WINDSOR, N.S. — The Happy Community Project in Windsor–West Hants is only a couple of months old, but founder Barry Braun says the group has already provided some positive results for the community.
Starting in Sackville with a chapter in North End Halifax, Windsor has become the latest tent pole in the network of community groups.
Braun says they’ve had two meetings in Windsor so far, with their on Oct. 9 and their second on Nov. 9.
“Both meetings have been incredibly inspiring; the energy that comes into that room has just been phenomenal,” Braun said. “But what’s really inspiring is the reach that people are making. The projects being chosen are not for the faint of heart.”
Some of the projects already underway include creating a cultural social centre in Windsor, getting the farmers market up and running again, and a community kitchen.
“These are way more than just good ideas. People have formed committees and are making decisions for putting things into action with timelines in place,” he said.
Popular community breakfast saved
One project has already been a success.
The Ellershouse community breakfast, one of the largest in West Hants, was expected to shut down after Nov. 25, but the Happy Community Project found enough volunteers to keep it running.
“Ellershouse community breakfast, which is one of the biggest and most successful ones in the province, attracts up to 300 people almost every month,” he said.
“The volunteer group that runs it put out a notice saying as of Nov. 25, there will be no more,” he continued.
“We put a call out for volunteers. I was told we needed 25, and 31 people have shown up,” he said. “We asked for a leadership team of three, and eight people have shown up. It’s now going to continue on.”
Pat Atwell, an organizer with the breakfast, said she was glad the Happy Community Project has picked up the banner and is hopeful they’ll be able to maintain enough volunteers to keep it going.
“Most of us who had worked at the breakfast are senior citizens and weren’t able to carry it on and fortunately, the Happy Community Project picked up on it,” Atwell said. “It wasn’t an issue of attendance. We had great turnout, anywhere between 220 and 300. They come from Beaver Bank to Kings County.”
Funds raised from the breakfast goes to the St. Croix Pastoral Charge and the group rents the Ellershouse Community Hall.
“I hope it works out for them, I do,” she said. “Most of us have been there for 10 years — as long as its been going. Commitment is the big thing. It was a great outreach for the area.”
Atwell thanked the community for their continued support over the years.
Solid volunteer base
Braun said he estimates there’s about 250 people in the Windsor–West Hants area with an interest in the Happy Community Project, with about 50 actively involved in the planning and community meeting side of things.
“I run these projects in other communities as well, and what typically happens is that the people who are already part of the narrow volunteer base come out,” he said. “What’s happened here in Windsor is there’s a whole new group showing up. The average age in the room was far younger than you’d normally expect. With that comes fresh ideas and fresh energy.”
Braun said the farmers market in particular is getting a lot of attention from community members, who are hoping to see it revived and expanded.
“They’re getting, what seems like one new person every day to help with it,” he said.
In the end, Braun says he wants to see the community come closer together, and people bumping into each other and saying a friendly hello at the farmers market is one way to do that.
“Windsor, by far, has taught me the right way to do this,” he said. “Our community works best when there are strong connections, when people know each other.”
Tarah Gibbon, from Ardoise, is part of the core group of volunteers. She said she sees a lot of potential in the area and feels the Happy Community Project is a way to get ideas off the ground.
“There’s just so many people out there that have ideas on how to make their community better,” she said. “There’s often this talk of ‘they should,’ but I think if people bring those ideas here, we can help make that happen.”
The next Happy Community Project meeting is scheduled for Nov. 30 at the Hants County War Memorial Community Centre in Windsor at 7 p.m.
The Windsor chapter of the Happy Community Project has identified five key projects to focus on. They include: revitalizing the Windsor Farmers Market, creating a community kitchen/food hub, developing a cultural social hub, implementing a ‘Welcome Newcomers’ project and initiating the ‘Tour de Hants’.