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No corporate support forth-coming for new friendship centre
On the first day of spring, the Cold Lake Native Friendship Centre kicked off its fund raising campaign for a new building with a traditional feast. About 50 people, including Cold Lake’s mayor and representatives from the Cold Lake First Nations and the Canadian Forces Base were in attendance.
As if to highlight the need for a new facility, there was a leak in the roof as the snow melted outside.
Agnes Gendron, the centre’s executive director, said the building is too old and too small for what is needed.
“Last year when we put together our application for core funding, one of our goals was to eventually have a new building. We do a lot here at the Friendship Centre, and we could do more if we had a larger building,” said Gendron.
This January, the centre began to draft a proposal for a new facility which will be built on the existing site, the demolition and new construction are estimated to cost about $900,000.
“I would hope that some of the larger oil companies around here would come forward and help us, to give back to the community. We put together a good proposal and sent it out to about 20 oil companies and about 50 other businesses, but so far we haven’t heard anything from anybody,” said Gendron.
“This place is a very viable organization and it would be a shame to have it not continue to operate because of a facility,” said Lynda Minoose at the feast.
The centre has over 200 regular members from Cold Lake First Nations, Elizabeth Métis Settlement, some from Saskatchewan, and Aboriginal people who live in Cold Lake.
The centre serves as more than a gathering place for social events.
“Since 1999 we have had a school at the Friendship Centre because there were a lot of Aboriginal kids who dropped out. Alberta Learning helps us take these kids in, they fund a full-time teacher to upgrade the kids. For the last two years we’ve also had On the Job Training for youth through Service Canada. That has been very successful. We’ve turned over four groups of kids already,” said Gendron.
The centre, which has been in operation since 1982, provides a wide range of free services including filling forms and filing income tax returns to photo copying, faxing and the use of a telephone to distributing donated furniture and clothing to offering workshops, emergency help and referrals to other agencies. The centre is also a welcoming place with free coffee and tea, and the always well-attended soup and bannock on Thursdays to over 4,000 people a year.
“We partner with pretty much everyone in the city to help people who are going through hardships in the best way possible,” said Gendron.
“In the beginning I was very optimistic. I thought we’d be able to get the money for the new building in no time, but it seems Aboriginal people always have to struggle, always have to fight for what they need while everyone else is getting rich around us,” she said.
“If it’s picking bottles or having penny drives, we’ll get the money together. So far we’ve raised about $4,000. I’ve also written to Oprah and Bill Gates. Would be a shame if they came through for us where the local businesses and communities didn’t,” said Gendron.
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