By Michael Bennett
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Ridgetown Independent
The Ridgetown Adult Activity Centre is in a dire financial crisis less than a year after opening its doors.
Members were informed of the situation during a general meeting on March 8 and a follow-up letter.
The new building on Erie Street South opened for activities last July, and an official open house was held in November. A successful building fund campaign allowed the facility to open with no outstanding debt.
However, funding to support the centre’s day-to-day operations has fallen well short of expectations.
“We are now facing a financial challenge that requires us to take drastic action,” Mary Hill, chair of the board of directors, wrote in an email to its members.
The centre generates revenue from various sources, including grants, membership and program fees, fundraising activities and donations.
The board of directors is exploring ways to increase revenue, including establishing a fundraising committee to find additional grant sources and seek donations and financial support from businesses and individuals in the local community.
One immediate change is shifting operations to a volunteer-operated facility as a temporary measure. Members are being asked to step up and volunteer for the many roles needed to conduct the centre’s day-to-day operations and assist in fundraising activities.
The board had to make the difficult decision to place Executive Director Sharon Alliet, the centre’s only paid employee, on a temporary layoff.
“We would like to express our gratitude to Sharon Alliet, our Executive Director since 2014, for her work and dedication over the past nine years,” Hill said in the email announcement.
The board of directors has reached out to the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility for guidance as it moves through this transition period.
The Adult Activity Centre has been a vital part of the community for several decades, providing a space for activity, creativity and a sense of community to senior residents in the area. The centre currently has about 370 members and offers more than 70 programs and services in 10 categories, including arts and crafts, games, education and fitness, health and wellness, sports, special interests and technology.
“We intend to ensure that the centre continues to offer existing programs and to expand its invaluable role in our community,” Hill said.
The board of directors and members began exploring the idea of building a new centre with more space and modern amenities in the late 2010s after the former Erie Street United Church property was purchased and donated anonymously to the senior centre.
A development team spent over a year creating a business plan and began a fundraising campaign for a new 75,000-square-foot facility, three times larger than the former building on Main Street. The cost at the time was estimated at $2.5 million.
A ground-breaking ceremony was held in August 2020, but construction delays throughout the COVID-19 pandemic forced the goal of opening the new facility by the end of 2021 to be pushed back to 2022.
The board of directors is now asking for support from its membership and the community at this pivotal time to continue to provide programming and camaraderie to the area’s senior population.
Any individuals, businesses or service groups interested in donating or volunteering to help with day-to-day operations and fundraising efforts can contact the centre at 519-674-5126.
“With your support, we believe we can overcome this challenge and continue to serve our community for many years to come,” said Hill.