The Thetis Island Forbes Hall expansion project is a prime example of a community pulling together.
The old hall served its purpose, but realistically required a major upgrade to meet the growing needs of the residents. Through several grants and citizen contributions and without the use of any taxpayer dollars, the job is getting done to modernize the facility with many amenities.
The project has been in the works for a few years and undergone some delays, with COVID-19 not helping, but the Thetis Island Community Association is pushing toward the finish line.
“The hall is the heart of the community,” said committee member Tatiana Ishwari Nemchin, who is involved with community engagement and programming outreach as well as helping out with fundraising. “It’s where everything happens, everyone gathers.
“We eat together there, we celebrate and mourn together there. It’s a place where people can come together and see their neighbours.”
Not having the hall available for the last year and a half while undergoing its transition has been an adjustment. People have really been missing it and that emphasizes the valuable role the hall serves.
“It’s really important for peoples’ health and well-being,” noted Nemchin.
“Upon the expansion’s completion, we look forward to people once again coming to enjoy the many activities which take place there.”
And there will be a lot more going on there than before making full use of the additional space and facilities.
The expansion project restarted in earnest in April this year. Poirier Custom Homes took on the contract and quickly got things going again. No extra funding had been found, but there was enough left from previous fundraising efforts to get the building’s exterior finished.
The large working committee reworked into specific groups, taking on their new tasks with energy and focus. By mid-summer, a new fundraising strategy had been developed and the community rallied to the call. Within three months, islanders contributed an additional $230,000 to the project. As well, several islanders committed to loaning funds to help complete the building.
A vote was held in late September to approve borrowing if required. It passed with an 80 per cent majority.
“The membership of the Thetis Island Community Association provides Forbes Hall to the whole of the Thetis Island community,” noted Project Management Team member Ann Dickie. “It is one of the very few community halls in the province that is not funded by taxes.”
The hall is awaiting the arrival of its large entry doors and the installation of the final siding, while the wiring and HVAC have already been installed. The insulation is in and the large crawl space area is close to being ready to move in the library books and other items and get them into a heated, dry space for the winter.
“It is exciting to see the hall’s expansion and renovations almost complete,” added Dickie. “There are a few more months of work to be done before we can welcome the community into their new hall. No one anticipated the breadth of this endeavour at the outset, but the final product is going to be beautiful and will serve the community well for generations to come. The generosity of this island is truly awesome.”
More than $1 million has been raised on an island of just 350 residents.
“Everyone who’s involved is very, very passionate about the project and what it will bring to the community,” said Nemchin.
It’s not just been a concerted financial effort from residents, but also a significant volunteer commitment.
Meetings in garage carports have been one way for committee members to follow COVID-19 protocols and continue their work. “We’re getting very creative,” Nemchin laughed.
“The community’s actually building the centre,” she added. “That makes it very special as well. It just shows people really want it and we need it.”