Since taking over the 72-year-old school building several years ago, the Juniper Community Center board members and volunteers, with the support of good friends, have worked tirelessly to improve the structure and make it welcoming to everyone.
On Saturday, November 20, the center celebrated the completion of its latest $ 26,000 project, which added a ramp and larger deck leading to its main entrance and a chairlift on the interior staircase to its main floor.
â€œIt looks great and has already made it possible for people with limited mobility to come to the center for their meals and to participate in small gatherings,â€ said Juniper Community Center board chair Barb Somerville.
She and other board members and volunteers gathered at the center on Saturday to welcome and thank those who made the most recent project a reality. In addition to showing visitors what their donations have accomplished, the event provided special guests with a lunch and a tour.
Somerville thanked benefactors for the event, including Woodstock businessman Eric Cummings, owner of E. Cummings Contractor, and his father, Glen Cummings. Elder Cummings, who depends on a walker, was able to attend the event, thanks to the new ramp and chairlift.
Somerville said Eric provided unsolicited financial support for the project. Although he has no direct ties to Juniper, the Woodstock businessman said he has long known the community, the hub and the importance of the project in making the building accessible to everyone.
Jason Limongelli, vice president of JD Irving, Limited Woodland Division, and Scott Carpenter, director of Juniper Tree Nursery, attended the event as they have hosted many celebrations for the center over the years.
Somerville described JD Irving, the New Brunswick business giant with a strong presence in the Juniper area, as a â€œsteadfast friendâ€ of the center since its inception.
She said the companies, management and employees of JDI have provided generous financial support, manpower and equipment to the Juniper Community Center in its efforts to update and modernize the building.
Limongelli said Irving Woodlands is big employers in many small communities like Juniper and does what it can to support the people who live and work there.
He said his company maintains close ties with the centre’s board of directors and volunteers and often uses the building for corporate functions.
Consultant for the Sports and Recreation Branch of the New Brunswick Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, Kent Kuhn joined the small group.
Somerville said Kuhn had been instrumental in helping the council apply for available government funding grants. She said the province has provided a grant of $ 10,000 to support the project to improve accessibility at the center.
Somerville said the Northern Carleton Community Foundation, another great friend of the center, contributed $ 10,000 to the project.
She said the centre’s board and volunteers have been grateful for the strong support from individuals and businesses for nearly a decade. Two plaques hung in the main hall on the second floor of the center bear witness to a large number of benefactors.
She pointed out the upgraded sound system, big screen TV and other items donated by friends at the center. Looking out the window at the old school’s backyard, Somerville said the financial and in-kind support was providing playground equipment for the old playground.
Beyond the playground, she said, a walking trail through the woods adds to the experience for visitors to the center.
Inside the center, visitors can browse the History Hall, full of photos, artifacts, and information about the old school and community heritage.
They can shop at second-hand clothing and knick-knacks stores. From early spring to fall, the center serves a homemade breakfast from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and breakfast from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturdays.
Somerville said the center will serve its final meals before closing for the season this Saturday, November 27.
Through provincial and federal youth employment programs, the center employed four young people to keep the center open daily between June and September.
Somerville said the center is furnished to host various shows, seminars, meetings and special events.
While COVID-19 wiped out almost all activity from the center last year, it has rebounded somewhat this year. It was able to open to the public, but Somerville said the center maintains COVID protocols, including a mask warrant and proof of vaccination.
Somerville said it was especially important to welcome Glen Cummings to Saturday’s event, noting that he is the type of person who will benefit from the centre’s latest project.
She said the board considers it essential that people with reduced mobility have access to social events, shows and other assets at the center.
While the ramp and chairlift allow full access to the center’s ground floor, the narrow stairs to the third floor make it impossible to install an elevator. Still, Somerville said, most of the centre’s public events and social gatherings take place on the second floor.
In addition to the ramp, a larger terrace and a chairlift, the project provided new entrance doors to better insulate the old building.
â€œThis is part of our ongoing efforts to make this 72-year-old building more energy efficient and easier to heat,â€ she said.
She said the board had previously replaced the back door for the same reason. Other major projects included a new roof and basement insulation.
She said the next step is to get mini-splits for the basement.
â€œNext, we’ll look at what we could do to support the community during weather-related power outages,â€ Somerville said. â€œIn the meantime, we are having fun and are very grateful for the support we are receiving. ”
In addition to thanking those who donate to the project, Somerville thanked his fellow board members and many volunteers who make the center a vibrant part of the Juniper community. She particularly thanked Raymond Rouselle, member of the board of directors, for his central role in the completed project.
â€œHe was our general contractor in a way,â€ Somerville said.
Larry Myles, Barb Myles, Kelly Brown, Marcianne Brown, Rosanna Mazerolle, Lawrence Sweet and Pam Laing join Somerville and Rouselle as board members.