Saint Columba House throwing 100th anniversary Gala
Saint Columba House is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and will be hosting a gala fund-raiser on April 27th at Théâtre Paradoxe to raise money for community programs in Pointe-Saint-Charles. The event kicks off at 6 p.m. with a cocktail reception, followed by a four course dinner at 7 p.m..The entertainment portion of the evening begins at 8:30 p.m. and features Canadian soul diva Sylvie DesGrosseilliers, accompanied by a three-piece band. The former lead soloist of the Montreal Jubilation Choir has been wowing audiences in musical reviews and been invited to sing on stage with everyone from Patti Labelle to the Neville Brothers. For $125 ($95 tax receipt) participants can enjoy the complete supper club package. For those wishing to see the show, but opt out of dinner & drinks, there is a no-frills plan for $25 for a seat in the balcony. P.K. Subban has donated a signed hockey jersey to the silent auction which will take place over the course of the evening.
“We’d like to raise $50,000,” Rev. Patricia Lisson says. This is the organization’s 6th annual fund-raiser. Last year Saint Columba House raised over $30,000. “I know, it’s ambitious,” Lisson concedes. But there are goodies in store for those who bid. Retired hockey players Wally Weir and Karl Dykhuis have donated their sticks. Dykhuis played for the Montreal Canadiens and other NHL franchises. Weir, a local boy from Verdun also played in the NHL, most notably for the Quebec Nordiques.
. There are 2 tickets to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra from the Dunton Rainville Law Firm, 3 paintings that are “quite unique”, and other items up for auction: toys, books, a baby basket – even a vacuum cleaner! “We’ve been really going after our friends,” Lisson says. “We’re hopeful – we have faith,” she laughs. Last year Saint Columba House – an actual house – completely renovated its kitchen and the organization is still looking for ways to offset these costs, as well as to support its many charitable programs.
Saint Columba House is a multi-service community centre in Point Saint Charles that is part of the community ministry of the United Church of Canada. The local organization serves 120 people a hot lunch 5 days a week (Mon-Fri) through its lunch program. The centre also offers opportunities for people of all ages looking to upgrade their skills and get back in the work force. In recent years the non-profit has operated the Café Pronto which provides training for people to work as baristas in a for-profit environment. Who staffs it? “Whoever is around, sometimes they are seniors, sometimes young people,” Lisson says.
The café helps to address social isolation in the neighbourhood just by being there and providing a space where individuals can socialize. However, Café Pronto has an educational component built into its mandate. Once a month there is a forum for people to meet and talk about social issues. This week there was a Q & A with 2 Muslim women who came to speak with café patrons about a different take on what to wear/not to wear. Their presentation concerned hijabs and other forms of dress among Muslim women. The café is also the gathering place for a regular event known as the Spiritual Café which gives people an opportunity to dig deeper. It’s no secret that café culture is particularly conducive to this kind of free-range discussion and reflection. “We meet all kinds of people there, and stuff comes up,” Lisson says.
Among the most innovative programs at Saint Columba House is the Alternate School with a free pre-school program (3-4 years), parents group, after-school activities for older kids, and a day summer camp. What differentiates it’s early childhood program from others is the emphasis on fostering a high degree of parental involvement. “It’s really to support parents in understanding their role as educators,” Lisson says. In the group parents can discuss everything from pragmatic concerns like dental hygiene and nutrition, to learning challenges and behavioral problems. The group is animated by a coordinator who does referrals for other services. Parents get hands-on time with their kids (and others!) in the classroom once a week. Acceptance into the pre-school program is on a first-come, first-served basis. Ìt’s not the usual screening,” she says. Families are typically referred to Saint Columba House by local agencies. “We work hand-in-glove with the local school St. Gabriel’s and the Pointe-Saint-Charles Community Clinic,” she says.
Then there’s the bike shop. Bill’s Bike Shop is where old bikes go to be refurbished. Cyclists can learn how to do their own bike repairs, right in the basement of the building which Saint Columba House owns. The community outreach centre also has a program for 15 intellectually challenged adults who benefit from art and music therapy on its premises (Mon-Thurs.) through a program called Hand-in-Hand which helps them to live autonomously. The Women’s Discussion Group has been going strong for years now in this southwest hub. Moreover, Saint Columba House boasts its own library with 3000 titles in English and French.
The community-based organization has 6 full-time, and 2 part-time, employees, and “a lot of volunteers” who participate through its volunteer and student field-work program, Lisson notes. Funding comes from different sources including government, private donors, the national church, and the group’s own fund-raising.
100 years of service to the community: Not a bad track record for a grass-roots organization that grows its own food and even has a bee hive on its roof!
. For more information about Saint Columba House & its 100th Anniversary Gala: http://www.saintcolumbahouse.org/latest-news/