Excitement has been building for the restart of inclusive drop-in programs that have been unavailable to people with disabilities since the closure of The Hub last fall.
“There’s lots of interest … I would say I have heard almost non-stop excitement,” said Suzanne Hermary, executive-director of the Red Deer Arts Council. “I’m getting as many as five, six calls a day from guardians and support workers for multiple clients.”
Free to attend, drop-in programs for people with disabilities and the community at large called The Hub 2.0 will be starting up on Sept. 8, at the Northside Community Centre, operated by the YMCA.
The weekly programs will run every Wednesday. Hermary said visual art classes with Wendy Meeres will go from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Strum and Drum with Dean Ray will run from 1 to 2 p.m., and theatre with Jason Steele will run from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
There will be a cap on some class sizes, so participation is on a first-come basis, said Hermary. COVID-19 measures, as determined by the Edmonton YMCA policy, will apply. At this time, that policy includes wearing masks indoors.
Participants are encouraged to bring their lunches and socialize with their friends in common areas of the community centre between classes, Hermary added.
Jessica Swainson, who has cerebral palsy, said she really looks forward to being able to getting together with friends on Wednesdays this fall at the community centre. She hasn’t seen many of them since The Hub closed in the fall of 2020.
“It’s a good thing they are doing because many people haven’t had anything to do,” she said.
While Swainson is enrolled in an online film course this fall, she believes it will be great to also get some face-time and socializing in at the in-person classes at the Northside Community Centre.
Hermary noted that a free, inclusive choir program, Ross Street Singers, led by Danica Hoffart, is starting up on Sept. 25, from 10:30 to noon at the Gaetz United Church basement, which can be accessed by elevator. Participants are using “singer’s masks,” which allow people to take part in choir practice while also reducing the spread of COVID-19.
Hermary would love to expand The Hub 2.0 programs to more than once a week if interest is high, but can’t guarantee that will happen in the first year.
The Hub 2.0 is running with contributions from the City of Red Deer and the Red Deer and District Community Foundation. Hermary said she is looking into applying for some provincial funding in future.