WELLAND – Around 10 a.m. on Sunday, February 26, a 911 call was placed indicating that more of the 350 Prince Charles Drive building had collapsed.
Welland Fire and Emergency Services were dispatched to the scene and reported no injuries. However, additional components of the building have experienced structural failure. The additional failure occurred on the south side of the building, the same side of the building as the initial issue.
“The Ministry of Labour has control of the site and has prohibited anyone from accessing the building,” said Jack Tosta, chief building official. “The ministry has jurisdiction to conduct an investigation to determine if the condition of the building is safe to allow access for further evaluation of the structural engineering components.”
The cordoned-off area with security fencing is expanding out of an abundance of caution. The trail along the canal in the areas remains closed until further notice.
An initial structural failure occurred on February 18, and since that time, the Ministry of Labour has shut the site down for investigation. In addition, the City of Welland issued an Order to Remedy an Unsafe Building under the Building Code Act on February 19.
The cause of both incidents has not been determined.
(Attribution: City of Welland media release. Photos courtesy Anthony Gallaccio.)
One of two:Julia’s Hope Cup tomorrow, Hope Centre food bank beneficiary of fundraising.
By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
WELLAND — The way Jon Braithwaite tells it, demand for services is growing; stats are way, way, up; new clients keep increasing in number. Trends that would light up the face of any CEO.
Not this face.
It’s clear he is troubled by what’s going on: food prices soaring, rents going through the roof, shortage of affordable housing, inflation still a problem.
Braithwaite is CEO of Hope Centre, the King Street-based social services agency well known for its work with the vulnerable through myriad outreaches: food bank, daily lunch program, emergency shelter assistance, counselling services and more.
I heard him speak for the first-time last month at an informal meeting for some Julia’s Hope Cup volunteers. He talked about what his agency does for people in need, with a special focus on the food bank, beneficiary of funds raised through tomorrow’s event in Chippawa Park.
He pulled no punches in talking to those volunteers: “We’re seeing record numbers. It’s not going to go down anytime soon.” Judging by solemn looks on some faces, Braithwaite’s message was having impact.
A meeting in his office followed soon after. Braithwaite joined Hope Centre in October, 2018 after 16 years as executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Niagara Falls. That was a big transition, but Braithwaite credits his brother, Michael, for being “an inspiration” to him through his own line of work, executive director of Blue Door emergency housing agency in York Region.
“I’m blessed to be here,” Braithwaite can say.
He could feel otherwise.
“This month (January) we’re seeing twice as many people as in January 2022,” he says.
“I just don’t know how we’re going to be able to meet that need.”
That’s the grim reality agencies like his find themselves dealing with.
But Braithwaite admits there is consolation in Welland’s reputation.
“The community looks after its own. The legacy of caring, you might say, is epic.”
The annual city-wide food drive comes to his mind.
“That we need to do this year after year brings chills to me. But the Welland food drive story warms my soul.”
Something else that causes him concern: statistics show the number of first-time food bank users is on the rise. In January alone, Hope Centre’s food bank was visited by 114 people who hadn’t accessed it previously. That compares with 69 the previous January.
“Astronomically high,” was how he referred to it.
“It’s something not only Hope Centre should be concerned about, but others too – that so many people are facing food insecurity. We are seeing more working families, more kids, more people we haven’t seen before.”
It doesn’t end there.
“We’re seeing people who used to be able to donate now using the food bank.”
Braithwaite finds himself thinking about these challenging circumstances even in off hours. The work isn’t something you can leave behind when you walk out the door at the end of the day.
“I find myself picturing a family in this type of situation: sitting down in the kitchen, someone saying ‘What are we going to do now?’ and at some point someone else saying, ‘Well, what about a food bank?’ That weighs heavily on me.”
Braithwaite is looking forward to the return of Julia’s Hope Cup. The fund-raising event ($40,000 is this year’s goal, and according to social media posts, the target is within reach) wasn’t held the two previous years because of pandemic protocols. So virtual escape room fundraisers were organized, raising about $95,000 in total.
