The Bonnyville Friendship Centre has moved back into its newly-expanded facility, and its director of operations Janet Gobert says the changes reach far beyond the Centre’s walls.

The addition to the old Friendship Centre building adds capacity for more programming while improving both the practical and esthetic quality of the space.

“We’re glad to be back in here, especially with the addition—we’re able to pump out some more programming,” Gobert said. “We’re really expanding on the programming, which is nice for getting families involved now in the programming alongside the youth.”

Some of the programs that had been operating out of the Friendship Centre’s basement have been moved upstairs into friendlier spaces. The community kitchen is now a brand-new, spacious, welcoming place; and the youth room, which had also been downstairs, is now in a sunlit room on the main floor.

“There’s crocheting going on” in the youth room, Gobert said. “There’s homework club going on, where we provide everything: computers, iPads, anything that they could possibly need in order to do their homework. Snacks as well.”

She said the main-floor layout for the kitchen and the youth room will make both services more accessible for people.

The new configuration also includes improvements to the food bank operation. Gobert said the food bank needed more capacity to address increases in demand for its services. 

“That needed to increase because we’re continually seeing a rise in the amount of people that are accessing that program,” she said. “A call went out for food bank actually today. I’m sure that you’ve seen the shelves—as fast as it’s coming in, it’s going out.”

A particular gem in the new space is the cultural room. A round space with a high ceiling, the room is reminiscent of the interior of a teepee. It soft lighting slowly changes colour, suggesting the ever-changing northern lights. A drum sits at the centre of the room, surrounded by round benches; a bear skin rug and the necessary items for a pipe ceremony add to the ambience and cultural significance of the room.

“What we’re looking at doing in the cultural room is we’re going to have storytelling, pipe ceremony, and some counselling in there,” Gobert said. “It will be well-utilized.”

The centre offers a variety of programs for youth and for elders and seniors, and serves the community at large. The programs and activities are listed on their website and their new Facebook page The Bonnyville Friendship Centre.

Many of the programs, like language learning and culture camps, focus on Indigenous cultures. But Gobert said they are intended as an opportunity for anyone who wants to learn.

“We’re always about bridging the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” she said. “I think it’s great that we’re able to offer those type of services to everybody so that they can actually see and experience it.”

The cultural room is a gem in the new addition. JEFF GAYE
Open House activities continue this week. Families are welcome! JEFF GAYE
Colleen Courtoreille gave a presentation last Tuesday on bringing children-in-care home to their communities. JEFF GAYE
The new addition doubles the space of the Friendship Centre. JEFF GAYE
The new youth room is bright and welcoming. JEFF GAYE
Courtoreille’s presentation generated plenty of positive discussion. JEFF GAYE