Sitting down with North Dartmouth residents James and Larry at the Wednesday morning drop in was a bit of a challenge. What made it so hard...? There was barely a moment when there was a free seat at their table. With a constant stream of people looking to say hello, have a quick chat or offer James their two cents on the crossword puzzle he was attempting to complete between visitors, it was a bit of a scramble to gain access to the free chair.
"I've lived here in North Dartmouth my entire life", says Larry. "I grew up a few blocks away from this Centre and 62 yrs later you could throw a rock and hit the building where I live now." Larry is good friends with James, who moved to the area five years ago and lives in the same building. Sitting down for a friendly chat with them, it's clear they have their fingers on the pulse of the positive changes happening in North Dartmouth. Holding court at their table during the drop-in, Larry and James recognize most faces and are quick to welcome new ones. They both say that they love this community and are thrilled with the addition of the Food Centre.
"There are really great things happening here at the Centre", says James. "It's such a welcoming place and I feel really safe when I walk through the door". A regular visitor to the weekly drop-ins, James goes on to say that one of the things he likes best at the Centre is the variety of workshops and programs offered. "I've been to all sorts of talks with topics that were new to me". James continued, "When I first started coming to things like "Tea and Talk", or "Speak up, Show up", I sat in the back just to get the lay of the land." Now, James says, he feels more confident that he has a voice and is quick to participate in the whatever the group discussion is.
Larry echoes James's sentiments. "The Centre has been one of the most positive things to happen to my community in a long time. He continued, "Having a warm, safe place to come talk with friends, enjoy a cup of coffee and feel right at home has made a big difference in my life." Larry enjoys participating in the current programs offered at the Centre, such as the transit discussion or the focus on Mental Health Awareness Month. Larry said that anxiety often causes him to feel uncomfortable in new environments, but when he is surrounded by his neighbours at the Centre he feels a sense of belonging. "I come in from the cold, to this welcoming space." He adds, with a chuckle, "It can get a little loud, but I always feel a little better when I leave than when I walked in."