Letter: Community centres are the galvanizing hub of a town, we need one

To the editor: 

I have lived on Bowen Island for 25 years. Through my years on-island, I have joined various initiatives working toward the building of a community hall – a dream which has been furthered with each groundswell for almost 30 years. It is now within reach. 

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My efforts included being the chair of the Bowen Island Community Centre Committee and the Bowen Community Centre Action Committee (BCCAC) from 2009 to 2012. 

In 2014, the incoming council decided to take over BCCAC’s and created a committee of council, which has led to where we are today – on the brink of this important project becoming a reality. 

The current community centre plans strike the perfect balance of arts, culture, recreation and a municipal hall. But most importantly, the value of “a gathering place” cannot be overstated. It is essential for a healthy community, literally and figuratively. 

Community centres are the galvanizing hub of a town.

As a touring musician for 45 years, I have performed in community halls and centres in thousands of small and large communities across Canada. I have seen first-hand the vital roles they play. 

As the volunteers arrive to set up for the show, the kitchen fills with snacks or potluck dishes and a hum rises as community members gather and greet one another. I am unfailingly moved by how the community hall connect people. How it is the catalyst for community in the place people have chosen to make their home and to raise their families. 

Admittedly, after presenting concerts on Bowen for the past 25 years and believing passionately in the value of art and music to the emotional and psychological well being of people of all ages, I find the inclusion of a properly-equipped performance space with adequate capacity particularly compelling. And to have that space so cleverly designed for multiuse, including larger council meetings, indoor programming for young families and seniors, weddings, celebrations of life, movies, community gatherings, makes it invaluable.

Bowen Island is uniquely situated to invite performers to add Bowen to their itinerary without concerns for it competing with a Vancouver show or it needing to be on a weekend. This has prompted me to develop the “Trust Me” series where I can invite touring artists to add a show here. But the capacity limitations and daunting manpower required to execute a concert in a space not set up for music or theatre can be prohibitive for many shows and certainly for theatre. The ability to import more music and arts to the island serves not only Bowen Islanders but the arts and artists across Canada as well.  

The vision for this facility is a result of three decades of planning. 

Planners have detailed analyses of what would best serve the residents of Bowen Island and a deep understanding of the plethora of benefits of it coming to fruition. The community centre will be the outcome of expert visioning, design and analysis of operational sustainability. 

But this is probably all sounding like rhetoric to you. Here is the important part of what I want to say: we are in a golden situation. We have the potential to get a grant that would provide 73 per cent of eligible funds needed to build our community centre. That money is contingent on being able to show Bowen Islanders’ support for their facility.

I know we all tend to sit back, perhaps somewhat dubiously, and wait to see if they can raise the money. But here’s the deal: this is our community centre.

It’s not up to them – council, the municipality, or whoever you think they are – to build it. It’s up to us. 

We are the community. 

This facility is for you – for us. It is ours. And I will guarantee that when you walk into that building to take that art class, to take that yoga class, to attend your neighbour’s wedding reception, to see your favourite artist that you can’t believe is going to perform right here on your little island, to meet with our seniors group that has become your sustaining social event every the week, to watch your child in in their music class, your heart is going to get a little bigger. Every time you walk through those doors it will grow. It will fill with gratitude that you live in such a special community, that you live around such beauty and bounty. And you will feel proud that you were even a small part of making it a reality. I promise you. 

The time for making your donation or pledge in time to support the Canada Infrastructure Grant Application is now, as the grant will be submitted by January 23.  

For more information:  ourislandplace.com.

To pledge or donate: ourislandplace.com/support.

To download a letter template, or upload letters of support: ourislandplace.com/contact.

-Shari Ulrich

© Copyright Bowen Island Undercurrent

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