Monday, October 3, 2022

‘The Shop’ launched at the Downtown Chatham Centre

“The Shop”, an innovative workshop space in the former Sears at the Downtown Chatham Centre, has secured its location until at least the end of summer 2022.

An initiative of grassroots community group Come Together CK, The Shop was created after the owners of the DCC provided the space free of charge to The Gift and Chatham Goodfellows over the 2021 Christmas holidays for their donation sorting.

The Gift volunteers realized that the momentum from their holiday outreach continued to grow after the holidays.

The Shop volunteers and supporters showing off some of their handiwork. Submitted Photo

Vulnerable people and people who were homeless were visiting “The Shop” (as the space soon became known) not only to check in, socialize, have a meal or pick up clothing, toys or canned goods, but also to create the space itself. These individuals created The Shop and transformed it into an active and busy gathering space, with people from all walks of life coming together almost daily to create art, build items like bird houses, little free libraries, coat racks, raised garden beds and more.

The group from The Shop also regularly spreads out across the downtown Chatham core, to pick up garbage, sweep sidewalks and improve the general cleanliness of the area.

On any given day at The Shop you might find people creating art, a barbecue fired up outside feeding whoever would like a bite to eat, an MIT grad giving a workshop on “magic wand” construction, or any number of activities.

“I believe The Shop truly encompasses what Come Together CK is all about, a non-judgemental space where people have the freedom to participate at any level”, said Brent Wilken of Come Together CK, in a press release.

“Pete and the DCC group being a part of this and believing in everyone enough to make this huge commitment has made this not only possible, but stronger. I’m learning more than ever by people from all walks of life coming together in this space.”

Recently, several of the DCC owners visited The Shop, on the weekend it was slated to close in that location.

The owners were considering other longer-term plans for the space, but after being invited by Wilken to meet the volunteers and learn more about the activities first-hand, the owners realized this was a unique initiative that they wanted to continue to support at this location.

“We believe strongly in this community, especially in our downtown core, which is why we continue to support initiatives like Come Together CK, Goodfellows and providing space free of charge for COVID vaccine clinics,” stated Peter Tsirimbis, one of the owners of the Downtown Chatham Centre, in a media release.

“We want to see our downtowns be successful especially as we come out of the pandemic, and seeing the good work at The Shop really opened our eyes to some of the unsung heroes doing just that.”

“I was inspired by what I saw at The Shop this weekend,” added Ron Nydam, part-owner of the Downtown Chatham Centre, in a media release.

“To see the smiles on kids’ faces, to meet and speak with people who were homeless just a few months ago now working in full time jobs and have their lives back on track, simply because someone believed in them and gave them hope and purpose coming to The Shop… that was something I was not expecting. We’re proud to continue to support The Shop and what is happening here.”

The Shop is open every day 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and can be entered beside the former Sears loading docks facing Wellington Street.

All are welcome.

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