The Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre is once again open, nearly 18 months after closing its doors.
“At this point, I’m just trying to get everything started and set up again,” said new executive director Sharon Pekok. “It’s a lot of applying for funding, cleaning up, sorting things, and making this place ready to start hosting functions and programs again.”
While the centre officially opened on June 7, Pekok said right now she is still in the process of trying to put together programming for September and October, and plan a few events for the summer.
“If people want to come in and ask questions, maybe talk about ideas of what they would like to see here at the centre, and hopefully offer to help out, that would be great,” she said.
The centre closed its doors about a year and a half ago due to financial troubles. A new board stepped in and has been hard at work trying to get the organization back on its feet ever since.
Pekok said that one of the nice things about her new position is that she hasn’t inherited anything from a previous administration and she can start fresh and do it right from the beginning.
Beyond a certificate in business administration and owning her own business, Pekok has worked for K’atlodeeche First Nation as a community justice co-ordinator, as well as a victim services outreach worker since 2005. She said that, although her new job requires her to take on more of a management role, she still wants to do the hands-on work with youth and other community members who come to the centre.
“I do enjoy working here with the young people, elders and others I come into contact with,” she said. “I want to make sure we bring up the programs that people want to see and bring in more cultures. In this area we have Cree, Dene and Inuit cultures, and I want to get them all involved.”
Pekok has begun planning events for Aboriginal Day, as well as Canada Day festivities. As of June 14, she had tentatively proposed a pancake breakfast on June 21, to be held at the same time as a flea market. She joked that not only would it be a good event, the centre might be able to make some money selling things it no longer needs.
Furthermore, the centre is looking to rent two empty offices on its premises, as well as promote its boardroom and hall facilities as potential meeting areas.
Pekok said the hall holds approximately 250 people.
“In the past, we’ve held summer camps for youth, jigging competitions every fall and seniors’ luncheons,” she said. “A lot of the programming in general is geared to the community as a whole.”
Besides finding funding, Pekok claims her most important goal is to form partnerships with other organizations in the community. The Interagency Group serves a key role in Hay River and on the Hay River Reserve in this regard, and Pekok has been a part of it for years, no matter where she has been working.
“The Friendship Centre has a positive role to play in this community,” said Bobbi Hamilton, a fellow Interagency Group member and the co-ordinator of the Hay River Community Justice Committee. “We’re going to support them as much as we can.”
Hamilton explained the strength of much of the programming in town is a result of how the different groups work together.
“We have so many partners,” she said. “If they were all sort of doing their own thing, none of them would be as effective. It’s so important to work together, especially for the youth. We want to kick start them in the right direction.”
— Sarah Ladik