From preschoolers to seniors, from church mavens to street people - the first phase of the Kamloops United Church's building overhaul will improve life for all of them.
Sue Sewell, chairwoman of the church council, said Thursday the Christian Education Centre on the east side of the building is more than 50 years old and the sanctuary dates back to 1979. Upgrades were needed.
"This occasion has been hoped for and dreamed of for a long time," she said.
About 250 people congregated at the church Thursday afternoon to get a first look at the new fellowship hall, washrooms, preschool, youth lounge, meeting rooms and kitchen.
Ron Routlege, who co-chaired the 421 Vision project committee, said Thursday the renovations mean better space and a better ability to serve those in need, like the 100 or so homeless people who come for the weekly PIT Stop meals.
The congregation voted in late 2008 to move ahead with the project. One year ago, the church won an $80,000 Aviva grant to renovate the kitchen.
Church members gave $900,000 toward the $1.8-million cost of phase one. Loans, grants and other funding paid for the remainder. The second phase will be funded through sales of housing units.
Phase two consists of tearing down the Christian Education Centre and replacing it with 56 units of low-cost housing for purchase, underground parking, thrift store, ministers' offices and meeting rooms.
The residential units, which have not yet been priced, will range from 400 to 1,000 square feet. Each will include a private balcony, six appliances and have access to an amenity room, rooftop patio, underground parking and scooter/bike parking.
Mary Ann Milobar, who is on the phase two marketing team, said the units should appeal to people who want to live in an area where they can walk to everything downtown has to offer.
As is the case with most barely finished buildings, there were still a few baseboards to be attached, a wheelchair lift that needed final inspection and a couple of other little things to be completed.
For the most part, though, the building is ready to be put to use.
Downstairs, meeting rooms wait for sessions of Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings and Patti Pernitsky's 50-year-old pre-school and after-school daycare gets brand new digs.
The non-profit pre-school/daycare is currently in the east side of the building. While Pernitsky is excited about the new area, she also has a problem.
Her current storage space is much larger than what she'll have when she moves next month. She needs $5,000 to build new tall shelves to hold some of the toys, art supplies and learning tools she has for the children.
Other than that, however, she's looking forward to the move to an area with built-in washrooms and a small kitchen.
"It will be interesting to see how the kids react to the new space," she said.
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