SHEET HARBOUR – With ownership of one property in this seaside community changing hands, local residents have a loss and a gain.
Within days of pulling up stakes earlier this month – after 82 years in this vibrant Eastern Shore community – Scotiabank has donated its newly vacated premises to the YMCA, which officially took over the building last week and is planning to expand its suite of local employment services there – just as soon as it has finished consulting with community leaders.
In an exclusive interview with The Journal on Aug. 26, Thivjan Tharmaratnam, chief operations officer for YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth, confirmed: “As of today, we do have possession of the building from Scotiabank and we’re going to be moving our employment services into it.”
He added: “Hopefully, with having a bigger space, [we] will be able to expand on some of the programs that we have down there [in Sheet Harbour]. And we’re also looking to connect with the community and see how we best utilize the other space in the building, as well.”
While he declined to confirm a specific timeline, he said the move will see the YMCA’s Nova Scotia Works Employment Services Centre – currently operating from small quarters at 22756 Nova Scotia Trunk 7 – relocate to the more capacious space on the same highway about a kilometre away. “We have one staff person that works down there right now … Obviously, it’s going to take some time … We have to go in and design and construct before we get in there.”
In January, Scotiabank caused consternation and controversy in Sheet Harbour when it announced that, effective Aug. 11, it would be shutting down its branch there after 82 years. The decision left many residents feeling high and dry with few options but long car rides to faraway branches. Others worried about the message the departure would send to potential businesses thinking of locating to the community.
Scotiabank was not available to comment last week about the property transaction, but Tharmaratnam confirmed for the Journal that “it was a donation” to the YMCA.
That, said Sheet Harbour Chamber of Commerce & Civic Affairs President Janice Christie, “is certainly better than the original news.” Still, she added, “As the president, I wasn’t approached [about the donation]. So, really, I guess my issue again is the process.”
Tharmaratnam said consultation is high on the YMCA’s to-do list.
“I think this is really an opportunity for us to kind of work with the community to look at the employment and economic supports we can put in the area. We don’t want to just drop in programs. We want to work with communities. If we are going to be expanding services, we want to know how we do that best for job seekers and employers down there. That’s why we want to make sure that we are open and saying ‘here we are.’ We actually want to work with individuals in the community to come up with what we all want to create.”
According to ymcansworks.ca, “For more than 30 years, the YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth has successfully worked with unemployed individuals in community-based settings in the areas of employment, personal and community enrichment. Presently, across Canada, the YMCA operates nearly 700 employment initiatives. All individuals are served with a holistic approach in all of our programs and this philosophy is most clear in our mission statement. YMCA Nova Scotia Works Employment Services Centre, with many locations around Halifax Regional Municipality, is one of such centres across Canada providing employment services for successful job searching and career advancement.”
Said Tharmaratnam: “We’re excited to be here.”
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal