Humboldt’s Community Gathering Place planning future

HUMBOLDT — Since the pandemic began, the Humboldt Community Gathering Place, a community space for public and private events, has for the most part closed down, with a few exceptions made.

Still using the space are the Humboldt Soup Kitchen, a room rental by the Horizon School Division, and private bookings that stay within number restrictions and are individually reviewed by the Gathering Place board.

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“A very progressive contract we negotiated with the Soup Kitchen and through the Horizon School District, which is still utilizing space in the building – that’s how we managed to stay on top of the bills,” said David Bleakney, the board’s chair.

“It’s a challenging time, we truly are fortunate to be in the position we’re in.”

While using the facility, the Humboldt Soup Kitchen, Horizon School Division and the private  rentals each have their own areas within the building as well as a washroom that’s for their group specifically.

“Access and egress is by separate doors for each organization and there is no overlap,” he said. “That takes care of the pandemic side.”

When the pandemic started the board had $20,000 as what Bleakney called a “cushion.”

“After everything is still said and done, we’re still $20,000 in the bank,” he said.

“I’m fortunate to have the board members that I do have that are invested in seeing the facility be there for tomorrow.”

Outside of rentals, other funds included a $1,400 donation from BHP, and additional fees from the Horizon School Division to assist with sanitization.

Added expenses throughout the year included a sidewalk replacement.

One of the cutbacks included laying off the facility manager, whose duties were split between the board.

Bleakney said that before the building opens again they will be collecting membership dues and putting that towards building maintenance including work on the furnace, roof, air conditioning, refrigerator servicing, descaling the dishwasher, new supplies and more.

 “The next major expense I can see coming down the pipe are shingles, because the last two windstorms have done damage to the roof.”

When the restriction guidelines are lifted and the Gathering Place is able to hold more events, Bleakney said they have the intent to continue shifting its focus to getting a more broad variety of community gatherings from all age groups.

“We’re hopefully looking at becoming more than just a seniors’ centre,” he said. “We’re looking hopefully to get to the point where we’re a full on community centre where the building actually gets used by families, and the younger generation in the evenings.”

This includes the hiring of a new facility manager to help facilitate running programs through the building.

Bleakney said in hosting the space but not offering programs, when the pandemic did hit it meant they didn’t apply for any relief benefits.

“There is the biggest problem we had, because we don’t physically run any programs we qualified for no assistance.”

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