The Althorpe-Bolingbroke Community Association (ABCA) will be holding an open house on Saturday, Nov. 24 from 2 to 4 p.m. to welcome the community to its hall, and revitalize interest.
The hall’s diner’s club will be in attendance, with entertainment for the kids, yoga demonstrations and, reportedly, a visit from Santa Claus.
The open house is part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the hall, which has gone through a lot in the last several rebuilding years.
“We are not there yet,” said Martin Yates, president of the Althorpe-Bolingbroke Community Association. “It was supposed to take about one year. It took two…(But) we are serving the community and we are not just a club serving the hall,” said Yates, during the Tay Valley Township committee-of-the-whole meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
“Bottom line, we’ve made a good start, but we have many challenges ahead,” said Yates. Never more does Yates want to hear this oft-heard comment: “I’ve lived here 25 years and I never knew what went on here (at the hall). That’s the first time I went through those doors. We hope to hear that less and less.”
There were several problems facing the club in 2010, including:
Not being well known
Little appetite for new initiatives amongst members
Few volunteers for leadership roles
“We had to make some changes or the club would likely close,” said Yates bluntly. So, the decision making process was decentralized, and new members were brought on board, with an eye towards expanding a new range of activities. Progress was made between 2011-12, with existing members hanging on to offer guidance. The board now has two committees and a board of directors, with improved word-of-mouth publicity and an active rentals program at the hall. The association will also be launching new surveys and conducting interviews to identify community needs.
“Rentals have doubled in the last two years,” Yates said proudly, with membership having doubled to 28 in the last two months.
Yates admitted that families with young children had been neglected service and programming wise in years past.
“We know children are there. We see the school buses,” he joked. “We are reaching out to parents.”
One such youth programming change has been a religious program for youth every Saturday afternoon, as well as a welcome program for new residents to the area.
Even before a single survey or interview question has been asked though, Yates has already heard an earful from the community about what they did not like at the old hall.
“The dancers were too loud, it was too crowded and people didn’t like country and western music,” said Yates.
Sadly, as the hall has grown more popular, some former tenants have had to move on to accommodate the growth, such as Victoria’s Quilts, which has since moved to Perth.
“They became too successful,” he quipped. “They had a waiting list for people,” and had outgrown their hall surroundings.
“It was a bit of a sad day for us,” said Yates. “They started in our hall.”
The hall costs the ABCA about $13,000 a year to run, and their financial targets for 2012-13 include entering into a “break-even” scenario.
Yates stressed that the hall was not competing with the township hall, “but we are offering the same rates.”
Township planner Noelle Reeve informed Yates that The Table food bank in Perth was looking to expand its advocacy and food preparation activities out into the wider community, and asked if they could contact him about a possible partnership of some sorts. Yates replied with an emphatic yes.
“That’s the kind of activity that can be of help to everyone,” he said.
“(ABCA has had) amazing strides to reorganize their community,” said Coun. RoxAnne Darling. “They’ve made great strides.”
“I’d like to applaud you all,” said Tay Valley Township Deputy Reeve Susan Freeman, who has lived in Bolingbroke for the past 18 years.