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Little Island That Could opens expanded $2 million community centre

Rejuvenated Forbes Hall a shining beacon for Thetis Island — built largely without taxpayer’s dollars
Renovated and expanded Forbes Hall is a spectacular addition to the Thetis Island community. (Photo submitted)

The Thetis Island Community Association is thrilled about the official grand opening of the newly expanded Forbes Hall Community Centre on Saturday, Sept. 18.

The $2 million expansion project, funded primarily through community donations, is one of the few community centres in B.C. that’s not tax-based or supported by ongoing government funding.

“For a small island of 350 full-time residents and about 1,000 part-timers, this project really reflects the spirit of this community,” said Ron Bannister, TICA president. “While other centres rely on taxation and municipal government support, our new hall is truly community-run and community-funded.”

The original Forbes Hall was built by volunteers in the 1980s after the site was donated by the three Forbes sisters – daughters of an early Thetis Island family. The hall could not meet islanders’ needs over time and when TICA received a $100,000 efficiency refund from BC Ferries in 2016 the dream of expansion moved to the planning stage.

In 2018, TICA received a $250,000 grant from BC Gaming and construction began in spring 2019. The remainder of the funding needed for completion was raised by private donations, fundraising events and a major capital campaign. Volunteers donated thousands of hours of labour on the project, leading to a significant cost savings.

The grand opening begins at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, with the official dedication of the large art installation created by Coast Salish artist Maynard Johnny Jr. that graces the front of the building.

‘Lee Mu’xutun Shhwuee’u Talu – Guardian, we welcome you all’ was designed in the Spirit of Reconciliation and speaks to bridging the gap between the neighbouring Penelakut Island and Thetis Island communities. The dedication will feature a personal appearance by the artist, Penelakut elders and Penelakut dancers and drummers.

Following the dedication, local residents will speak about the history of the building, its importance to the community and the involvement of so many islanders in its completion. A ribbon cutting will officially open the hall.

TICA will then host a barbecue to cap the family-oriented event. There is ample covered space for the festivities so the outdoor event will be held rain or shine and be compliant with all Provincial Health Officers’ COVID-19 mandates and guidelines.

The 500 square metre building includes an assembly hall and adjacent multi-purpose area, room for the staging of theatrical or musical performances, an updated kitchen and beverage station, a health care room for first aid care and services such as massage therapy, a private board room and well-stocked library.

The hall will also showcase artwork created by Thetis Islanders. Regular activities include: fitness classes, yoga and tai chi, ping pong, a bridge club, community church services and a weekly lunch program, Soups On. The assembly hall provides exercise and social meeting space for students of the K-7 Thetis Island Elementary School located beside the hall.

The tennis/pickleball court also located beside the hall is for public use. Forbes Hall is available to all Thetis Islanders and guests year-round and can be rented for business meetings, family events, memorial services or weddings. The hall is the official gathering place during an emergency.

“I have watched this unique project from the beginning and without the commitment, dedication and financial support of Thetis Islanders, it would never have succeeded,” said Lynne Smith, Cowichan Valley Regional District Area G director. “Thetis is truly the Little Island That Could.”

About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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