Buckmaster’s Circle Community Centre celebrates 20 years and the growth of a positive community
© Photo by Josh Pennell/The Telegram
Bonnie James (left), executive director of the Buckmaster’s Circle Community Centre, and Carol Lamb, resident and board of directors treasurer, stand outside the community centre, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this week.
Every city likely has an area that gets tattooed with a bad name. In the case of Buckmaster’s Circle, or simply “The Circle,” as it’s often called, the tattoo was stamped on so hard that problems the community hasn’t faced in years are still following it around through social stigmas.
It may come as a surprise to some that when you actually walk the streets of one of the oldest public housing communities in the province, it’s a sense of community that stands out and not a sense of danger.
And much of that sense of community can be attributed to its community centre.
Bonnie James has been involved with the Buckmaster’s Circle Community Centre for 13 years and has been executive director for the past nine. To fully understand how the centre and the community itself has grown, she understands you can’t shy way from the past.
“Were there issues? Yes.” she says.
But she focuses on the tremendous growth that has taken place in 20 years since the community centre was established.
James says when it opened in 1993, the centre had the same mandate as it does today — to provide social, educational, recreational, health and employment programs and services to the people of the community.
A centre for success
When Carol Lamb was applying for affordable housing 21 years ago, she had only one request.
“When I filled out my application, I put down that I did not want to move to Buckmaster’s Circle,” she says.
But that’s where the home she was offered was and she took it.
“Probably the best decision I ever made,” she says.
Lamb has been involved with the centre in some way as long as the centre has been there. Today she’s the treasurer for the board of directors. To see how the centre has shaped lives in the community, she need look no further than her own daughter, Kayla. Lamb says her daughter attended about every program the centre had to offer. She eventually attended the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont., and today, at 26, is a lieutenant in the navy.
“I always give credit to the community centre for that,” Lamb says. “She certainly could have gone down another road.”
Carlie Kavanagh can speak to the positive evolution her community has gone through first-hand.
“There were a lot of negative things that happened in the community when I was growing up ... but as people grew up more children were coming around and it became more of a children’s community,” she says.
At 18, Kavanagh remembers a time when her friends would advise her to not say she was from ‘The Circle.’ Recently, she was accepted into the school of social work at MUN and won a scholarship by writing an essay that focused on why she wanted to get involved in that field. The essay, she says, highlighted the impact the community centre had on her and the sense of community she gets from The Circle.
“Everyone in Buckmaster’s Circle knows each other,” Kavanagh says. “Even though we’re a low income community, we value what we have. Like togetherness and family.”
Once finished her degree, she wants to work in her community and perhaps even in the community centre.
There are 195 residences in Buckmaster’s Circle where about 600 people in about one square kilometer call home.
“(People) can look around the community and see examples of people who have really accomplished a lot in their lives,” James says.
The community has worked together to make real change. James recalls years ago when people in The Circle would worry for their own safety on Guy Fawkes night. So much so, they started a patrol. It’s been two years since they even needed a patrol, James says, and probably 10 since there’s been any issue at all.
“And all that came from community empowerment,” James says.
“People who have lived here a long time, they always express a sense of pride that they have in this community. They feel hurt or disrespected when people say anything negative about it.”
And by all accounts, the Buckmaster’s Circle Community Centre has something to do with that sense of togetherness. On Wednesday, the centre will celebrate its 20th anniversary. And as its mandate has always tried to do, it will bring the community together.