Guests get a big ‘Well-come’ as The Well re-opens at St. John’s
By Art Babych
Another chapter in the 21-year history of The Well/La Source began Nov. 7 as about 100 people turned out to celebrate the facility’s re-opening in the basement of St. John the Evangelist Church in Ottawa following six months of major renovations.
Among those in attendance were civic and church dignitaries, staff and volunteers, and women who come to the facility for support and validation, some of whom are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
The Well/La Source is a community ministry of the diocese. As a Day Program, it serves about 150 women and children each day.
The renovation and expansion program, which cost over $1.25 million, started last spring follow- ing a successful application to the City of Ottawa for a grant of just over a half million dollars. St. John’s share of the cost was $750,000.
As the facility in the church basement was being renovated, The Well functioned from temporary quarters at Bell Street United Church.
As reported in the June issue of Crosstalk, some of the facilities, including the dining area, kitchen, lounge-resource centre, solitude room, washrooms and a meeting room, are to be shared between The Well and St. John’s. However, The Well will have its own office area, showers-laundry, storage areas, food storage areas, computer room, and clothing distribution section. Five areas will be set aside for the exclusive use of the church.
Councilor Dianne Holmes and Fran Skidmore, representing the women who use the facility, were cheered as they cut a ribbon at the re-opening of The Well in St. John’s.
Ms. Holmes, who was praised for her support of the Day Program, said The Well “is a wonderful organization supported by many groups.” She added, “The women are always welcome and I try to spread the word as much as I can.”
“We have moved into a space that has surpassed all of our expectations,” said Janet McInnes, a staff member at The Well. “It is proof of a hopeful future for women and children who come here each day.” She was speaking in place of Pat Connolly, the Director of the Well, who was unable to attend the celebration because of a serious illness in her family.
Before moving into St. John’s, The Well was a 6-year-old fledgling program involving 35-50 women a day, two staff, many volunteers and very little else, Janet said. “By the year 2000 we had begged borrowed and elbowed our way into pretty much each corner of this basement.
Here we are on Nov. 7, 2005, celebrating the culmination of a series of events that made our vision a reality,” she said. She also thanked the facility’s many supporters and donors, including the Anglican Foundation, which donated $13,200 for a walk-in refrigerator and freezer. There were also many private donations, said Janet.
“It has truly been a collective effort, equipping our centre with the very best of everything,” she said. “We have a centre reflecting more than we ever dreamed of.”
She said there had also been numerous financial donations towards the purchase of many dining tables and chairs, and significant donations towards furnishings in the lounge.
Janet also acknowledged the support of volunteers. “Many of our volunteers are anonymous but they do not go unnoticed,” she said.
Archdeacon Pat Johnston, representing Bishop Peter Coffin, who was unable to attend the event, called the cooperation between The Well and St. John’s “a marvellous partnership to create this wonderful welcoming place, Not only that, but on time and on budget.” To all who made that happen, she said, “congratulations from the diocese.”
Canon Garth Bulmer of St. John’s said the congregation is “delighted to have The Well back.” He said that both St. John’s and The Well have been “labour- ing under great difficulty because of the condition” of the facility before it was renovated. The renovation and expansion program resulted in an extra 4,000 square feet of space being added to the facility.
Garth also praised the “wonderful cooperation” on the project by the government, city, contractor and church.