Children will once again rule the halls of the old Coquihalla Middle School now that two family-oriented non-profit organizations have moved in.
Interior Community Services, formerly located on Coutlee Avenue, has partnered with Children’s Therapy and Family Resource Centre to offer their services in one place for Merritt and area families at the old Coquihalla Middle School building on Clapperton Avenue.
“The space is certainly perfect for organizations like ours,” ICS chief operating officer Shelly Bonnah said. “To have a gym, a playground, an art room — it really couldn’t be any better for the services that we deliver.”
Bonnah added the timing was right for ICS to move as the organization had outgrown its previous space on Coutlee Avenue.
ICS opened a Merritt office in 2013, through which the Kamloops-based Children’s Therapy and Family Resource Centre offered its programs.
Children’s therapy executive director Mary-Ellen Everatt said the two organizations partnered with the best interests of their Merritt clients in mind.
“What a perfect location,” Everatt said. “We work with children and families and to have a school — it was built for us.”
Bonnah said the organizations are open to other non-profits offering services in Merritt without office space here sharing in their new, large building to create a hub for community services.
Everatt and Bonnah said their hope is the partnership and formation of a hub for programs and services will be a model other communities can look at.
Everatt said even something as little as sharing toys between the two non-profits can help each stretch its budget rather than redundantly spend on the same kinds of items.
“We share our toys, we share our equipment, we share everything, so it makes the contract dollars stretch — and when that happens, everyone’s a winner,” Everatt said.
Bonnah said both organizations received plenty of support from the school district and the City of Merritt in the partnership.
School District 58 chairman Gordon Comeau said having a long-term tenant with a focus on community services creates a best-case scenario for the school district, the organizations and the people of Merritt.
“With our enrolment situation, we don’t see the facility being needed for quite some time,” he said. “The stability that they talk about fits for both: we need a stable person in this facility to ensure we know it’s being used and being looked after, and they need the stability to be able to set up their programs, to make sure that they can move forward with long-term vision.
“Everybody wins in this, but in particular the citizens of Merritt who require the service and have the bulk of it all in one place,” Comeau said.
Services went ahead at the new building without even a day’s gap.
The organizations co-hosted an open house for people to tour the new facility on Monday afternoon.