Harley Valentine, the proprietor of the old church at the corner of Elm and Christie St. in Grimsby, has donated the use of the iconic heritage building for three years to the Grimsby Benevolent Fund to help it pull off Christmas 2020 and create a town wellness hub.
Grimsby Benevolent Fund, or GBF as it is known, provides basic needs assistance to the community by offering food, clothes, housing and health services. Due to COVID-19, a greater need for support has emerged this holiday season. So before Valentine came through with the perfect space, the organization was uncertain how to pull off its annual Christmas Hamper Program.
Every year, GBF provides approximately 300 Christmas hampers to those in need. But this year, because of the pandemic its usual work space did not offer sufficient square footage to manage social distancing.
“Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our previous location for preparing Christmas hampers wasn’t going to work – there just wasn’t enough space…for the volunteers to do their work,” said Stacy Elia, Chief Executive Officer of GBF. “The timing of meeting Harley was ideal – our beautiful new home (has) ample space.”
Thanks to its alliance with Valentine, the organization now has the resources it needs to get residents through Christmas, but also, for the next three years.
Valentine is a Grimsby-born real estate developer. His company Castlepoint Numa specializes in iconic and dynamic buildings in the Greater Toronto Area and in parts of the United States. He is donating three years of usage of the building to GBF, including rent and utilities as well as paying any taxes on the property.
Valentine “evolved from being a good neighbour to a great partner in helping us get the space we needed to deliver GBF’s Christmas Hamper Program, plus create a wellness hub,” said Irene Podolak, President and Chair of the GBF Board of Directors.
The old church is currently undergoing a transformation. It will be converted into a wellness hub by the first week of January. The new GBF facility will offer programs to residents of all ages. Services include private counselling, fitness classes, and educational programs, including nutrition and meal prep taught in a teaching kitchen.
The idea came about from an investigation that began last year. GBF started exploring how similar organizations were promoting community wellness. It consulted with over 50 stakeholders at the local, regional and global levels, to come up with a plan for this new wellness hub.
Following an extensive review, GBF’s definition of wellness evolved to encompass four domains: physical, mental, social and environmental. The new space will offer programs that that target these key areas. The location will also be a wellness incubator. Many community-focused wellness ideas will be trialed at this facility.
“COVID-19 definitely created a number of challenges for both GBF and our community. We weren’t sure how we were going to fulfill our new vision of enabling our clients and community to be well,” said Podolak. But now with this new wellness space, GBF will be able to continue to support Grimsby moving into 2021 and beyond.
“Just when we thought we were going to have to scale down our ambitions, Harley and his team appeared with a solution,” said Podolak. “It’s the generosity of this Grimsby native that we are celebrating today.”