By Mike Pearson, News staff
It’s a resource centre offering hope and a new beginning for thousands of Hamiltonians.
On Oct. 18, Mission Services cut the ribbon on its new Community Opportunity Centre at 196 Wentworth St. N.
Just one year after acquiring the former Mohawk College property, the centre now offers a variety of nutrition, counseling and career training programs designed to help Hamilton residents escape poverty through education.
Barry Coe, director of community relations and resource development, said the new Opportunities Centre builds upon the organization’s shelter services with a full range of complimentary services.
“Mission Services is more than a meal,” said Coe. “The meal is just the entry point for other services.”
The new centre has a food bank called a nutrition centre, and offers services such as financial counseling, a food distribution centre, and a wellness addiction treatment program. The centre is launching a pilot career skills program with students in its food distribution centre involving materials handling, retail sales and retail display.
“We’re seeing this as a place where learning is going to be the key, because breaking the cycle of poverty is going to have to be education,” said Coe.
Mohawk College is leasing space in the centre under a 20-year agreement. The college is expected to offer programming that will mesh with Mission Services’ objectives.
Mission Services operates two shelters, which Coe said are filled to capacity on a nightly basis.
The Jamesville 2 shelter on James Street North has a 58-bed capacity. Inasmuch House is a 37-bed shelter that helps women who are fleeing from domestic violence.
The Opportunity Centre, located next to Cathy Weaver School, does not include a shelter.
Following a one-year process to acquire the property from Mohawk and remodel the interior, the Opportunity Centre opened its doors earlier in the summer.
Mission Services financed the purchase through the sale of two properties at 50 Murray Street and 293 Wellington St. N.
The 196 Wentworth St. N. site originally opened in 1927 as the Provincial Institute of Technology and became the Hamilton Institute of Technology in the 1940s before Mohawk took it over in the mid-60s.
Pastor Edward Raddatz, executive director of Mission Services, said the organization has enjoyed a long tradition of transforming old motels, taverns and places of ill repute into community resource centres.
“Today this grand old place is a monument to this process of change,” said Raddatz.
Aside from its two shelters, virtually all of Mission Services’ funding comes from donors. The organization will be asking contributors to dig a little deeper for the upcoming holiday season to meet a growing need.
“Our food bank component of the nutrition centre is facing a 35 per cent increase over last year,” said Coe.
Donors can help by dropping off non-perishable food donations at the Opportunity Centre every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.