WNC: Former kids return to lake centre with their kids

WNC 2 (Custom)Dennis Hanagan – 

Marilyn Roy remembers when the Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre first opened. That was in 1991.

“We started off with a 3,000 square foot portable,” Roy, who helped co-found the centre, told The Bulletin. “We’d have our board meeting in one room, and there’d be a (loud) fitness class going on in the other. The executive director had her office in the janitor’s closet.”

On June 18, WNC—formerly Harbourfront Community Centre— celebrated its 25th anniversary with a festival in its Bathurst Quay neighbourhood. Blue sky and sunshine added to the day.

WNC has come a long way since its portable days.  It’s a 40,000 square foot facility with, among other things, social programs, a full-size gym, outdoor basketball courts, a café, and a commercial kitchen.

Roy remembers the cramped conditions she worked in back on opening day. “Our kitchen wasn’t much bigger than (a) couch. I did the catering for it for 300 people out of that little kitchen,” she says, laughing at the memory.

Anthony Omolayole, a centre leader who runs WNC’s weekend basketball and family gym programs, was once a little kid who used to play at the centre and attended its after-school programs.

Mom Hattie, centre, blows bubbles with daughter Zia and neighbourhood friend Avalon at WNC's 25th anniversary.

Mom Hattie, centre, blows bubbles with daughter Zia and neighbourhood
friend Avalon at WNC’s 25th anniversary.

He remembers attending the mentorship and snack programs and going on field trips to the Ontario Science Centre, Ontario Place and having movie nights. When he got older he entered the youth leadership program.

He sees his leadership role, today, as a way to pay back WNC. “Once I became old enough I had a great opportunity to actually get a job here and give back what was given to me.”

Roy has seen how membership at the centre has come full circle.

“There were a lot of little kids here when we started and now they’re grown up and they come back with their own kids. To see that growth of the community coming together in generations is very heartwarming.”