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Funding for downtown bench honouring the Park Bench Players

Town of Antigonish recreation director Tricia Cameron, and Mayor Laurie Boucher, with members of the Park Bench Players Verna MacDonald, [front left], Fran Nunn and Louise Hall.
Town of Antigonish recreation director Tricia Cameron, and Mayor Laurie Boucher, with members of the Park Bench Players Verna MacDonald, [front left], Fran Nunn and Louise Hall. - Contributed
ANTIGONISH, N.S. —

The Town of Antigonish recently received a boost to its funding efforts to make the downtown area all the more welcoming, and honour those who struggle with mental health issues.

The town received funding for a new dedicatory bench destined for the downtown area, from two sources that deemed its cause honourable.

“The idea for the bench project came to life after some conversations with members of the Park Bench Players cast at the Engage Antigonish community consultation sessions,” wrote Kate Gorman, marketing and communications officer with the Town of Antigonish.

The Park Bench Players are a community-based acting troupe who perform to raise awareness of and lessen the stigma around mental illness. Their work celebrates the lives and contributions of people who live with chronic mental illness.

The members of the Park Bench Players commended the sense of community in Antigonish, Gorman noted, adding they, “missed feeling like a part of the community and being able to sit and be a part of the downtown and talk to their neighbours.”

In honour of that feeling of community, the town decided to create a space that could foster the same feeling in the downtown core, on Main Street.

The town considered various options and became aware of a grant opportunity with the Frank Cowan Company Home Town program. The company agreed to provide the town with $1,500 in funding for a new bench.

The Arthur J. Gallagher Foundation decided to contribute as well, matching the Frank Cowan Company’s donation, bringing the total donation amount to $3,000.

The town, with its windfall of support, made plans to bring a new bench in the spring, Gorman noted.

“The bench is a dedication to the incredible Park Bench Players and is an initiative supporting those in our community who live with mental illness,” Gorman wrote.

It’s the hope of the town that the bench project will “spread a message of empathy and understanding, while promoting the importance of the health and well-being of our community, as well as creating an inclusive environment,” she wrote.

The town plans to purchase a bench, rather than have one built on site, so that it will fit the same style as other local dedication benches.

“The town will also be installing a plaque to commemorate the dedication to the Park Bench Players and will include amenities, like waste receptacles, to ensure that users’ breaks are comfortable,” Gorman said.

To determine where the bench will be installed, town staff and representatives for the Park Bench Players did a walkabout through Main Street and chose a number of locations they thought suitable for the bench.

Gorman noted the town is reviewing those locations and, with public works, will determine where the best and safest location is for installation.

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