“I’m excited about this year, what a beautiful community celebration. It’s a celebration of the life of Julia Turner, a great supporter of Hope Centre.”
Money raised will be for Hope Centre’s food security programs, Braithwaite says. Last year, Hope Centre spent about $100,000 on food security and the daily lunch program for people in need.
Two of two: Enduring friendships shine as ‘unbreakable bond’ for Julia’s Hope Cup vets
By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
WELLAND — Julia’s Hope Cup.
This is a story with many sub-stories: the spirit of competition in the hockey tournament; the spirit of community that sparkles in the silent auction and food and games celebration; the fundraising year after year; the focus on poverty and Hope Centre’s work; the Turners, Tina and Paul, their undying commitment to the event and to Hope Centre; young Julia Turner’s legacy; and special friendships that have endured the test of time. It’s the last of these I want to share.
Jim Larouche flicks back the pages of time.
We are in his office at F.E. Coyne Insurance Brokers in downtown Welland talking about something near and dear: Julia’s Hope Cup. He takes me back a few decades to days when Paul Turner, Eddie Burkholder and he and other boys from the ‘hood played hockey on the frozen pond in Chippawa Park, or Saturday morning baseball on the diamond at Ross School, or football in the park.
“Paul organized those games back then. He was the organizer, just as he is today,” Larouche says, a longing for yesteryear discernible in his voice.
I’ve heard about those days and those games before but it’s something to be shared again as his time machine takes us back. They weren’t quite teens yet, Larouche wants me to know, so important to him because the glue, the bonding that friendship grows, is as gripping today as five decades ago. That makes it a mighty bond.
Larouche is 62, his pal Turner is a year older.
“I still remember Paul’s address back then, 217 Edgar Street,” Larouche says.
The Burkholders lived on Glen View and the Larouche family on Pine Street. These friendships held firm through life’s ups and downs, tears and cheers, and triumphs and tragedies.
“It’s an unbreakable bond.”
It helps explain why he’s been part of the fund-raising, community-building Julia’s Hope Cup from Day 1. For Larouche and several others of his ilk, this is anything but a time-limited engagement.
I asked why he does it year after year.
“I guess I could borrow a line from Rotary,” says Larouche, a former Rotarian. “Service above self. It’s a good motto to live by in your community.”
The experience is rewarding and satisfying, he says. This comes from knowing you’re making a “small difference” in the Turners’ lives and also from being able to contribute to the community’s less fortunate via Hope Centre.
Larouche believes Julia’s Hope Cup has become one of Welland’s best known annual events and deservedly so.
“It shows just how compassionate our community is. When something unfortunate, something heartbreaking like Julia’s passing is – and we’re able to turn it into something positive and at the same time remember Julia’s contributions in her short span of years, that’s something special. Julia was active in volunteering and bringing the community together. Her legacy unifies the community by working together for a common cause.”
As Larouche sees it, the event offers layers of participation, whether it’s “making a donation, physically taking part by playing hockey, or volunteering.… that kind of support. ”
He holds dear the times and gatherings with Tina and Paul and friends over the years continuing to the present day. He calls their home “a magical place” warmed by family dinners, barbecues, sports gatherings and more, all with memories of Julia in their midst.
Friendship’s loyalty and respect are what matter most to Larouche, who can look back 50 years and remember the good times playing hockey on frozen Chippawa Park pond, and who can fast forward to present day where he relishes what Julia’s Hope Cup now does for so many others.
“I know one thing,” says Jim Larouche, “it makes the bonds of friendship stronger.”
WELLAND – Don’t miss out on this year’s Family Day fun activities at the Welland Arena from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, February 20. Admission is free with the donation of a nonperishable food item.
On the ice, opportunities to learn to skate with aids and bumpers are available, as it is the chance to try your hand at ringette. Off the ice, in the community room, residents can test their skills with hockey shooting accuracy and the challenge of bubble hockey.
“This year will feel more like normal than it has in a long time,” said Rob Axiak, director of community services. “Our staff is excited to prepare and deliver some great activities for families and engage with the community with family-focused fun.”
