The Oil Heritage District Community Centre is currently celebrating their tenth anniversary. Opened in 2006, the 26,000 square foot facility was made possible through the hard work and dedication of the planning committee. “The process started at least 10 years before we opened,” explains Mayor John McCharles.
“In the beginning we faced a number of challenges, but the community rallied together and it quickly gained momentum. The committee created a business plan, hired an architect to design the building and presented ideas at various public meetings,” he adds. “We experienced some growing pains as all new construction builds do, but the committee members dedicated themselves to create a centre that would bring the community together.” McCharles credits committee members like Bob Tanner and Wayne McFarland. The 3.5 acres that the Centre stands on were donated by the Jacques family.
The purpose of the Centre was always to offer Petrolia and the surrounding communities a multi-use facility and to improve the quality of life for the residents. “There were some small workout places, but nothing like we have now,” McCharles says. When the Centre opened they began with a few programs, but quickly expanded. “When I first started at the end of August, 2006,” explains Thera Wagner, Programs Coordinator, “I had one week to get programs up and running. Over the years we have tested many new programs to gage interest. Ten years ago no one knew what pickle ball was; now it’s one of our most popular programs. We’re continually looking for ways to improve our programs and services,” she explains.
The Centre offers programs for all age groups from young families to seniors. “We have our Boomer’s program, for folks aged 55 and better, that offers a weekly luncheon with a guest speaker or entertainment. In the early days, we didn’t have a kitchen so we had it catered, but now we make our own lunches here and host an average of 50-60 people each week. It is one of our most well-attended programs,” Wagner says. They also offer swimming lessons and summer camp when school lets out. “We have the gymnasium, the pool and lots of outdoor space. This past summer is the first summer that I’ve hired one of my original campers from ten years ago. Now they run the summer camp,” she explains. They’ve also hired lifeguards who went through their swim program, and who are now headed to college.
“I think it really is a success story,” General Manager Anita Minielly explains, because the entire community benefits from the Centre. “One of the things that I love about my job is that I get to see every age group come through the door, from the babies to the elderly. You don’t have to be a member to come swimming, you don’t have to be a member to attend our fitness classes or our programs. We want people to come and try it out. They’ll experience how wonderful it is here.”