News

Scotland Community Centre born from closed school

By Michael-Allan Marion, Brantford Expositor

SCOTLAND – Public benefactors could not have chosen a more idyllic place to build a community centre in the repurposed building of a closed school, on a height of land overlooking rolling hills and farm fields.

That was the central message in the remarks of dignitaries in the official opening on Saturday of the Scotland Community Centre on Simcoe Street. The nearly $500,000 project represented the repurposing of the closed St. Anthony Daniel School as a facility that allows groups to hold meetings and events, and a children’s centre, all created by Brant County, the Optimist Club of Scotland and District, and Just 4 Moms and Kids Children’s Centre .

“This is an outstanding day. This is an outstanding building,” Brant Mayor Ron Eddy told more than 50 people in a ceremony outside the main entrance.

“Ask the Optimist Club, ask the county staff, ask the council. Members of council are pleased. Nobody can say we didn’t do something right, because we did. Look at it.”

Brantford-Brant MP Phil McColeman pointed to both the building on one side and a rolling vista of farm fields, hills and bright, sunny skies to the east.

“We couldn’t want for a better building on the most beautiful landscape in the county,” he said.

“People coming together as a community make beautiful things happen.”

Brant MPP Dave Levac mixed memory with a view of the future.

“It’s not lost on me that this is a repurposed asset that served so many people and will again,” he said.

Levac recalled that as a guidance counsellor early on in a former career as a teacher, St. Anthony Daniel was on his list of schools to visit students.

“This isn’t just a view. It’s a symbol. People are not going to drive by and see and empty building. They are going to see a vibrant community.”

Optimist Club president Ted Shelegy said the organization was proud to participate in the project.

“It makes a nice community complex to serve all members of the public,” he said.

“It’s not always an easy decision. Sometimes these things end up costing the taxpayers money, but in other ways, it can also generate revenue.”

Harry Sutton, Optimist district member, said it was a pleasure for members to work with local councillors Robert Chambers and David Miller and county staff on plans for the new facility.

“We had a council that made a difference and made it happen,” he said.

“If we want, we can all make this the place all it can be.”

Emily McGrattan, of Just 4 Moms, said the project came at the right time for the organization.

“We were in an old house just down the road at 51 Simcoe St. It served us well but we needed to expand. When an opportunity came up to move here, we jumped at it.”

Just 4 Moms is licensed for 85 and serves children from infants to 12 years old.

One challenge the group is glad to have is the need to hire more people to serve that facility that is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday.

“The need is here,” said McGrattan. “If anyone is interested we’ll listen.”

More information on Just for Moms is available on its website at www.j4mk.com.

When county council’s corporate development committee first considered the county taking over the building from the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board, it gave the nod to a business plan in October 2015 to repurpose the closed school with a site of renovation projects for the community centre and the children’s centre.

In June 2016, council approve a recommendation to sign a 10-year commercial lease with Just 4 Moms and Kids Co-operative Crop. To lease 8,145 square feet of space to run a children’s centre. The lease would run from Jan. 1, 201 to Dec. 31, 2026.

The cop-op was to make a one-time contribution of $115,000 toward capital improvements to the facility and occupy the west end of the building. Just 4 Moms also had to make monthly contributions of $3,300.

In a tour, county recreation supervisor Stacey Ellins showed a combined seniors centre/youth centre which will open on Oct. 31 with combined purpose rooms.

The county partnered with the Scotland Baptist Church, which will supply volunteers for regular, county program activities, and will put on other programs of its choosing in the centre.

“They reached out with their ideas, and we had ideas and programs” said Ellins.

“It was a good fit.”

One of the Baptist Church’s functions is a youth dance.

In the Optimist office room, Dianne Patenade, the group’s public relations officer, said members are glad the centre’s operations are off the ground.

“It’ssomething close to everyone’s heart,” she said.

“Many people came here as teachers or as students when it was a school. Now they have lots of reasons to come again.”

MMarion@postmedia.com

@expMarion