Thriving with activity

June 2019

What is a community? It can be a group of individuals with a common goal, who work together to achieve their aim with respect, honesty and accountability toward each other. The people of Westfort are just such a group. They have always had a strong sense of community, and it is with this spirit of community that the citizens of Westfort began to gather in each others homes to discuss and plan how they would provide for their common need. They had many halls in which to meet that were by in large built with a single use in mind that were often seasonal.

What we need.

What we need, they decided, was a year round, multi-use facility for everyone of all age groups and interests. The idea grew. On March 23, 1988, a public meeting was held in the auditorium of Mary JL Black library, a board of directors was elected to oversee location, fund raising, building design, policies and programming, and begin the process of incorporating as a not for profit organization. That evening, the quest to build their centre began in full, and over two years, volunteers donated over 30,000 hours of their time to hold bingos, raffles and craft sales, canvass businesses, service clubs and government as well as going door-to-door to raise $120,000, 10% of the initial $1.2 million price tag to build their community centre. What would they call their community centre? A contest was held, and on March 28, 1989, West Thunder was chosen from more than 300 entries. Now that they had a name for their centre, where would it be built? A 4.8 acre site in St. Martin’s Park was chosen at 915 Edward St. on the corner of Edward St. and Empire Ave. By March of 1991 they achieved their fund raising goal. The Ministry of Tourism and Recreation contributed $475,000, the City of Thunder Bay $805,000, West Thunder building build campaign $120,000 and Lakehead Japanese Cultural Association $100,000 for a total of $1.5 million, the final cost of constructing the 11,000 square foot facility.

West Thunder began to take shape.

At 2PM on Saturday February 1, 1992, the official sod turning ceremony was held and West Thunder began to take shape. But the fund raising didn’t stop there. All the kitchen equipment, tables and chairs needed to hold events had to be purchased. For that, they started the Buy a Brick campaign. People could buy a brick for a tax deductable donation of $25.00 have their name inscribed on it and it would be placed in the vestibule of the new centre. At the same time as the Westfort community was starting to plan their community centre, the Lakehead Japanese Cultural Association was looking for a home and they found one in the WTCC. From the start, the LJCA was involved with all the fund raising and had a seat on the board of directors. They could hold their Japanese cultural events at West Thunder and participate in WTCC events. They graced many events with the Odori dancers and provided excitement with the thunderous roll of the Taiko drummers.
WTCC thrives with activity.

West Thunder Community Centre is truly a multi-use, year-round facility hosting dances, exercise classes, sports events like basketball, baseball and hockey, arts and crafts shows and traveling exhibits. Many service clubs hold their meetings there along with wedding receptions and celebrations of life. There are the annual events too like the Canada Day celebrations and corn roasts. WTCC thrives with activity still maintained by its many dedicated volunteers. Part of West Thunder’s success is always been being able to see how the community’s needs change over time and accommodate them. It has served WTCC well over the years, and will steer them through the years ahead.

A monumental undertaking and a monument. The West Thunder Community Centre project was a monumental undertaking by the community of Westfort. Their continued tireless work, resourcefulness and due diligence ensured its success. Over a quarter century later, West Thunder Community Centre stands as a monument to the fortitude of the people of Westfort.

This July 1st, West Thunder Community Centre will hold its 26th annual Canada Day celebration from 11-4. As always, it will be a truly fun family event. There will be games for the kids, arts and crafts tables and food for everyone. Come and join in the festivities.

Brian G. Spare PhD is a local author, freelance copywriter who is a regular contributor to Bayview magazine. Watch for Brian’s upcoming memoir “The Boy Who Couldn’t Smile” to be published later this year. Contact him at bgspare@gmail.com.

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