It looks like nothing is happening at the small brick building on William Street; the eviction notice is still taped to the door, the water’s been turned off, there are no snowy footprints going in or out.
But…behind the scenes…the game is afoot.
Three years ago Julie Chagnon drove through Smiths Falls and fell in love with the town. “I’m here to stay,” she remembers saying, “It’s my dream come true.”
She took up residence and put down roots. Her small dog is buried there, she landscaped the front garden, she made friends, joined groups and began to breathe easily.
Then the eviction notice.
So at the moment she’s not in the small building where her heart and hopes lie…but down the street with a young family who offered her their home.
She could be with them for some time, she says a bit forlornly, or she could be back in her own home as soon as this summer.
That’s her hope anyway, she adds, a gleam in her eye.
Her lawyers are helping navigate the complex world of getting through the eviction. She sent them a “detailed estimate” which includes architectural drawings, as well as insurance quotes, which took about a month to pull together. The estimate, she says, is pretty steep “to get back in.”
She hopes to know soon if insurance will pay.
Julie’s a philosopher, and a bit of an idealist. From childhood she’s had a dream of giving kids ”a place to go where they have free arts and crafts, free dancing, anything free,” with no thought about extra cost for parents.
It will be, she adds, an “…extra thing for the community that doesn’t cost anything.”
But that’s not all. If she had her ‘druthers’ there would be space for activities for people with disabilities, for movies, yoga, Hallowe’en parties, weddings. Perhaps an Art Alley between the big church next door and her smaller home in the summer months, “very Parisian looking,” she grins, a place for local artists to display their art.
Or, how about a walk and a vigil, maybe remembering Heather Fraser, a young Smiths Falls girl raped and murdered in 1985. “We could walk from her school to where the old train track was. A walk to show you can walk at night, a program for young women and men to have somebody to walk with them, a program to teach young women and men how to defend themselves.”
Maybe a breakfast club, a small vegetable garden, a cooking course, learning how to budget. Or even, at graduation, finding a dress to wear from a stock Julie hopes to accumulate.
She has credentials; she’s a certified children’s Yoga instructor, and she’s been an adult educator for the best part of her career…”so I have the skills,” she says, not bragging, a bit diffidently.
Grinning again, she adds “…you won’t need Lululemon pants, or a mat. You do what you can, and walk out of here, chin up.”
Plans for her Little Orange Hall will eventually be outlined on Facebook, and signs will catch the eye of those walking by.
Julie has found and collected bits and pieces of memorabilia. “I have pictures, old chip bags, ticket stubs, bingo chips,” she laughs.
Is the pool table still there? Not anymore, she laughs, adding she might put one in again.
Wistfully she returns to her childhood dream. “I can’t wait to spend time in there by myself, to recapture my young essence, my young heart, and start dancing and singing.”
And if all ends as she hopes, and her plans work out, she says, a bit cheekily, she can chase “arts and crafts” for the rest of her life.
Construction begins this month.