By Lawrence Powell
Building and operating a post office wasn't even close to being on MacKenzie Akin's radar a few months ago. Now the construction is almost done and the not-for-profit group he runs will be handing out stamps, weighing parcels, and sorting mail in a few short weeks.
Lawrencetown is getting a new post office and Carleton Road Industries Association is going to run it.
Akin, CRIA executive director, said new post office boxes will be open to the public on July 3 and full retail services will begin on July 17. He also said that within a month, box holders will have 24-hour access.
Lawrencetown's current Canada Post outlet will be closed at the end of June when Lawrencetown Pharmasave, almost across the street from the new location, locks its doors for good.
CRIA is a non-profit, charitable adult service centre located on Highway 201 in Lawrencetown, providing vocational and life skills training for adults of Annapolis and Kings counties who are diagnosed with mental, intellectual, emotional, and/or physical disabilities.
It's mandate is to provide high quality and diverse programs that will assist in the successful transition into the normal workforce. When that’s is not attainable, it hopes to provide meaningful employment opportunities with the supervision of qualified and professional staff.
Akin said operating a post office meets that mandate, providing diversity to the association's current employment opportunities such as woodworking, property maintenance, and a flyer service. It also owns and operates the gas bar in Lawrencetown located right next door to the new post office.
The house that houses the post office will also have space on the east side to allow the gas bar to expand its sales space, another possible alternative program for CRIA's clients. Upstairs will be two apartments for clients.
"I think that's going to be a great experience too," said Akin about the apartments. “It creates independence which is our goal."
Akin said his clients have really taken ownership of the gas bar and now the post office. "They'd rather be here than anywhere else," he said.
He said that sense of ownership leads to more self-confidence, also a goal of the program.
Carleton Road Industries is completely restoring the old house, a building they came to possess through a strange turn of events. Twice vandals had wrecked the onsite washroom at the gas bar. Akin talked to the owner of the house next door to see if he could make washroom arrangements for his staff at her house. It was either that or close down the gas bar. She gave them the house.
Since last fall they've been working to restore the house and then Canada Post contacted them about opening a post office.
"I thought it would be a great program for our clients," Akin said. "A great expansion to Carleton Road."
He said he may sometimes be accused of biting off more than he can chew.
But nothing is impossible, and nothing is too big or too small that Carleton Road is not willing to try,” he said.
Akin has heard nothing but positive feedback from the community, and that's the reason CRIA's business continues to grow, he said. The restoration has brought the community together, at least as far as helping refurbish the old house. Russell Ernest Backhoe Services chipped in 13 tandem truck loads of gravel to fill in the basement. Matthew Whynot Electrical and Rona Cash and Carry have helped out in a big way, And All Weather Windows and Doors of Berwick have been a big supporter as well.
And the CRIA clients themselves have played a major role in the hard work of restoring the home to useful service.
It’s been a slow process since last fall, Akin said, adding that it’s really coming together now.
Between staff and clients we put in the extra time required and they’ve all taken ownership,” Akin said. “It’s been a great team-building experience. That I’m proud of staff and clients would be to say the least.”
Akin is hoping that when the dust settles, he’ll be able to plan a grand opening sometime in mid August. In the meantime, getting up and running is the goal. “For the clients it’s something to look forward to,” Akin said. “You can’t get much better than that.”