A very generous benefactor has helped pay for one-third of the necessary renovations to Hantsport’s largest community hall.
And the anonymous donor is issuing a challenge to residents and businesses to help see the $300,000 project come to fruition.
Brian Bishop, the chairman of the Hantsport Baptist Church’s hall renovation committee, said there have been three small fundraisers held to date, and when the eventual donor heard about the project to transform the hall, the person immediately wanted to help.
“They thought that (donation) would maybe entice the community to become more excited,” said Bishop.
He said the community is being asked “to honour this challenge from this person by raising $50,000 in the next three months.”
The funds raised will be going towards making the fellowship hall, originally constructed in 1973 with support from the provincial government, more accessible and user friendly.
“This is the largest hall now in the community,” said Bishop.
It’s used by the church to host monthly luncheons for seniors; it’s used by a wide variety of community groups for social functions and day programs. With ease, Bishop can rattle off a host of activities routinely held at the site, including pickleball three times a week, indoor walking during the wintertime, jam sessions, and exercise classes. A Valley-based autism group holds a week-long summer camp there. Private functions, like anniversary celebrations and birthday parties, are held at the hall.
Even public meetings, like the ones involving the repair of the Hantsport aboiteau structure, have been held there.
“It is a very vital community resource,” said Lorraine McQueen, who is an advocate for improving accessibility and is a committee member for the hall renovation project.
“This is a project that's very important to the community of Hantsport and surrounding areas, and Hantsport has a long history of being very generous in its support of local initiatives,” said McQueen. “I'm hopeful that the community is going to come forward and support this because it is one of the few venues left where the community can gather.”
WHAT THE PROJECT ENTAILS
Bishop said the committee created a list to see what required repair and came up with four main objectives.
“The first was (to create) an accessible entry for anyone with mobility issues,” said Bishop. “Because of our ramp being outside, winter conditions made it very difficult for anyone in a wheelchair or walker to make it up that ramp. Also, it doesn't meet code.”
To rectify that, a new foyer is being built that will allow all wheelchair ramps to be inside. There will be a barrier-free washroom installed, plus a lift to allow people to access the basement.
“We've always sort of felt that if we had somebody with a mobility issue as part of the church's Sunday school, they wouldn't be able to get down there. We also see that those rooms in the basement have a possible future public use, and so therefore, we would not want to limit its access by anybody.”
Storage will be added to the far side of the community room so that items like chairs and a piano can be tucked away, improving safety for those playing pickleball and various games.
The community hall renovation will also include the installation of heat pumps, which will provide cooling in the summertime — something both McQueen and Bishop said will be welcomed — and will reduce heating costs in the wintertime. The final aspect will be the addition of a ventilation system to improve the air quality in the basement.
Bishop said the church’s neighbours, Adam and Katelyn Quinn, have graciously allowed them to use a portion of their land to provide access to emergency responders.
“Once the design was done, we discovered that we needed access space in order for fire trucks and (the like) to get by the new building that we're constructing, and so they kindly have allowed us to have a piece of their property in order to make that access available,” said Bishop, noting how supportive the community has been so far of the project.
The Municipality of West Hants has contributed $10,000 towards the heat pumps and Bishop is hopeful the provincial government will provide an accessibility grant.
McQueen said in the long run, the project will benefit people of all ages and mobility.
“I don't have to remind you that the population is getting older and Hantsport has its share of people who have difficulty with mobility issues, particularly in the wintertime, but just generally. And so, accessibility is not just an issue for people in wheelchairs, it's an issue for the entire population,” said McQueen.
“All of us are temporarily able-bodied and we will come to a time when we will deeply appreciate that this community hall is fully accessible.”
HOW TO DONATE
Donations towards the $50,000 community room challenge may be sent to the Hantsport Baptist Church Building Fund, P. O. Box 152, Hantsport, NS, B0P1P0 or via e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org. The organization is hoping to have reached that goal by Jan. 30, 2020.