Dick Felton had no idea what he was getting himself into when he accepted the voluntary position of acting executive director at the Lochiel Kiwanis Community Centre in 2020. Felton, 77, has been a member of the Kiwanis Club since 2011. “I came in here figuring it would be a couple of months before I got things straightened out, but it turned out the hole was much deeper than I originally thought,” Dick says. “When I came in, we were only about 60 percent rented, which makes the job even harder, but we now have full rent with people waiting to get in.”

The Lochiel Kiwanis Community Centre, located at 180 College Ave. N Sarnia, is an operating branch of the Sarnia Kiwanis Foundation (SKF) and the SKF is a production of the Sarnia-Lambton Kiwanis Golden K. “We are a true community Centre,” Dick boasts. “But we focus on not-for-profit organizations. It is a city-owned building, and we pay a dollar a year for it. We are charged with maintaining the building from a day-to-day maintenance standpoint and its operation, but the city is deeply involved in keeping the building up to standards.”

Among those currently renting space at the Lochiel Kiwanis Community Centre are Hashtag Charitable Foundation, Community Living Sarnia Foundation, Leeds Employment Services, Literacy Lambton, Boys and Girls Club, St. Clair Child and Youth Programs, Sarnia Donor Awareness, Super Ninja OCR Racing Club and St. Cecilia’s Conservatory of Music. “We service between 400-700 kids a week,” Dick says. “We keep up the building by charging rent to those groups. Our intent is to be as reasonable as possible. We are a not-for-profit operation as well, so we’re not trying to make money. What we want to do is provide better than a standard commercial space for those other not-for-profits to rent. The more we get the building up to speed, my intent is to try to reduce the rental cost to those groups.”

The building, which was designated a historical building in 2000, is 25,000 square feet and was constructed in 1916. “Since I came in, the biggest thing we have concentrated on is safety,” Dick says. “We have made it so only people in programs can get into the building. Also, we have new lighting outside and we have installed 18 cameras to make sure kids are safe in the building.”

In addition to weekly programming, the Kiwanis room can be rented out for birthdays, weddings, business meetings, etc. “I think it is Sarnia’s best-kept secret,” Dick claims. “We have modernized the room so anybody can come in here and use our audio-visual stuff and broadcast their meeting anywhere in the world.” Prior to retiring 22 years ago, Dick Felton started his work life at Shell Oil and Dow Chemical, but eventually wound up running four of his own companies. Now he finds himself as busy as ever. “I hadn’t expected to do this full-time, but this is really worthwhile and satisfying,” Dick says. “When you see kids having a good time and you see not-for-profits flourishing, that’s a good thing.”