IRON MINES: L’Arche Cape Breton proudly announced the grand opening of their long-awaited and fully accessible Gathering Place during a ceremony in front of a full-house of 200 people on October 23.
Josie MacEachern, L’Arche Cape Breton development coordinator, said the $1.3 million, 3,650 square foot community centre was envisioned as a building where L’Arche could show what they do in the rest of the community.
“We operate as well as the six houses, we have seven day programs – six full-time and one that runs in the summer,” she said. “Those day programs include two used-clothing stores, a craft studio, an organic garden, a café and a bakery.”
The Gathering Place will give L’Arche Cape Breton’s community members – a group of about 80 people, 25 of whom are adults living with disabilities – a brand new venue to showcase their talents.
Whether that’s artwork hanging in the gallery that has been made in a workshop at their art studio the “Angel’s Loft,” to a farmer’s market that would sell the surplus of vegetables grown in their organic garden, MacEachern said hopefully The Gathering Place will act as a catalyst for people to go visit their storefronts in Orangedale and Iron Mines.
Beyond that, L’Arche Cape Breton did not have accessible office space to offer their community members.
“So we thought lets add accessible office space so that people that depend on wheelchairs for their mobility can visit the leader of the community in his office, or visit the finance manager in her office, because they didn’t have that ability before because it was upstairs,” MacEachern said. “This was their home, and they should’ve had the right to visit the finance manager or the community leader in their offices – so now we do.”
The Gathering Place is truly a model of accessibility, and will be a place to welcome friends, a place to celebrate with each other, and a place to illustrate the mission of L’Arche; that people are all of equal value, we all have unique gifts and can all make important contributions.
“We will use it for training sessions, professional development sessions, and we’ll also use it for community gatherings,” MacEachern said. “Our community meets twice a month and there can be upwards of 80 people in the room.”
For over 35 years, L’Arche Cape Breton has served people with intellectual disabilities, recognizing that everyone deserves the opportunity to live their own unique life to the fullest. With a vision of inclusion, the organization focuses on what people can do, not on what they can’t.
Mukthar Limpao, executive director and community leader of L’Arche Cape Breton said The Gathering Place will be a place that will be a reminder to the importance of inclusion.
“The importance that every single person in our society has something to contribute,” he said. “People with disabilities have something to contribute, and I think that’s one of the biggest things in why this space is needed.”
The Gathering Place is a direct response to a call, the same call the founders of L’Arche responded to in its beginnings, Limpao said.
“I believe our call is to work together towards a more human society, celebrating the value of each person, believing that each of us have something to contribute, and to recognize our need for one another,” he said. “I’m grateful to have a physical space, our Gathering Place to remind me of this call.”