A Hub founder writes about current situation

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In 1974 a group of women, graduates from the Children’s Hospital Auxiliary, and the Neighbourhood Club worked together to establish The Hub at 66 Mill St.

A donation from the recently formed Civitan Club helped to pay for renovations. We opened at the end of May and within a month showed a profit and made our first charitable donation.

The store was designed to not only display clothing, books and household items, but a large area was devoted to a ‘drop-in’ coffee corner. We also built an office in the middle of the store to enable Social Service workers to meet clients. It was a people place.

It was soon apparent that we needed to hire someone to do the overwhelming work of sorting clothing. Thelma Gouley was hired – and paid just enough so that her welfare payments wouldn’t be reduced. The store could not have operated without her hard work in that dark basement.

Over the years The Hub has initiated many programs and services based on various needs as seen by the members such as:

  • education for teachers coping with children with learning disabilities
  • drives to Ottawa for medical appointments
  • conferences for women resulting in the establishment of Lanark County Interval House
  • creating Mark’s Lookout
  • and most recently, The Hub Hospice.

Rebound has been a welcome addition, providing an outlet for larger items and furniture.

At the heart of The Hub is its social conscience – making room for volunteers and staff with various abilities to share their talents and build their self confidence. Paying some staff for as little as three hours of work each week. Helping them to top up their low incomes. Allowing them to work after hours when they can fit it in to their families schedules. Hiring students for only a few hours of work each week. Many of our staff and volunteers are highly skilled. Some have gone on to ‘real’ jobs.

These paid workers – mostly sorters – are essential to the operation. Their camaraderie is also essential to the task. They are a team. Without them and their good will and willingness to do a job that’s not always easy or fun, The Hub wouldn’t work.

Over the 44 years there have been disagreements as to how the operation should be run. One of the most divisive was the ‘smoking’ issue. Many of the volunteers smoked. Instituting a ‘No Smoking’ policy was a challenge.

Then there was the fire. A horrific event that took the lives of the upstairs tenants – Billy and Andrea – and destroyed the building. The following summer The Hub purchased the old movie theatre from the Royal Bank for one dollar. The local community, Hub members and staff celebrated the return of this respected and needed service to it’s prime location on Mill Street.

And now the building needs major repairs. Money has been set aside over the years to meet this eventuality. We may need to do some extra fundraising. But that’s not the issue.

What is at issue is the initiative to ‘terminate’ all the staff at the end of October and the manner in which it was done – closed, secretive and unresponsive to many, including members of the Board – several of whom have resigned in protest. The idea being that some staff will be hired back – but not all. For those of us who have valued their labour and love of the institution – this is concerning.

The heart of The Hub is it’s people – staff and volunteers. It is my hope that this issue can be resolved by maintaining our valued staff, giving them the respect they deserve.

Fern Martin
one of the founders of The Hub