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Viola’s Place surpasses fund goal for Pictou County homeless shelter

The anticipated location of the Viola's Place homeless shelter
The anticipated location of the Viola's Place homeless shelter - Sam Macdonald

Extra funds will go toward insurance, taking first steps to get shelter running

NEW GLASGOW

Viola’s Place Society surpassed its fundraising goal to purchase a building that will act as a permanent homeless shelter in Pictou County.

Karen MacPhee, society chair, said Friday that $82,146.56 has been fundraised for the shelter and the purchase of the former Life Shelter building will go ahead as planned.

“In the beginning, no one knew who we were and some thought we would never get it done,” she said. “There is a need. I talked to the people.”

The former church and shelter on Marsh Street, New Glasgow, will be purchased by the society for $60,000 and the rest of the funds collected will give it a head-start on operations.

“We are hoping to close the deal on Monday and put the key in the door,” MacPhee said. “We are all going to take a few days to catch our breath and then have a board meeting to look over our operational plans and determine our next steps.”

There is no official opening date for the shelter yet. MacPhee said obtaining the building means the society can work on its charity status so it can issue receipts to people for tax purposes and it will also look at planning a fundraiser for the fall.

The extra funds will allow the board to buy insurance for the building right away while its lawyer fees to deal with the sale of the building are being done pro bono.

“There are lots of different steps we have to do,” MacPhee said. “The building has to be cleaned and the yard has to be tidied up.”

Board members will also start going through the large number of responses it had from people interested in volunteering at the shelter when it opens. Everyone who reached out will be contacted in the near future, she said.

MacPhee said the board is very thankful for everyone’s kindness and generosity and is pleased each municipal council in the county has contributed to its capital fundraising campaign. The Municipality of Pictou County donated $8,000; New Glasgow $7,500; Stellarton $5,000; Westville $3,333; Trenton $3,333; Pictou $1,000.

Donations have come from across Canada as well as local churches who see the need for such a service on a regular basis.

She also sent out a huge thank you to Leil Brothers Limited who donated $17,000 as well as to other businesses in the area who held their own fundraisers for Viola’s Place Society.

The society chair said she is especially thankful for the people who came forward in the last two weeks to share their stories of homelessness publicly.

MaPhee said she wants the Viola’s Place to be “wrapped in love” so that when people walk through the doors they feel as if their community cares about them.

Local teachers are being asked to have students write messages of love and welcome that can be put into books or pictures that can be placed in the entrance or near their beds.

“If people come in broken, we want them to be able to read warm, welcoming messages from the community,” she said, adding the shelter would also like to have handmade quilts as well art and murals to add to its warmth. “We want love to lift them up right away. I want to surround Viola’s Place in love.”

MacPhee said it would also be fitting to have a large picture of its namesake donated to the society so it can hang on the outside of the building. The shelter is named after Viola Desmond, a Canadian black Nova Scotian businesswoman who challenged racial segregation at a local cinema in 1946.

Viola's sister, Wanda Robson, toured the former Life Shelter with board members shortly after it announced it would be naming the permanent shelter Viola’s Place.

Anyone wanting more information or updates about Viola’s Place, can follow its Facebook page Viola’s Place Society or contact it directly at violasplacesociety@gmail.com

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