A London pastor’s goal of opening a permanent community centre focused on serving the needs of the city’s Black community is closer to becoming a reality.
Friday marked the soft launch of the new W.E.A.N. (Where We Are Now) Community Centre, which looks to support and empower members of London’s Black and marginalized communities “by creating initiatives for equal opportunity and equal access to well-being, spiritual health and personal economic prosperity,” according to its website.
“We had a great turnout, and all I can do is say that the time is now for this community centre,” said the centre’s founder and executive director, Pastor Sandie Thomas of Spiritual Blessings Lighthouse Ministries.
The centre, which aims to serve all members of the community, is being temporarily housed at 717 Richmond St., just south of Oxford Street. Plans are in the works to have the centre move to a larger and more permanent space sometime next year.
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The plan for the centre was first publicized in early November, and the W.E.A.N name unveiled on Nov. 25, just over two weeks before the soft launch.
Thomas said that while the speed with which the community centre has come together may seem quick, the need for such a hub has been long-running.
“This is something that has been a need for about 10 or 20 years,” she said Tuesday.
“So doors are now being opened for us to be able to do this… It’s something that needed to be done years ago.”
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The centre currently offers services including children and youth programs, senior programs, health and wellness programs, outreach services, spiritual care services, programs for members of the LGBTQ2 community, and reading, literacy and tutoring programs for those learning English as a second language.
More services are set to be announced, with plans to open a Black-focused public library in the new year.
“It’s like I’m pinching myself. To see that we are here now, we are actually here, we are doing this. There’s no turning back!” Thomas said with a laugh.
“I’m just looking forward to the future and being teamed up with some like-minded people, having our allies and support with the City of London and with Farhi (Holdings Corp.), with the Black Chambers of Commerce. We are just so grateful for people partnering up with us, seeing that this is needed, and willing to work alongside of us.”
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With the soft launch come and gone, the next steps, Thomas says, is to secure funding.
She says the group is applying for grants and is also taking donations from the public.
“We have asked people in the community to donate $50, and if we get each person to do $50, can you imagine how much that would be?” Thomas said.
“We’ve already had people yesterday morning waiting for us to help them. We can see that within the BIPOC community, which is the Black, Indigenous (and) people of colour community, there is a need.”
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