ANTIGONISH, N.S. - Don't mistake the power of positivity.
It's a feeling that’s obvious to anyone stepping into the shared lobby of the Royal Canadian Legion Arras Branch 59 and the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) in Antigonish. The two organizations recently teamed up and relocated to 75 St. Ninian St.
The right side of the lobby is filled with artifacts, pictures and other wartime items, smartly displayed in the legion's museum. It’s a space that honours veterans while giving visitors the sense they've entered a thoughtful place.
Take a few steps further and the smell of fresh coffee and baked treats lures you to the CACL café. And if the aromas don't get you there, the smiles and warm greetings of CACL workers will.
And the workers, like swimmer Jessica Gillis, who recently competed in the Special Olympics 2018 Summer Games, are happy to be there.
“Here, it’s better,” Gillis says.
Gillis does the cooking in the new facility and appreciates it’s bigger and newer than the old facility, located just across the street.
Her CACL co-workers, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Haley, agree, noting they both have more work opportunities with the new building, which leads to the chance to make more money.
“I can save more money,” Murphy said, as Haley nods enthusiastically in agreement.
CACL staff member Nick Boutilier supervises the café and noted the move provided him with more opportunities too.
“More space, personally, and it has led to new responsibilities for me, such as supervising the café,” he said.
“It’s a lot more opportunities with new training for job skills for our participants. Especially in the café, we have quite a few working in there. They’re starting to learn to do the cash and customer service, which will give them more opportunities to go on to other jobs. It acts as a training field to help them towards other opportunities.”
And it's opened new doors aw well.
“We’ve ventured into catering, doing weddings and things like that. Conferences during the day, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., we’ll do the catering and all the food services for that. Participants are doing the serving, clearing the dishes, setting up the table clothes, just doing the whole event side of it. They are earning more money and really enjoying it.”
Survive and thrive
The CACL and local legion solved a shared problem of needing more space and upgraded buildings by coming together and repurposing the former national philatelic building. It's a move that has not gone unnoticed - not around the province, nor the country.
“(Prime Minister) Trudeau talked about it during his visit (in July),” CACL executive director Jeff Teasdale said during a recent announcement regarding the facility.
“Two organizations coming together under one roof; so if we have his attention, we have everyone’s attention.
“(Central Nova) MP Sean Fraser is looking at sharing what we’ve done here across Canada so that not-for-profits can rebrand themselves, bring agencies together to not only survive, but thrive.”
Legion manager Alex Cameron said the organization had previously talked with other organizations about coming together for a move, but once the legion approached CACL, it was obvious it had found its match.
“The CACL was willing to put in the time and effort to make this happen,” Cameron said.
“There were a lot of ups and downs; the project was stalled a few times and brought back to life. And if it wasn’t for the tenacity of the leaders of the organizations, I don’t think this project would have been done.”
Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher said it’s a unique partnership but that should change as it becomes a model for other non-profits.
“When we were at the grand opening (for the legion section), we did hear one of the provincial leaders of the legion say other legions are going to have to look at a model like this in order to be sustainable,” Boucher said. “This really is a partnership that works well.”
Did you know?
The East Coast Credit Union recently announced it is supporting the organizations’ move with a $100,000 contribution.
In turn, the credit union will receive naming rights for the building, now called the East Coast Credit Union Social Enterprise Centre.
“It’s huge for us; it’s the largest non-government donation we’ve received, so it’s very, very humbling,” Teasdale said, adding the two groups were competing with other deserving organizations from across Atlantic Canada.
“They’ll see the social return on that investment for sure.”
Mary Oxner, chairwoman of the East Coast Credit Union board of directors, said she was “delighted” to support the union “of these two great organizations.”
“They both help so many people in our community,” Oxner said. “This is a fantastic representation of what community can be.”