ANTIGONISH: Operating inside the walls of the former National Philatelic Centre, an unlikely partnership between the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) and Royal Canadian Legion Branch 59 has already started to garner provincial attention.
Representatives from CACL, the legion in Antigonish, East Coast Credit Union, and all three levels of government celebrated the recently completed renovations to the fully-accessible facility, during an official grand opening on November 30.
Kuli Malhotra, project manager, said this dream has been two years in the making, and recalled in the beginning stages of the project, people loved the concept but questioned its sustainability and how it would work, simply because it had never been seen before.
“But because of the constant drive of the two boards of the Royal Canadian Legion and CACL in Antigonish, as well as our political leaders, everybody supported the idea,” he said. “We hit a few brick walls along the way – but here we are.”
CACL is a non-profit organization that provides residential and vocational programming for people with intellectual disabilities and is a powerful force for good in the town and county of Antigonish through operations coming from their wood shop, bakery, print shop, and laundry services.
Opening their doors last January, Malhotra explained the East Coast Credit Union Social Enterprise Centre was established by operating on a few core objectives; to become a 100 per cent accessible facility; to overcome challenges capacity-wise at both older facilities of the legion and CACL; and increasing the membership to the legion while also securing new clients for the CACL.
In their previous facilities, both of these long-standing community organizations were in aging buildings that were split between two stories, where members couldn’t easily access both levels. For members of the CACL with mobility issues, in order to access the different levels of the building, clients had to go outside and use the sidewalk.
Creating this wonderful space, the CACL and legion branch 59 took a bold step in joining forces by establishing a facility that highlights the true meaning of partnership and cooperation.
Member of Parliament for Central Nova, Sean Fraser, said it’s events like this that remind him what a privilege it is to serve as an elected official.
“It’s hard to wipe the smile off my face today – this project is one I’m incredibly proud of. I remember the very first time we sat down to talk about this project,” he said addressing a standing-room only. “I was excited about it because I could see the passion behind the voices that were bringing this project to the table, and I could see the difference it could make in people’s lives.”
Antigonish MLA, Randy Delorey echoed Fraser’s experience with the project and he saw the original pitch as an obtainable vision that has now come into fruition.
“This I will have to say, being a part of in just a small way of advocating the provincial contribution really is one of the most important accomplishments that I’ve taken away from my time as MLA of Antigonish.”
Jeff Teasdale, executive director of CACL, said the transition into their new home in the East Coast Credit Union Social Enterprise Centre has been truly remarkable.
“We’re very excited; it took a lot of preparation and planning to get here, [but] working with our friends at the legion it’s been a successful partnership.”
In the past month, the unlikely partnership at the East Coast Credit Union Social Enterprise Centre has taken home two significant innovation awards.
The first being the Recreation Nova Scotia Innovation Award from the provincial Communities, Culture and Heritage Department that was presented during the group’s annual conference. The second was an inaugural award from the Coady International Institute that was presented to the food services division of the CACL for new social enterprise.