to the ten­ants, what this means to them, it’s over­whelm­ing. I feel very emo­tional to­day be­cause we have come to this point.”

This point means not talk­ing about ‘phase one and two,’ but just, sim­ply, River­side Es­tates.

“We’re now at River­side Es­tates and this is home to many peo­ple who have never lived in a new build­ing be­fore,” she said. “Some of the ten­ants have come out and said ‘this is it, this is my home, this is where I’m stay­ing.’”

Next up for AAHS is to con­tinue their Hous­ing for Hope cap­i­tal cam­paign to raise money to elim­i­nate debt and make sure River­side Es­tates is sus­tain­able. For in­for­ma­tion on what they have go­ing on, as far as fundrais­ers to help with the cam­paign, visit antigo­nishaf­ford­able­hous­ and/or check out their Face­book page.

Richard Macken­zie

Antigo­nish Af­ford­able Hous­ing So­ci­ety mem­bers, River­side Es­tates res­i­dents and sup­port­ers, gather for a rib­bon-cut­ting cer­e­mony to of­fi­cially open phase two of River­side Es­tates Oct. 20.

Richard Macken­zie

The ex­te­rior of River­side Es­tates’ com­pleted phase two.

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