Happy Valley-Goose Bay sisters want community centre run by their late mother to reopen

·4 min read
Bernice Earle says her mother, Sandra, worked to transform Perrault Place into a welcoming area in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (John Gaudi/CBC  - image credit)
Bernice Earle says her mother, Sandra, worked to transform Perrault Place into a welcoming area in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (John Gaudi/CBC - image credit)

Sandra Earle poured her heart and soul into Perrault Place, the social housing complex in Happy Valley-Goose Bay she called home.

In May, the 70-year-old who touched the lives of many families died after a sudden illness. Now the complex's community centre is closed, "locked up tighter than Fort Knox," said Bonnie Earle, one of her daughters.

Perrault Place is operated by the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation. Earle said it wasn't easy to be told she had to clean it out shortly after her mother's death.

"Mom would be embarrassed and ashamed and hurt if she knew it was just shut like that," Earle told CBC News, adding they should have been given time to grieve to be able to make a decision. She said there was never a discussion about whether the community centre should stay open.

An annual block party the Nunatsiavut government puts on for residents each summer was dedicated in her memory in mid-August. Bernice Earle, another of Sandra's daughters, said it was special to see everyone come out to celebrate her mother's life.

"Knowing that everybody is here to celebrate her, it puts my mind and my heart at ease," she said.

Past residents of Perrault Place were among those who gathered for the event, which included games, a barbecue, live entertainment and a game of basketball.

"Mom would be smiling hard now knowing everyone came out, knowing it was for a block party," Bernice told CBC News. "Mom put her heart and soul into this place."

John Gaudi/CBC
John Gaudi/CBC

Bonnie Earle said Perrault Place used to be a considered a slum.

But her mother and another resident, Maxine Budgell, turned it around by setting up a tenants' association, followed by a community centre and basketball courts.

"Ask anybody, they'll say Sandra ran Perrault Place. Sandra kept this place going," said Bonnie Earle.

Sandra Earle had been the president of the community centre for at least the past two decades, having taken over from Maxine when she moved out.

She was committed to making a difference by running programs like brown bag breakfasts for schoolchildren, and an annual camping excursion for residents, said Bonnie Earle.

Submitted by Bernice Earle
Submitted by Bernice Earle

Meeting postponed

The Earle family wants the community centre back up and running again and are waiting for a meeting to happen with community stakeholders.

Bonnie Earle said it's been postponed a few times over the last two months.

"We got school coming up, and if we can get it open to start the brown bag breakfasts, you'll have some happy families. That was something people depended on here," she said.

Bonnie Earle said it's disappointing the meeting hasn't happened yet, adding she's already got a list of volunteers who want to help out.

Sandra Earle's legacy 

Lake Melville Independent MHA Perry Trimper, who says he's helping to facilitate the meeting, said the delay is a matter of having to work with everyone's schedules.

He says he's optimistic about the future of the community centre, as it's widely known how important supporting Perrault Place is.

"Sandra had a really good legacy that she's left here, and we need to keep it going," he said.

Trimper said a variety of agencies worked together to make Perrault Place work, and it needs to continue.

He said some of the players at the table might include Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, the provincial department of Children, Seniors and Social Development, the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the Labrador Friendship Centre,as well as members of Perrault Place.

Bernice Earle says her mother's hard work made Perrault Place into the community that it is today.

John Gaudi/CBC
John Gaudi/CBC

"You see people coming here taking their kids here to the playground nowadays. Years ago, you would never do that. They were too afraid to come here," she said.

She hopes the Perrault Place community centre will come back again, and the meeting to discuss its future will happen sooner rather than later.

"Mom put her heart and soul into this place like you wouldn't believe. That was something she was always proud of because it was her home."

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