Bingo hasn’t been called in this building for years, but now the St. Alban Community Center lights up with the sights and sounds of the bingo announcer, ripping cards and bouncing dabbers.
For the first time in years, the St. Alban Over-50 Club is back home.
“We can come and go as we please,” said Edith Organ, who leads the group. “We have our own space, and that makes a big difference.”
Five years ago, the over-50s club was evicted from this building, a side effect of a series of fires started by an arsonist who targeted public infrastructure.
The community school in a nearby community was hit, so students had to move here – and community groups that had taken up residence in the building had to move.
Organ said his band survived thanks to the generosity of the community, but there’s still no such thing as setting your own schedule.
“We went down to the fire station, but it didn’t suit us here because there were times when the fire station had to be used all week,” she said.
“Then we went to the Lions Club, and if they had a paying customer, we had to give up our day. So having our own space… it’s efficient that way.”
The seniors’ club has just moved in, but over the past few months, the St. Alban’s Community Center has slowly been transformed.
Now that the students have moved into their new school, next door, groups who have been in similar positions – making do with whatever other spaces they can find – have moved inside.
The area’s Community Youth Network plans activities for children in the community every weeknight, and the new Bay d’Espoir Community Food Bank has also opened an office.
The town hall is operational, and soon the area’s community heritage group, cadets and legion will also be using the building.
“It’s great to be back,” Mayor Rodney Kendall said. “There’s work to be done to relocate all the groups in the building, find space for everyone, set them up. Everyone is excited to be back, and we can’t wait to get back up and running. at full capacity.”
Having their own space means groups like the Community Youth Network can offer their full range of programs – and can partner with other groups down the hall.
“We partner with the library on many programs, science nights, lecture hall nights and the 50+ club,” said Lisa Willcott, area CYN manager.
“If they’re having a potluck, they bring food to the kids and the kids bake them cupcakes. So, you know, it’s a big community effort.”
She said the group typically sees around 60 different children show up over the course of a week, and they can now deliver their sports, arts and wellness programs with more flexibility.
The five-year wait to return to the community center felt like a long time, but now there is some normalcy in the community.
“It’s been a bumpy five years for some bands. They found spaces to work, and some didn’t work to the extent that they wanted to,” Kendall said. “But they are much better, and we are delighted to have them back with us.”
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