The KEY Resource Centre will be opening this Friday, July 26 in downtown.
Located next to Integris, the finishing touches were being put on the building as the paper was going to press. The grand opening was scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday to offer the public a chance to come and tour the centre and enjoy some barbecue cooked up by the College of New Caledonia’s (CNC) Professional Cook students.
KEY stands for Knowledge Empowers You, which is the central goal of the project.
“The Key Resource Centre will offer in-house and outreach services with the goal of improving access to education and training for individuals who visit the centre,” said Ann McCormick, regional supervisor for CNC Fort St. James. “This will be done by increasing access to services for their specific needs. The centre’s staff will strive to build connections with the participants to the college and other social service agencies programming.”
McCormick added local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal service providers will be available at the centre, creating an inviting, welcoming, inclusive and culturally sensitive environment for individuals.
Once at the centre, clients can access a computer lab, ask for drop-in academic advising services or even take a course or be directed towards other resources available in the community.
There will be three staff associated with the centre: a coordinator, outreach worker and an academic advisor.
“The idea is to go right into the downtown core,” said McCormick.
The programs at the centre will be free to access and the pilot project is currently funded until May 2013 to see what kind of impact it can make.
An outside evaluator will be assessing the program.
The college-led initiative came to fruition after a study the college did which looked at what marginalized individuals in the community needed to help them get a leg up or access resources.
An application for grant funding from the provincial government to create a drop-in centre was turned down, but in looking for other funding possibilities, McCormick got creative because she saw a need in the community.
While the plan had to change somewhat to be more geared towards a resource centre and funding had to be pulled from different sources, McCormick wanted to see if it was possible.
“It’s really about giving an opportunity to people who want an opportunity,” she said.
Integris has donated the space for the centre for its first year, and Conifex donated the wood needed to renovate the space.
The money for the programming will be coming from funding aimed at training and employment from Enbridge, a step McCormick did not take lightly, given the strong feelings about Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project in the community.
McCormick spoke to the advisory board about this possibility and asked if they felt this need in the community was significant and if people could separate where the money came from with what it can do for the community.
Enbridge will not be involved in the project or its operation in any way, McCormick said they just made some funding available to the college for training and employment initiatives.
“I don’t think it’s political,” said McCormick. She spoke to Nak’azdli Health, the District and members of the Fort St. James Sustainability Group and other stakeholders before going ahead, to make sure the move was not going to create concerns for people.
“It’s about our project and our story,” said McCormick.
She said she wanted to ensure the clients who would be accessing services at the resource centre would be protected from being exploited in any way.
McCormick wants the focus to stay on the centre and the goal of helping to offer people access to resources and see if they will take advantage of them.
“We’re going to try,” she said. “It’s the college going downtown. We’re going to do what we do best: work with community members.”
The centre will have public washrooms but will not be serving food except perhaps for special events, and will not be open in the evening.