The Stemete7uw’i “A Gathering Place” Friendship Centre has finally found a new home on Birch Avenue.
After months of searching, the friendship centre is relocating to 330 Birch Ave. from its current location behind St. Timothy’s Anglican Church on Blackstock Road. This move is long overdue, said manager and host co-ordinator, Murray Casey.
“The centre needs to be downtown to be accessible to the community,” he said.
The current location on Blackstock Road is out of the way, as well as being attached to a church.
“A lot of people won’t come in because they see the cross on the church,” said Elsie Urquhart, vice president of the Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre board.
One of the things Casey hopes to see happen with the move is someone coming forward to help with the day-to-day operations.
“We’re going to be looking to bring somebody on board because I’m doing everything. I’m doing the host co-ordinator position plus managing, along with Elsie,” he said.
They also hope to bring in some summer students to the new location. There are grants they can apply for that pay for the six to eight weeks of the summer. Ideally, they could bring in young First Nations workers who could get mentoring in a place they feel safe and belong.
The new location does not have a working kitchen at the moment, so cooking isn’t something they can do immediately. Organizers plan to rectify this in the future but say, for now, they can make sandwiches.
Casey said they would like to include the community in their orange shirt days or just welcome people come by and visit.
Somewhere down the road, they would like to offer services similar to the Williams Lake Friendship Centre which has a restaurant and gift shop, he said.
The Williams Lake centre also runs a shelter for those needing somewhere to go for a night plus a transition house for women and children needing a safe place to go, in addition to the apartments made available for low to moderate-income Aboriginal families and single people.
However, these plans for the future all rely upon community support and grants as finances are one of the biggest reasons why Stemete7uw’i remained in its current home until now.
A grant for $30,000 was awarded to the centre by the South Cariboo Community Enhancement Foundation, to help with moving expenses and initial lease costs according to Lisa De Paoli, Foundation vice-president.
The move downtown is the first step in the goals of the centre, said De Paoli.
“It will increase visibility to business and social services and build linkages to business and community,” De Paoli said. “In those partnerships will come opportunities.”
Casey welcomes the donations but said they will need additional funding to pay for the cost of rent downtown.
“We only have allocated dollars for grants right now and if that money runs out we would be shut down,” Casey said. “Most people don’t realize what the true situation is. They think you’re First Nation and you get everything for free. Unfortunately, that’s a myth.”
The centre gratefully accepts donations of any sort. Tuna fish, canned ham and soup are all items that can make a filling lunch for people.
“When people come in we ask for a donation. It doesn’t have to be a lot – after four or five people come in, I’ve got $10 to go buy a package of sandwich meat,” Casey said.
The friendship centre is asking the community for help in their move in October. Anyone wishing to volunteer a few hours or lend a vehicle to help can contact the centre at 250-706-0385 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Any help would be gratefully accepted.
Stemete7uw’i ‘A Gathering Place’ Friendship Centre is open Tue, Wed and Thu from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.