The “Miracle on 8th Street” threw opens its doors on Saturday and welcomed in the public.
REACH Centre Grey Bruce held its first major public event since renovations were completed on its year-old facility that has been a game changer for the organization and the individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities that it serves.
“By showcasing the centre it helps with awareness, education and inclusion,” Executive Director Jennifer Miller said Saturday morning during a lull after the initial flurry of visitors. “We want to share this amazing resource the community has now, because it is kind of neat to have this right downtown Owen Sound.”
The REACH Centre reopened at its new location at 369 8th St. E. in the spring of 2021, but Saturday was the first chance staff, volunteers and participants were able to really show it off to the public through their spring plant and tag fundraising sale.
The building, which has served as a used clothing store and electronics store in the past, was purchased in 2020 after the organization sold the Grey Granite Club, which it had received as a donation from Northridge Property Management. The hope was to renovate the former curling rink for their needs, but it was deemed too cost prohibitive.
Prior to moving into the new centre, the organization had been at the Georgian Shores United Church education centre, but when the pandemic hit it closed and they had to find another location to serve participants. They spent some time at the New Life Centre, then at a space provided by the Lutheran Church of our Saviour, but in both situations they had to eventually leave as those spaces were again needed for other purposes.
The new location has been welcomed by the organization and its participants as they needed a more permanent home to provide their programs and offer the much-needed respite to caregivers and families. Its more than 4,000 square feet has been completely demolished and repurposed.
Miller said the stability the centre now provides to the participants is huge, while events like Saturday’s will help them with the anxiety and fear brought on by the pandemic.
“We are still learning about what the impact COVID has had on this population because they can’t articulate their needs the same way,” said Miller. “There is a significant concern with mental health because there is an appalling lack of resources for that. That is another big thing we are looking at and working on is to support this population and navigate the re-integration with community.”
The shiny new centre includes a wide open accessible teaching kitchen, a life skills and technology room, an art and creative expressions area, fitness and wellness room, and a learning retail shop. Outdoors there is a fenced and shaded courtyard with a large colourful mural done by local artist Billy Goodkat, where program participants can do outside activities like yoga. A new flower cart selling fresh-cut flowers has recently been added as part of the retail shop, which can also be accessed online.
“It is fairly unique in that there is not another option for this population to have something like this,” Miller said.
They are also working on partnering with different organizations to maximize the utilization of the centre by offering meeting space and rental opportunities.
“This should really be a community resource because the community made this happen and we are trying to be mindful of that,” Miller said.
On Saturday, the public was invited in to purchase plants that had been donated by centre participants, caregivers and families, as well as the various creations in the retail shop, including artwork, crafts, soaps, dried goods and baking. They could also tour the facility and meet and talk to volunteers and centre participants.
Miller said the program participants worked very hard to prepare for the opening and it was very special for them to showcase that work.
“They have ownership of this agency’s success and since we don’t get government funding we do rely on the community very heavily,” Miller said. “This is an opportunity also for them to showcase all their talents and all their skills and all the amazing gifts they have to share, and they are really, really proud of that.”