Construction of the Inverness Community Leadership Centre (ICLC) got underway earlier this month.
“They have already done the prep work and now they have started actually tearing and rebuilding, so it is very exciting,” Municipality of the County of Inverness councillor Jim Mustard said in a recent interview with the Casket.
“It is a big-time milestone that has been a few years in the design stage, and of course the funding, which is always a more challenging part to put together with regards to our rural communities right now.”
Following the comprehensive design phase period Mustard mentioned, which involved the Inverness Cottage Workshop and the Inverness Early Years Co-op – the primary tenants for the new complex, work began on the first of the two-phase project.
The $3.5 million capital building project includes a $2.2 million price tag for the first phase, which involves the purchase of the 1.4 acre property and the renovation of the historic mine pay office, known in the Inverness community as the Hoff.
A press release announcing the start of construction said the first phase will provide space for the Inverness Cottage Workshop’s social enterprises and pro-grams, as well as space for the co-ordination of the development of the Early Years Centre.
Phase one will bring the Inverness Cottage Workshop’s bakery, used clothing store, general contracts and personal development programs into the newly-designed and renovated two floors, which cover 7,800 square feet.
“In our small communities, we work pretty hard at a number of different jobs and this has been one project that’s taken a fair amount of focus from a number of different people’s leader-ship,” Mustard said, adding “it is a real celebration of that commitment over time.”
Roclan Construction, a division of DORA Construction in Sydney, is the contractor for the first phase.
As for the main tenants of the ICLC, as its website describes, the Inverness Cottage Workshop (ICW) was established in 1981 as a community-based, non-profit developmental centre, with the goal of serving 10 to 12 adults with intellectual disabilities through a bakery and a woodworking program.
In 1992, the ICW purchased a refurbished CNR storage building from the local Kinsmen Club, which continues to serve as the organization’s main location.
In 2009, with federal funding, the ICW conducted a research project to identify potential new business areas. Following that, the organization opened a used-clothing store and started a vil-lage market during the summer months.
The ICW has seven full-time staff and 30 clients, who participate in daily programs, including in the bakery, used-clothing store and village market, along with shredding and recycling.
In 2010, the Inverness Early Years Cooperative was incorporated, “after two years of engagement in a community development process around understanding the importance of early human development and how we can better respond to the needs of families with young children in our region,” according to the group’s website.
Run by the community for its children, membership in the Inverness Early Years Co-op is open to everyone.
The centre supports the maternal and paternal health (physical and mental) of mothers and fathers, fosters family, caregiver and community involvement, optimizes infant health and development, offers accessible early learning and childcare programs and connects seamlessly into the formal school system.
“We are, in rural communities, working hard to figure out what’s needed most in our communities to actually address some of the issues around keeping our population healthy, especially the 20 to 40 year olds,” Mustard said, in talking more about what the ICLC will help provide.
“This is taking, as we have said be-fore, an organization that has 30 years of doing great work in the community with adults with intellectual disabilities and creating meaningful employment and opportunities for them.
“We are moving them uptown as a real hub for social innovation and we are adding to it with the Early Years,” Mustard added.
He noted there are also talks about making fitness and business centres part of the complex.
“So, just a lot of good ideas that are now coming together around this as a real hub for the community,” Mustard said.
After completion of the first phase, which is scheduled for early 2016, the second one will begin shortly after, providing space for the ICW’s café, business services and fitness room, as well as the “full services and programs” of the early years co-operative.
“I think that, in light of what we’ve been given in the Ivany commission’s report about the challenges we face – in terms of dealing with the demographics and improving our attitude to work together, the last couple of years in our county especially, but I also think east-ern Nova Scotia, we have really taken this on – the idea of working more collaboratively together as a process,” Mustard said.
“I do think this is a testament to what we can bring to the table and I would hope that’s something we can celebrate together from the whole eastern region of Nova Scotia.”
Mustard said the Inverness Chase the Ace fundraiser is an example of that – “everyone coming together and working towards making that a success.”
“Which is also celebrating the things that we do best, which is co-operating,” he added.
For more about Inverness Cottage Workshop, phone (902) 258-3316 or visit invernesscottageworkshop.ca
The Inverness Early Years Co-op can be contacted at 902-295-0974 or [email protected] Also, for information, visit invernes-searlyyears.org