And if hockey or ice-themed activities aren’t your things, there will be a craft creation with the Welland Museum, face painting, a magician, and Shriner s Creek popcorn for sale.
Sponsored by the Welland Optimist Club, club members will be handing out a voucher for a free hot dog or fries and a free drink to every child who attends the Family Day celebration. The voucher is redeemable at the Main Arena canteen during the time of the event only.
Starting on February 9, Niagara College will hang red dresses across both the Welland Campus and the Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake to raise awareness for the REDress Project. The initiative is dedicated to honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Asexual (2SLGBTQQIA+) people.
The REDress Project began in 2011 as an art installation at the University of Winnipeg by Métis artist Jaime Black and has since evolved into a national movement. This is the third year that the College will host the REDress Project and hang dresses on its campuses.
Participating in the REDress Project is a way to support the College’s Indigenous community members and to encourage learning and discussion around MMIWG, noted Leah Hogan, Associate Director of Indigenous Education at NC.
“We continue to draw attention to the reality of our community’s experience with gender-based violence against our women, LGBTQ+, and two-spirited people by hanging red dresses,” said Hogan. “We all must keep the dialogue going on this national and human rights issue.”
Dresses will be on display at both campuses until Feb. 16 as powerful visual reminders of the violence and injustices suffered by MMIWG and 2SLGTBQQIA+ people.
In addition to red dress displays on campus, the NC button – a life-size logo located at the main entrances at both campuses – will be illuminated red on Feb.14 in support of the REDress Project.
“Valentine’s Day is known for celebrating love,” said NC Indigenous Student Success Leader Emily Schutt. “That’s why it is the perfect day for the College to bring awareness to our MMIWG2SGBTQQIA+ and to let those spirits who the dresses are representing, know that they are loved and not forgotten.”
Niagara College is also encouraging community members to hang a red dress of their own as a show of solidarity and commitment to supporting our Indigenous community.
“The REDress Project is a powerful movement that has the ability to bring people together,” said Schutt. “We are proud to participate in this important initiative in support of our community partners who bravely advocate for change and supports for Indigenous communities across the country.”
Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 9,500 students from over 80 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.
Pictured (top left) is the path leading into Merritt Park at the corner of King Street and the Division Street bridge. It is probably the oldest park in the city. Decades ago, it was home to the Welland Town Band and was a great venue for ship watching.
When examining old maps of Welland, the second canal was bordered with small streams and ponds on the east bank and this neglect would continue when the canal was widened in 1888. Though the west bank was widened, the east bank remained untouched. King Street went through several name changes and by 1900 was known as Muir Street.
One of the remaining ponds was found along Muir Street and became a catch-all for all kinds of refuse. It became known as McCarthy’s Pond. An entry in the city’s 1958 Centennial booklet was headlined: Midtown Park Once Unsightly Pond. It was “an unsightly place filled to overflowing with old bed springs, tin cans and refuse in general and rats in particular.”
When W.E. Phin was contracted to widen the canal between Quaker Road and Port Robinson, a town councillor convinced him to place the excess soil into the pond. In 1911 maple and elm trees were planted and then the soil was ready for seeding. The second picture shows the planted trees and the construction of the Welland Club in the background.
The next photo from yesteryear shows the park looking north from the Welland Club featuring a circular bandstand for use by the town band and a platform for local politicians. A canaller is passing the park in the third canal heading for the opened swing bridge at East Main and West Main streets. The bandstand was removed in 1952 and replaced with a circular fountain but it deteriorated and was little used.
Today, beautiful sculptures and a fountain – the Welland Canal Workers monument – occupy the site of the bandstand, enhanced by a brick walkway with many of the bricks carrying names of local residents.The park is also home to: the canal-side amphitheatre and floating stage; a permanent memorial to workers who were killed or injured while on the job; and most recently, a memorial celebrating 100 years of steelmaking in Welland.
It can be said Merritt Park evolved over the years, from unsightly McCarthy’s Pond of yesteryear into a passive park space rich with historical and cultural importance to our community.
(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)