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Glace Bay hopes new $15 million community center ‘will create a better future for all of us’

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A new $15 million community center is coming to Glace Bay, NS and officials say they hope it will help turn the tide of poverty and drug use plaguing the community.

On Thursday, the federal and provincial governments announced funding for a 26,000-square-metre, net-zero carbon facility that will include space for youth, families and seniors with indoor and outdoor recreational activities, a commercial kitchen, daycare, space for community meetings and a cafe.

The proposed Glace Bay Youth and Community Center is getting $8.8 million from the federal government, $6 million from the province and social agency New Dawn Enterprises is expected to add $1.5 million.

Dave Sawler, CEO of the community’s Undercurrent Youth Center, said Glace Bay needs the help, as about 2,500 children live in poverty.

“This will be a community coming together to give itself a way to … create a better future for all of us to live in,” he said as more than 100 people cheered at the spark of the youth center.

Undercurrent Youth Center chief executive Dave Sawler says a new community center for youth, families and seniors could help turn the tide of poverty and drug use in Glace Bay. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

New Dawn President and CEO Erika Shea said 40 percent of the community’s children live in poverty and Glace Bay has the highest percentage of children living with their grandparents because their parents are unable to care for them. .

In 2020, the community also provided 400 per cent more needles per capita than the rest of Nova Scotia and had the highest number of opioid deaths, she said.

“We are committing to begin writing the next chapter, one of hope, bright futures and extraordinary imaginations of what is possible,” Shea said.

Glace Bay MLA John White, a former high school teacher and longtime volunteer with local youth groups, said the new building will help the community bounce back.

“Of course, we’ve faced our share of challenges in this community, but there’s no doubting the resilience of our people,” he said. “There is a collective desire for all of our residents to succeed and thrive.”

A site for the new community center has not been finalized, but officials are working with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to purchase a vacant waterfront property near Table Head.

Officials say it will be energy efficient and run entirely on solar power.

Mike Kelloway, MP for Cape Breton-Canso, says the new energy-efficient building will be a warm and welcoming place for people of all ages, which will help rebuild the community. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Mike Kelloway, MP for Cape Breton-Canso, said the building will be a warm and welcoming place for people of all ages.

“Thanks to the hard work of many people and the perseverance of many people and the resilience of many people, we are building a better future for our community,” he said.

Daniel Amaral works at the youth center and said the announcement gives hope to young people.

“To see it come to fruition and to see so many people willing to support it, it shows not just community support, but government support, that people really care and they really want to see change,” he said.

Construction begins next spring

Bree Steele, 23, has been going to the youth center since she was 13.

The existing center is great, but announcing a new building has been a long time coming for Glace Bay, she said.

“I’ve lived here my whole life and nothing like this has ever been done before and we really need it,” Steele said.

Officials said with the funds available, work will begin on design with an eye toward construction beginning next spring. It could be several years later before the doors open, they said.

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