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Better than money: John Howard Society gets major property donation

Executive director Barbara Levesque flips through floor plans and blueprints of the new North Okanagan Centre for Community Collaboration.
February 17, 2015 - 7:27 PM

VERNON - The John Howard Society has received a gift few non-profits ever do: real estate.

A 3,600 square foot suite inside the Creekside Professional Building was given to the society by a local couple, Mike and Beverly Davies, Tuesday, Feb. 17. It’s the largest gift ever received by the society, and believed to be one of the largest ever handed out in the North Okanagan.

“For any non-profit, it’s a huge thing to be the owners of a piece of property. It gives you a lot more stability and less uncertainty,” executive director Barbara Levesque says.

The society currently rents office space on 32 Avenue, where they’ve been since moving the administration out of Howard House, a men’s shelter, several years ago.

“As the demand for rooms became really clear, we slowly started turning our offices into extra bedrooms,” Levesque says. “We were bursting at the seams so we started renting office space.”

Now, they won’t have to worry about paying rent, or having enough room for offices. The large facility has ample room for the society’s administration, plus space for something new—a collaborative area where various community agencies can put their heads together and address needs in the community. The donor’s vision is for different agencies and non-profits to be co-located in a portion of the building. Those organizations will be able to access the space at no fee, and the John Howard Society will act as the steward of the centre. 

“What’s unique about this space is we’re doing a thematic approach. Right now, for the next few years, we’re focusing on affordable housing,” Levesque says. “Families, singles, students and seniors will have a one-stop shop to not only find out about affordable rentals but also access workshops and individual support to help them maintain their housing over the long term.”

Right now, local organizations meet from time to time to discuss common goals, but there is no dedicated space in the community for it to happen. Levesque sees great potential in the new facility—aptly named the North Okanagan Centre for Community Collaboration—as an “incubator for change.”

“In the future, the space can be used for other initiatives that meet the emerging needs of our community,” Levesque says.

The society has roughly 10 weeks of renovations before relocating to the new space, and a grand opening is being planned to celebrate the move. Society board president Phyllis Simon says its an honour for the organization to be entrusted with maintaining the Davies’ vision of community collaboration.

“Their generosity will transform the operations of our society and create a legacy for the community by providing space for collaborative activities and a permanent home for co-operative projects,” society board president Phyllis Simon says.

The John Howard Society serves close to 600 individuals on an annual basis through its shelter, employment, addictions and housing services.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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