There was no shortage of scissors to go around for all the excited kids who wanted to help snip the bright green ribbon at Thursday’s official opening of BGC Ottawa’s brand new clubhouse.
The ceremonial task was a team effort, much like it was to build the new Taggart Parkes Family Clubhouse located at 1770 Heatherington Rd. in the city’s south end.
All three levels of government came together to make it happen through joint funding. As well, BGC Ottawa (formerly known as the Boys and Girls Club) worked with business leaders and donors to raise the necessary money to ensure the clubhouse is able to run its after-school programs and services at no cost to any of its young members. There are roughly 5,000 children and youth who live in the area.
The project manager, architects, trades and suppliers rallied together in “legendary fashion” to get the pandemic-resilient place constructed in under a year, said BGC Ottawa board chair and alumnus Stephen Beckta, who called the official opening “a momentous day” for the community.
Beckta, who is the owner of Beckta Dining & Wine and its sister restaurants, Play and Gezellig, welcomed a roomful of guests, many of whom played important roles in creating the Taggart Parkes Family Clubhouse, a warm and welcoming building that’s filled with natural light, bright colours and a real sense of space. Traditional Elder Elaine Kicknosway opened the program by providing a blessing.
The mood was a mix of excitement, pride and accomplishment. “I’m pinching myself a little today,” acknowledged BGC Ottawa’s CEO, Adam Joiner, who sincerely thanked everyone for their contributions, telling them “it means the world to me and it means the world to all of our members.”
Joiner’s connection to the non-profit organization goes back to his childhood. He was once a painfully shy boy who, one day, got enough courage to visit his neighbourhood clubhouse on Prince of Wales Drive. “I never realized where that journey would take me,” said Joiner, who eventually got a job with the organization, steadily working his way up from the bottom. He was recently announced as one of this year's prestigious Forty Under 40 award recipients.
Under Joiner’s leadership, the organization is striving to double its impact and serve twice as many children by 2024. BGC Ottawa currently has a presence in 19 neighbourhoods, operates four clubhouses and runs an overnight summer camp.
BGC Ottawa received a $1.4 million gift from the Taggart Parkes family, as well as a $300,000 gift from the Leacross Foundation. Their contributions are helping to fund the operational costs of the new clubhouse, which serves to provide a safe and inclusive environment for children and youth to learn and grow.
Local developer Michelle Taggart, who’s on the board of BGC Ottawa, helped to secure her family’s gift. Recruiting Taggart onto the board, said Beckta, “was one of the smartest things I ever did as board chair”.
Without Taggart’s “unyielding leadership”, combined with her family’s support, “this project would never have gotten off the ground,” said Beckta.
Taggart kept it humble at the podium, saying how “deeply honoured” her family is to have been part of the process. “Honestly, it came together like a dream,” she said of what started out as an idea by the board to make “a big move, a big change” to help the kids in their community with a new clubhouse in the south end.
“Every step of the way we just encountered a ‘yes’,” she said of government funding, of the site provided by the City of Ottawa, and of the support from her family members — some of whom were in the room — and “so many other amazing donors”.
“It really was a magical experience," she continued. "I’m just so, so grateful to be a part of it. It’s really all about the kids. The kids are our future, and all of us who can help them need to help them.”
Taggart is vice president of planning and development at Tamarack Homes and Tartan Homes, which fall under the umbrella of Taggart Group of Companies. She spoke at the podium while surrounded by her three young daughters. Her littlest one, Margot Wilson, delivered an adorable thank you to everyone for making “our dreams come true”.
Don Bayne was there on behalf of donor Homestead Land Holdings, after which the new gymnasium is named. Bayne, who’s also a criminal defence lawyer (with a terrific sense of humour) wore his “Not Guilty” face mask to the opening. The COVID-19 pandemic still lingers.
Sean Lundy, president and CEO of Lundy Construction, told OBJ.social how much he enjoyed working on the project, which was designed by Hobin Architecture. “Everyone worked together so well,” he added. “To me, it’s been the most exciting project because it matters so much to the community. We’re just so happy to have been able to have contributed.”
Guests that day also included Cindy Tomlinson, whose family’s previous gift of $1 million helped to renovate the Tomlinson Family Foundation Clubhouse on Prince of Wales Drive a few years back.
The politicians kept their remarks short and sweet while still emphasizing the important stuff, such as the impact the new clubhouse will have on developing the next generation of leaders. The federal government invested $4 million in the project through the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, while the provincial government provided $1 million.
The new clubhouse is about “giving every person a full chance at success,” said Ottawa South Liberal MP David McGuinty of a core value he was raised with. “My mother would have said to her 10 children at the dinner table, ‘We don’t leave anybody behind’.”
Treasury Board President Mona Fortier, Liberal MP for Ottawa-Vanier, talked about the new clubhouse as a place where kids can build “lifelong relationships” and find comfort, safety and respect during times of uncertainty or stress. Mayor Jim Watson described the new facility as “a very good example” of what can be achieved when all three levels of government work together. Normally, Lisa MacLeod, MPP for Nepean, would have spoken at the event as well but, because a provincial election is weeks away, remained unusually silent.
The room heard how Diane Deans, who’s the councillor for Gloucester-Southgate Ward, where the new clubhouse is located, was instrumental is working with her colleagues from neighbouring wards, Riley Brockington and Jean Cloutier, to make sure the property — a former municipal public works yard — was used for a purpose that would help revitalize the neighbourhood.
Municipal staff also helped to champion the project, with special shoutouts going to Stephen Willis, Steve Kanellakos, Charmaine Forgie and Andy Reside.
Said Deans to all the young people in the room: “I think the world is your oyster and this centre is a pearl. It can take you anywhere you want to go.”