THUNDER BAY – The goal of building a better Thunder Bay starts right in the neighbourhoods. From 2005 to late 2008 the United Way of Thunder Bay worked on a neighbourhood revitalization project, Action for Neighbourhood Change, in the Simpson/Ogden neighbourhood. They looked at how to build the capacity of the neighbourhood people to tackle some of the areas of priority that they had identified. During this process Evergreen A United Neighbourhood was founded.
In a media release the group states, “In 2006 a local news story came to our attention – A neighbourhood building on Heron Street, that had belonged to a biker gang, had been seized by the police under the Civil Remedies Act. United Way thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to take a building that had a negative impact on our community and make it into a positive place that people from this neighbourhood could use. Initial discussions with the Attorney General’s office began in 2007”.
“Change takes time. In this day and age we often want to see the outcomes of our work quickly, but community building is a long term commitment and working towards community goals is often a slow process,” noted Sandra Albertson, Director of Community Impact with United Way. “When United Way turned over the work we had begun in the Simpson/Ogden neighbourhood to Evergreen, they also took up the task of working on obtaining the Heron Street House for the use of the Simpson/Ogden neighbourhood. Now, finally, five years later, we can announce that community capacity building pays off!”
The neighbourhood group has achieved recently a long time dream of owning their own house. “Welcome to Evergreen’s House,” said Linda Bruins, Coordinator of Evergreen a United Neighbourhood, “A place where we can launch many more dreams, and support our neighbours! We look forward to fixing Evergreen’s House to be a safe welcoming place for the community to gather. We have followed our vision to reuse this house for the good of the community”.
Evergreen’s ‘House’ aims to be a community resource centre and hub. Over the years, and as a result of their expanding programming and activities, the need for permanent and established space has long been required and they are thrilled to have finally achieved this. The ‘House’ will be home to a wide range of important community building initiatives including but not limited to; youth sports program, life-skills training, volunteer opportunities and programming, neighbourhood improvement initiatives and projects, health programs, settlement and newcomer provisions as well as youth engagement opportunities. All of this and more, as a means to improve the neighbourhood’s quality of life and have long lasting impact.
It is also a goal of Evergreen to take this awarded property that formerly diminished the neighbourhood, and develop it to become an exemplary property and institution, adding to the quality and success of the neighbourhood and creating a model for upcoming and future neighbourhood centers and hubs.
Evergreen will to continue their work to create a vibrant, prosperous, inclusive, and resilient community and wishes to thank the many people and organizations that have helped them along the way: The Board of Directors of Evergreen a United Neighbourhood; Tammy Bobyk and the Board and the staff of Shkoday; United Way of Thunder Bay Board of Directors and Staff; Roz and the dream team at Paro; City of Thunder Bay and the many departments who have been involved with this project; Councillor Paul Pugh; Mayor Keith Hobbs and City Council; The Attorney General’s office; MPP Bill Mauro; MP John Rafferty and his staff Margaret Rea and Mary Kozorys; All the wonderful people who signed petitions and wrote letters of support; And the best neighbours who continue to lead them in their work.
United Way President Mike Thompson congratulated Evergreen saying, “There are many people who will benefit from the opportunity to have a place that will house Evergreen and all the programs and services they provide to this neighbourhood. We would also like to thank Evergreen for their efforts that keep the vision of Action for Neighbourhood Change alive. United Way of Thunder Bay is proud to be a part of this accomplishment and to continue to support your efforts. Congratulations and we wish you the very best as you continue to shape the future with the people of this neighbourhood”.