Residents of the L’Arche Comox Valley I Belong Centre, along with L’Arche personnel, pose for a picture on the front lawn of their newly opened home. The I Belong Centre, a multi-unit residential complex and community centre, celebrated its grand opening on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Photo by Terry Farrell

VIDEOS: Comox Valley celebrates grand opening of L’Arche I Belong Centre

Achievement was recognized during Tuesday’s Legislature session

Local and national dignitaries, as well as many members of the community, gathered on the front lawn at 1465 Grieve Ave. Tuesday morning, Sept. 12, for the official grand opening of the L’Arche Comox Valley I Belong Centre.

The project, more than three years in the making, involved the construction of a “place of belonging” for people with developmental disabilities in the Comox Valley.

The 8,192 square foot multi-unit, multi-purpose centre houses a total of seven people, including six individuals who are developmentally disabled but can live semi-independently, and one residential co-ordinator.

There is also a common meeting place, meeting rooms for smaller activities, a larger hall, and a community kitchen (each unit has its own kitchen facilities as well).

“The building is here today, and we so proud and grateful for it, but what is so more important than the building, has been the journey, and what now goes on inside it -how people are welcomed when they enter it, [and] what spirit lives within the walls,” said Comox Valley community leader/executive director Christine Monier. “The impact of L’Arche on our core members lives as well as our wider community and neighbourhood is clearly evident today.”

The fundraising efforts achieved by the committee are a testament to the willingness of the Comox Valley to help. The original fundraising target was $800,000.

The total amount raised was in excess of $1.1 million.

The achievement was duly noted by the L’Arche community at large, as was evident by the presence of Hollee Card, national leader for L’Arche Canada.

“With profound gratitude, I thank everyone who has had a part in making this dream become a reality,” she said. “One of the gifts of L’Arche Comox Valley is that it has gently and quietly pushed L’Arche in Canada to think outside of the box. The community’s very existence is because a seed was planted in the hearts of Lock and Joanne Mawhinney and many, many others. Slowly and surely, risks were taken and the community was born. The commitment to L’arche’s mission of creating places and ways where people with and without intellectual disabilities together contribute to making their community a better place, has never waned. By sharing our gifts and supporting one another in our challenges, we become more compassionate, more human.”

The grand opening even made the floor of the Legislature, as Comox Valley MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard recognized the achievement during Tuesday’s session.

Donna Dukart and Tom Moffat took time to recognize the efforts of everyone. Their son, Kevin, is one of the residents.

A few others took their turns at the microphone, but the most inspiring speech of the day came from Paul, one of the new residents of the I Belong Centre.

“This isn’t all easy. I have to cook for myself. This is the first time I’ve cooked in 30 years. It’s hard, but I haven’t started any fires yet, so that’s good,” he said, laughing.

Pig roast upcoming

The seventh annual L’Arche Comox Valley Pig Roast takes place Saturday, Sept. 23 at Christ the King Church, 1599 Tunner Dr., Courtenay.

The dinner includes all the trimmings, as well as the ever-popular dessert auction. There is also a raffle for a trip for two anywhere WestJet flies. There will be dancing to live music, supplied by FiddleJam, and a cash bar. Tickets are $20 each, or $50 per family of three (two adults, one child – add $10 per additional child), and are available at Blue Heron Books in Comox (1775 Comox Ave.) or the Laughing Oyster Bookshop in Courtenay (286 Fifth St.).

Doors open at 6 p.m.