On White Head Island, off the east coast of Grand Manan in the Bay of Fundy, fishermen used to meet and talk each morning behind the lone community store on what was known as the "liars bench."
But when the store closed in 2017, the storage-bin "bench" went with it. And the community meeting spot, once used by many, was gone.
"I don't think people realized just what we had at the time," said lifelong resident Dorothy Daggett, who lives in Gull Cove.
The island, which is only accessible by ferry, has a population of 130, including summer residents, Daggett said, so having a place to get together is important, especially since COVID-19.
At the opening of the White Head Community Centre, Dorothy Daggett cut the ribbon, accompanied by board members John Blom, left, and Philip Colwell. (Submitted by Dorothy Daggett)
John Blom, a rec council board member, said about six months after the store closed, a group of residents started getting together, talking about how much they missed having a place to gather to talk and grab a coffee.
So the White Head recreational council was resurrected, with Daggett as president, and the search for funding began.
The centre is just under 2,000 square feet, has an industrial kitchen and the only public washrooms on the island, says Blom. (Submitted by John Blom)
The council applied for grants and started a fundraising campaign. The small community raised about $45,000 and received more than $300,000 in grant money.
"It's really contributing to a sense of community, which — after the store closed and then the pandemic … took a big hit during those years," Blom said.
White Head recreational council board member John Blom says there's been a good turnout every morning since the place opened. (Submitted by John Blom)
The new centre, which opened only a week ago, is just under 2,000 square feet, has an industrial kitchen and the only public washrooms on the island, said Blom.
It also has a café but Daggett said that hasn't opened yet because it still needs to have a filter installed and a water test done.
A map of White Head Island is inlaid in centre's floor. (Submitted by John Blom)
Blom said there's been a good turnout every morning and the council is already planning events, including a game night and monthly craft night.
The centre is currently run by volunteers, he said, with one early bird offering to open up in the mornings and others pitching in for upkeep and to shut the place down at the end of the day.
The community centre opened on Saturday, Oct. 14. In true small community fashion, the door is open and the coffee is on each morning. (Submitted by John Blom)
Blom said White Head Island is peaceful on a level that can't be found anywhere else. He said it's what motivated his move to the island 11 years ago.
"There are times when you want it to be quiet and times when maybe you don't want it to be quiet. And this at least gives you the option."