By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Thanks to the owners of the Downtown Chatham Centre, “The Shop” is going to be able to continue in the old Sears building until the end of summer.
The Come Together CK grassroots initiative, which provides a supportive environment where people create and socialize, was supposed to vacate the space at the end of March.
However, after some of the new owners got a first-hand look at the positive things happening at the warehouse, they opted to allow The Shop to stay.
The empty warehouse has now turned into a colourful and eclectic enterprise, where people of all socio-economic backgrounds are building, painting, barbecuing and creating in a non-judgmental atmosphere.
“I believe The Shop truly encompasses what Come Together CK is all about, a non-judgmental space where people have the freedom to participate at any level,” says Brent Wilken of Come Together CK.
A small food pantry and free clothing racks are free to all. In addition, there’s constant sawing and hammering while volunteers build items such as bird houses, coat racks and raised flower beds, to name a few projects.
Volunteers with The Shop have also been actively participating in cleaning up the downtown and partaking in other activities such as cleaning snow off of cars at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance.
Mall co-owner Peter Tsirimbis, said the group of owners believes in the community and they want to support the fledging effort.
“We want to see our downtowns be successful, especially as we come out of the pandemic, and seeing the good work at The Shop really opened our eyes to some of the unsung heroes doing just that,” Tsirimbis said.
Ron Nydam, another of the owners, echoed Tsirimbis.
“I was inspired by what I saw at The Shop,” Nydam said, adding seeing happy children and people who have climbed out of homelessness, were things he was not expecting.
“We’re proud to continue to support The Shop and what is happening there,” Nydam said.
The Shop movement has been growing in popularity since taking root after Christmas 2021.
The initiative is a carry over from The Gift and Chatham Goodfellows Christmas drives, evolving after volunteers began congregating at the former Sears warehouse, where the donations had been stored in the donated space.
Along with The Shop, a COVID-19 clinic has been operating at the DCC in space also donated by the owners.
The Shop is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be entered beside the former Sears loading dock on Wellington Street.
For more information, contact Wilken at email@example.com or call 519-784-2800.