A dream that started many years ago with just a small glass jar to collect coins at the front desk labelled “community hall fundraiser,” has been realized for the Soda Creek First Nation with the completion of a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility in the community.
“Without this community’s vision, support and patience this project couldn’t have happened,” said Chief Donna Dixon in her ribbon-cutting speech last Friday, Oct. 14 before a crowd of appreciative residents.
“Today is an occasion in which we can finally celebrate, not only the creation of a valuable new facility for all of our community members, but also to acknowledge the community spirit which drove this important project to its successful and inspiring conclusion.”
Dixon said the new community hall, which houses band administration offices, a lounge area and full-sized gymnasium complete with a locker room, showers and large washrooms, was the result of years of financial restraint and commitment on behalf of the community.
“There was a lot of sacrifice to make this happen,” Dixon said, adding no financial burden has been incurred with the project.
Dixon said the new facility replaces an old tin airplane hangar that served as the community’s gathering place since the 1950s.
Resident Reg Michel, who was on hand for the ribbon cutting, said the hangar was old and mouldy and the community had stopped using it.
“This is a long time coming. It’s something that we have been missing,” said Michel. “Everybody’s pretty happy.”
Elder Ralph Phillips said he hopes the beautiful new facility will inspire youth to respect themselves and their communities.
“These are things that we only dreamed of,” Phillips said as he looked up at the structure.
“They can see that, hey, we’re not being left out.”
Phillips said he remembers when former Chief Doreen Sellars and social worker Bonnie Keener, who have both since passed away, always spoke of having a special place where the community could gather.
“They’d be smiling down on us today.”
Dixon said the Soda Creek First Nation is made up of about 400 members. Half of the community members live on reserve.
She said the community already has an outdoor walking and running group, but hopes to see kickboxing, yoga and even zumba classes continue in the new gym as well as floor hockey and basketball.
“It’s really going to be nice just to have a place to play,” she said, noting important topics such as treaties will also be discussed in the new hall.