Kitchener's first Indigenous drop-in centre finds home in former church

Anishnabeg Outreach has purchased a former Lutheran church to use as a new hub for early years programs, its employment agency and other community events.

Former St. Phillips Lutheran Church in Kitchener to become Indigenous centre

A former Lutheran church in Kitchener will become the home for a new Indigenous drop-in centre. (Google Street View)

A former Lutheran church in Kitchener will become the home for a new Indigenous drop-in centre.

Stephen Jackson, executive director of Anishnabeg Outreach, said the former St. Phillips Lutheran Church at 236 Woodhaven Rd., is an ideal location for the centre.

"This is such an incredible space," Jackson said. "When you think of Indigenous organizations or Indigenous community, they often get the worst of the worst. In this particular instance, I feel that we actually got the best of the best."

The property has mature trees on it and green space, a mulberry tree, a walnut tree, lots of parking.

They had previously tried to purchase the church but couldn't afford it.

When the Lutheran church realized what group was trying to buy it and for what purpose, it reduced the sale price of the church and the Eastern Synod has offered financial support for the centre, Jackson said.

Opening later this year

Anishnabeg Outreach takes possession of the former church on Sept. 14. Then renovations will take place throughout September and October.

Jackson said they hope to have a soft launch in late October and an official grand opening in early November.

He said it's a centre that's been a long time in the making, and he's excited to see the space change.

What it's up and running, the centre will include early years programs, the employment agency, wellness programming, Indigenous youth drop-in events.

They are now hoping for donations to help pay for items like toys, books, furniture and appliances. Jackson said they've been approached by groups who want to help the local Indigenous community as part of reconciliation and he suggested this would be one way.

"People are looking for a way to help and give back and what we have now is a hub within the region that people, if they're looking to donate something as small as formula or diapers, we have a space for that," he said.

Members of Anishnabeg Outreach take part in the Guelph Santa Claus Parade in 2017. Later this year, the organization will open a drop-in centre in a former church in Kitchener. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)