GBF expands with new wellness centre

(L to R) GBF board president Irene Podolak, benefactor Harley Valentine and GBF executive director Stacy Elia were part of the GBF Wellness Hub launch at 19 Elm St. The site will serve as an “incubator” for new GBF services aimed at promoting wellness in Grimsby.
Marks – Photo

By Tristan Marks

Wellness services are on their way to Grimsby.

The Grimsby Benevolent Fund (GBF) unveiled its new ‘Wellness Hub’ located in the old Woolverton Church Building on 19 Elm St. with a press release event on Monday.

The new site will allow GBF to expand its services by piloting a number of ‘wellness initiatives’. This location will act as an “incubator” over the next three to four years to trial community-focused wellness promotion ideas.

GBF president Irene Podolak explained that the Wellness Hub will be a sort of “lab” for her organization and its community partners to test out ideas for wellness programs.

“These are ideas we’ve had, but never had the space to test out,” she explained.

Themes for ideas the Wellness Hub will explore include:

• Six steps to Common Sense Spending;
• Home Comfort;
• Community Connections;
• Youth Engagement;
• Healthy Eating for Wellness;
• Fit for Life;
• Healthy Minds, and;
• Brain Food.

Podolak said a “wellness board of volunteers and community liaisons will decide what programs to test out at the hub.
Additionally, this year’s Christmas Hamper sorting will take place at the new site.

Wellness will be a “major theme” for GBF over the next few years, explained Podolak. Indeed, GBF announced that its new vision moving to 2021 and beyond will be: “To enable our clients and our community to be well.”

“Wellness to us is not only physical wellness, but mental, social and environmental wellness as well,” Podolak said.

None of this would be possible without cooperation and partnership with the Elm St. property’s owner, Harley Valentine.

Valentine first came into contact with GBF on Oct. 6 of this year, and worked with the organization to renovate and convert the old church building into the Wellness Centre in just 48 days.

Valentine, a Grimsby-born sculptor and vice-president of the Castlepoint Numa development firm, said partnering with GBF and donating use of the site to them is part of his vision for “value-based development.”

“Grimsby has changed and is changing, and I’m trying to be a small part of that,” he said.

This is not the first time Valentine has brought his “value-based development” ideas to Grimsby.

He also played a role in helping develop Grimsby’s skate park.

In closing remarks, GBF executive director Stacy Elia exhorted members of the community not to be afraid to seek help from her organization.

“There is no need to be embarrassed to reach out for help,” she said.

“No one needs to suffer alone in silence.”

The Woolverton Church building was originally built in 1880 by Charles Woolverton, an experienced farmer of missionary spirit, with help from the 25 members of his bible school on Adelaide Street.

It was later sold to the Pentecostals in 1967.

Since the late 1980s it has served a more secular purpose as a banquet hall and later the Different Strokes billiard hall.

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