Dennis Hanagan –
Harbourfront Community Centre, in the Bathurst Quay neighbourhood, is changing its name to better identify its location in Toronto’s rapidly changing waterfront.
Its new name will be the Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre (WNC). It’s more in keeping with the names of other groups along Queens Quay such as Waterfront Toronto, Waterfront BIA and Redpath’s Waterfront Festival.
Adding the word “neighbourhood” also distinguishes it as facility that offers more than just recreational activities; it also provides social services.
“We wanted to align ourselves with the development of the Waterfront,” says Karen Warner, WNC’s director of fundraising and communications.
“The old Harbourfront is now the new Waterfront and, with that dynamic growth, identifying ourselves as part of that Waterfront would help people identify where we are,” says Warner.
WNC’s Executive Director Leona Rodall says “we hope that when somebody comes in the door, they may come for child care … or for food, and they sort of stay with us. They may come in for one little thing and they may end up as a community leader.”
“Part of our mission and purpose is to be here to support the neighbourhood and to have neighbours find other neighbours to be friends … and supporting one another in civic participation and leadership,” says Rodall.
The new name will be officially announced May 3. A spin-off benefit to the name change is that people will stop confusing it with Harbourfront Centre, an arts and culture centre further along Queens Quay at Lower Simcoe St.
In some cases donations and cheques have been mixed up between the centres, and skaters and school children have arrived at the Bathurst Quay location looking for programs offered at the Lower Simcoe centre.
Neighbourood centres are non-profit agencies of the City of Toronto. The city has 34 of them. WNC, which is run by a volunteer board of management, is a member of the Association of Community Centres and receives administration funding from the city. 100% of its programs and services are supported through donations and grants.
Contrary to popular thought, neighbourhood centres are not new entities; they’ve been around for more than 100 years, having started in London, England, with Toynbee Hall that opened in 1883.
WNC serves more than 244,000 participants from babies to seniors with its 621 recreation, sports, fitness, arts, culture and social support programs. It operates with help from 700 volunteers.
“I don’t think our centre would be able to run without our volunteers,” said Rodall
This year the centre is marking its 25th anniversary, and plans are underway to have its users and local residents mark the special event. WNC will hold a Family Fun Fest June 18 and a Waterfront Gala in June 2017.