This fall will bring a fresh start filled with infinite possibilities for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pictou County.
The local non-profit agency will be moving into its new location in about six weeks’ time, after purchasing a house in New Glasgow and turning it into a spectacular two-storey office space.
And the agency’s executive director could not be more thrilled.
Margie Grant-Walsh, who has been at the helm of the local service agency for more than 30 years says, “Buying a house is a very big decision. It was an important decision and the board took it very seriously and examined and weighed all the options, because they have to be accountable to the community. So that was done after many meetings and viewing different buildings — this wasn’t the first property we looked at.”
The building, located at the intersection of MacGregor and South Frederick streets in the town’s south end, should be ready for business in early fall.
The project is being managed by Dave Bateman of Dave Bateman Custom Designing in New Glasgow. “He is very helpful and is being very generous of his time and talents; we certainly would never have been able to do this without him,” she lauds.
Partners Construction took up the challenge of delivering the extensive renovations. The brick building was virtually gutted and rebuilt, and it will have only taken them about four months of work.
“It’s important Big Brothers had a permanent spot,” Grant Walsh explains.
“We will own the space. We’ve purchased the building outright; there is no mortgage and no liens. So we have that collateral, if needed. Also, the location is probably one of the best in Pictou County in that we’re located near other youth-serving organizations — Roots for Youth, Pictou County Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Centre and the Pictou County Gymnastics Club. And now that Paul Quinn has purchased the old JBM Stadium to put up an apartment building, it will bring more people to the area.”
One of the best things about this site, she says, is its central location.
“A majority of our clients live in this area so it is safe for kids to get here from the schools. We serve a lot of kids at New Glasgow Academy and there are sidewalks all the way from there to here. We’re also across the street from the Aberdeen Business Centre and we’re also close to the hospital. Sometimes clients will come into town with no transportation, so they might go over and get some groceries, pop in here because they have a meeting with one of our mentoring co-ordinators, maybe they have to go to the hospital for an appointment — and this is within walking distance of all of that.”
The other great thing about this property, she says, is its size. “We have a huge lot. When we looked at this property we considered the future, thinking if we needed to expand down the road we could.”
The local agency has been renting office space in a building on Westville Road for many years, and this will be a ‘big’ move for them.
“We loved where we were but we’ve become cramped with no private meeting space. This new location will afford us the room to run some small programs as well,” she says. “Maybe we can run a homework program after school where we would have volunteers assist some of the kids … We just didn’t have the space to do that before.”
Grant-Walsh is quick to laud the success of the Big Bucks fundraiser — and all of the community residents who support it — as being the catalyst for bringing about the momentous change in fortunes for the agency.
“Big Bucks has been running since 2013 and it played a major role in this purchase. Without it, I doubt we would have been able to do it in the way we did it. We may have been able to do it with a mortgage, but it’s difficult for a non-profit to get a mortgage.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colchester County has been running its Big Bucks program for longer than Pictou County. That agency has recently purchased Molly’s Dairy Bar in Truro and they will use it as a social enterprise and employ some of their littles, all thanks to the Big Bucks proceeds from that area.
“It is support from our Big Bucks program that has allowed us to make this purchase, plus it allows us to now serve physically challenged individuals on site; we were not accessible before. Now we will have an accessible ramp, washroom and meeting facilities.”
Currently, there are more than 300 kids on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pictou County’s waiting list; last year, 327 kids were served through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pictou County’s programs.
“Big Bucks has just been a tremendous support. We would never be able to do this without it and owning this building is going to allow us to serve more kids. We want the kids to think of it as their house, a safe place for them to come, and we want them to feel comfortable when they come in.”