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Ripple Connection renovations scheduled to start in February

Two donations will allow centre to begin expansion project

BARRHEAD - The smell of sawdust will soon be in the air at Barrhead’s Ripple Connection Support Centre (RCSC).

Over two days, the RCSC received close to one-third of the estimated budget required for its estimated $100,000 expansion project.

On Jan. 9, the Barrhead chapter of Rural Crime Watch donated $3,000 while Pembina Pipelines Corporation donated $24,738.80 the next day.

RCSC is a not-for-profit which opened in 2010 and provides services for people who directly suffer from mental illness as well as their families and caregivers.

Among the services the centre currently provides is a subsidized lunch program called Warm Your Heart, which is a referral service to Alberta Mental Health and Addictions, the food bank and low-income housing.

RCSC also provides peer-to-peer counselling as a stop-gap measure until Alberta Mental Health services are available.

The centre also offers caregivers the opportunity to get together, share experiences as well as educational sessions and workshops, or just give them a place to unwind.

However, most importantly, the centre provides people living with mental illness with a safe place they can go and reduce the feeling of isolation that often accompanies mental illness. In the spring they announced they were undertaking a major expansion and renovation project.

RCSC executive director Tracy Whitten said due to demand for their services the board decided they needed to expand. On any given day RCSC serves between 20 and 30 people and the demand for its services is growing almost daily.

Unfortunately, she said their current location at the back of what was the Flower Lane building on Main Street did not allow for much more, which is why they were ecstatic when they had the opportunity to take over the entire building last year.

But to make use of the space, Whitten noted, major renovations were needed. Thanks to the recent donations, work will start in February on taking down the walls, adding a private entranceway connecting the old and new portions, and upgrading its flooring. Eventually, the RCSC hopes to expand its kitchen facilities.

Rural Crime Watch assistant president Lawrence Boucher said the organization was proud to be able to help the RCSC in its efforts to expand its services.

“We are always looking for new groups to donate to and when we learned about the Ripple Connection and the work they do in the community we knew it is something we wanted to support,” he said.

Janie Freckelton, Pembina Pipelines administrative campaign chair, said the money came from its United Way campaign.

“It is driven by the employees. We put on several fundraising events through the year and whatever we raise is matched by our head office, Pembina Calgary,” she said.

As for how the Pembina Pipelines Corporation selects which charity to support, supervisor Troy Wharton said the decision of which charity to support is made by the employees.

“It is a difficult decision,” he said, noting Pembina Pipelines Corporation services such a wide area. “Everyone brings in a letter or something about a charity or organization, we narrow it down and as a group, we pick out who we want to support.”

Wharton added when the employees learned about what the Ripple Connection did and their plans, it was obvious they were more than worthy.

“You can’t know how much these donations mean to us. Without the generosity from groups and organizations like these, we wouldn’t be able to do the things we do,” Whitten said.

Work on the first phase of the renovations is expected to begin in early February. During the construction, the Ripple Connection will continue to host its biweekly garage sales on Thursdays and Saturdays. They have also have set up a Go Fund Me page.

For more information about the RCSC, how to donate to its renovation project or access its services, call 780-674-5548 or visit 5130B 50th Street Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.