In, July 1983, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation initiated a Tenant Relations Program, in an attempt to increase and improve communications between non-profit housing and the landlord, NLHC. The thrust of this program was, and still is to encourage the tenants in different housing projects to become involved in their communities. In an effort to meet the above noted objectives, the staff of the Tenant Relations Division developed a proposal and submitted it to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the St. John’s City Council for a community centre to open at 87 Froude Avenue. Since then, Community Centres have opened at 24 -26 Graves Street (Rabbittown), 51 Harding Road (Virginia Park), Brophy Place (MacMorran), and Brigade Street (Buckmasters Circle).
Since opening, the main source of funding has been provided by the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation. As well as other sources which include; The Department of Human Resources and Employment, Health & Community Services, Human Resources and Development Canada, The City of St. John’s, private donations, fund-raising, user fees and various Municipal, Provincial and Federal grants and funding opportunities.
The first Tenant Association of Virginia Park was formed during the summer of 1984. In trying to run activities in the area, the Association quickly discovered that there was no suitable place to operate out of. Given the fact that other Tenant Associations had been able to get a facility, or a Community Centre, the Association decided to try to get the same for the Virginia Park area.
In early 1986, attempts were made to contact The Minister of NL Housing, to see if any assistance could be provided. At that time, a meeting was held with his Executive Assistant, and the idea of renovating Building 1134 was raised. In the summer of 1986, the first meeting was held between the Minister of Housing and the Virginia Park Tenant Association. After some discussion, it was felt that renovating Building 1134 was not feasible. However, the feeling of the Tenant Association about obtaining a Centre was still strong.
Meanwhile, as a result of voiced concerns by merchants of the Virginia Park Plaza, a meeting was set up at the Community Services Council in April 1986. In attendance were residents of the community (Homeowners & Tenants), Merchants, and other interested individuals – including Mr. Dinn’s Executive Assistant, who was already aware of the efforts of the Tenant Association. The major point made at this meeting was that there was a definite need for a Community Centre in the area.
During the same period, a meeting was held between representatives from Nfld & Lab. Housing Corporation, Dept. of Social Services and the School in the Virginia Park area. Here again, it was felt that something had to be done to respond to the recreational and social needs of the children in the community.
As a result of this activity and concern, the building in question was again looked at and it was decided to proceed with renovations – following discussion with Federal and Provincial Government Officials.
Following these meeting and discussions, it was decided that a coordinated effort should be made to do some planning for the opening of the centre. The approach was to include Homeowners and Tenants of the area, as well as interested Board of Directors, which is now known as the Community Association of Virginia Park.
On July 17, 1987, special guests and Government Officials gathered at the Community Centre on Harding Road for the official Ribbon cutting, these guest included: Hon. Jerry Dinn – Minister of Housing, Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff, and Counselor Andy Wells. The need for a full time coordinator was quickly recognized and a person was hired on in August, 1987. The Community Centre was first opened to the public on September 12, 1987, for an open house. This marked the official opening of the Centre to the public and made residents aware of the New Community Centre and its plans for programs and services. Programming began in early October.
Since the Virginia Park Community Centre has been in operation it has gone through a lot of growing pains. However programs and participation has been increasing steadily, and will continue to do so as long as the community and Government support continues.