7 News Archive
Don Vale Centre fights to survive

By Ulli Diemer
Seven News, November 12, 1976

The Don Vale Community Centre is fighting for its life. In the last month, the Centre has suffered two serious blows, each one of them potentially fatal on its own.

On October 21st [1976], the Centre was informed that the United Church, which owns the community centre building at 80 Winchester St., intends to terminate the lease on the building effective December 31. And four days later, the Centre was told that it would be receiving no funds at all from the Local Initiatives Program (L.I.P.).

The result is that the Centre is faced with the prospect of having no money or staff to run its programmes, and no building in which to house itself or its tenants.

The Centre’s staff were laid off on November 12. Only a skeleton maintenance staff now remains.

Of the programmes, the teen drop-in and pre-teen drop-in have ended, while the home visiting program and the food co-op are continuing on a volunteer basis.

Four tenant groups is the building are affected as well: the Don Vale Nursery School, Tenant Hotline, Boost, and 7 News. The nursery school has already arranged to move to new quarters in Winchester school and BOOST and the Tenant Hotline want to stay and fight to save the Centre. The 7 News Board of Directors has not yet decided on its course of action.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, however, efforts are being made to rally the community and save the building.

The Centre has applied for and received a $2000 grant from the City of Toronto, which is being used to hire one staff person, Mike Yale, until the end of December. The United Church, which owns the building, is supplying another $2000 to be used for the up-keep, maintenance, and security of the building until the end of December.

The Board of Directors hopes that in two-months reprieve that it has won, it can raise enough support and money to keep the Centre going indefinitely. One option that is being looked into is the possibility of the City buying the building, or renting it on a long-term lease. Some investigation of this is being done already, but nothing can be done until the new City Council takes office in January.

One of the things that most angers the Centre’s Chairman of the Board, John Rae, and other Board members is that the United Church says it as no alternative plans for the building which it is asking the Centre to vacate. At a meeting with representatives of the Centre, Church officials expressed concern that they weren’t making any money from the building (there apparently are not enough church-goers in the area to warrant using it as a church). But at the same time, the church has not indicated that it has any alternative uses or buyers for the building. Presumably it would stand empty after it was vacated by the community centre. Centre officials are indignant at this situation, but at the same time they think that the church’s desire to realize a financial return from the building might make to amenable to selling or leasing it to the City.

Board members also speculate that the City may be feeling under some pressure to keep the building open because of the added population that is to be brought to the area through the Winchester Square development, which will require additional community facilities.

But it is not clear, however, that a takeover by the City would save the centre as it presently exists. For one thing, The City would require extensive renovations to be done, which would mean that tenants, staff and users of the building would have to leave it for a period possibly as long as several months. Members of the Board are afraid that the Centre would dissipate in the meantime. Two tenant groups, The Tenant Hotline and Boost, have indicated that they will ask for alternative quarters while renovations are going on, and the renovations to be done quickly as possible with the least possible interruption to the Centre’s services.

But another possibility is that the City would take over the building with its own staff and programmes, which again would mean the end of the Centre as it presently exists.

The Don Vale Community Centre will require a lot of support from surrounding residents, and a bit of luck, to have a chance to survive in any form. It is trying to rally that support. Whether it exists remains to be proven.

Published in Seven News, 12 November, 1976

Related topics:

Community centres