As a third generation Kelownian, Flynn Seddon can draw upon memories from any number of the old structures remaining around the city.
East Kelowna Hall in particular, however, looms large in his recollections, offering countless narratives about the community’s local characters, the traditions they kept and the events they celebrated.
“It was once the liveliest place in town,” said Seddon, who even went to Kindergarten and the Cubs in the East Kelowna hall.
“Then as we got older, the hall became a place for public and private parties, dances, weddings and even wakes,” he said.
Before that, it was even more monumental to the community.
“It was a social meeting area for all the local orchardists in my parents’ generation,” he said. “And I think a lot of the old neighbourhood people remember it as a place of good fun. …In those days it was the one place that allowed people to mingle and grow community camaraderie.”
In the last decade, however, things changed.
The society that ran the hall for years ran out of steam, disbanding quietly in 2010. And with that, what was once the heart of the community was poised to fade into memory.
“It reverted to the ownership of government, and the community had a small timeline to reinitiate it as an association,” Seddon said. “We’ve always seen the hall there, but for the last decade, I just didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know how it was run or who was running it… it was just there.”
As word of the hall’s fate began to spread around the community, a public meeting was held to discuss options.
At that meeting, a handful of those who wanted to ensure its survival stepped forward and worked through the process of forming a society so they could keep it running.
Among their ranks was Chris LaPointe, who’s currently working on a fundraising plan to help bring the building back to pristine condition.
“We’ve now embarked on renovating and repairing the building,” said LaPointe, stressing that Ryan Markewich at Creative Roots Landscaping volunteered really put his heart into the project, helping with a number of fix-ups and the planning of other projects.
Off the sides of their desks, the society members worked to get bathrooms and doors refurbished. Starting this week the roof is being replaced. The latter will cost $15,000 — a hefty investment LaPointe says is worthwhile.
“One of our goals is to get it up to snuff for its 75th anniversary, in 2015,” said LaPointe.
“We plan to bring it back so community groups can meet in it. And we’d like to create a community garden and outdoor space.”
As the structure takes new shape, LaPointe foresees further revenue opportunities to support the $15,000 a year operating costs, plus-more. The plus-more should help the society make the hall even more valuable to the community.
“With the growing population in Kelowna, there’s definitely a demand for community space,” he said, listing numerous groups that already use the building.
It’s a concept Seddon can visualize as well.
“From my view, it can be all of those things it used to be,” he said.
“And that’s the feeling from the people involved now. We all believe in the hall and want to see it become what it meant to the people in the 40s and 50s … A community icon.”
The society is accepting donations at the KLO store for the re-roofing project. They are looking for volunteers, donations, renters, support.
Their website is www.eastkelownacommunityhall.webs.com.