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Nelson literacy centre honoured for innovation

Some of the partners responsible for the Learning Centre gathered at the City Hall location in recognition of the BC Ideas award. From left, Joan Exley, literary outreach coordinator for the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, Nelson city councillor Donna Macdonald, Lorri Fehr from School District 8, Wendy Tagami of Selkirk College and the Nelson Public Library’s Joanne Harris. - Kirsten Hildebrand photo
Some of the partners responsible for the Learning Centre gathered at the City Hall location in recognition of the BC Ideas award. From left, Joan Exley, literary outreach coordinator for the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, Nelson city councillor Donna Macdonald, Lorri Fehr from School District 8, Wendy Tagami of Selkirk College and the Nelson Public Library’s Joanne Harris.
— image credit: Kirsten Hildebrand photo

Nelson’s Learning Place, a local literacy centre, has been awarded $5,000 in a competition that recognizes good ideas.

The province-wide competition, BC Ideas, engaged communities, not-for-profit organizations and people across British Columbia to find innovative solutions to address pressing social challenges.

Joan Exley, literacy outreach coordinator for the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy explains the Nelson project boasts a shared space for focusing on literacy and learning.

“Having a shared space for literacy has really strengthened the bridges between people who provide services for adults in the community,” says Exley.

Programs that run out of the Learning Place, located in the lower level of City Hall, include adult one-to-one tutoring, ESL classes, Mother Goose program, cyber seniors basic computer classes, Books Everywhere, library literacy workshops, literacy drop-in times and much more.

“Someone may come into the Learning Place and easily connect with the college or employment skills. Someone may go into KCDS to address employment issues and end up at the Learning Place getting help with their literacy skills,” she says.

The space has been created through community partnerships. The main partners in creating the space are Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, Selkirk College, Nelson Public Library, Kootenay Career Development Society and the City of Nelson.

“The community partnerships and people’s willingness to take on literacy as an important part of creating a healthy and strong community is what really shines here,” says Exley. “It is about coming together to make things happen.”

BC Ideas awarded a total of more than $270,000 to the top social innovations, as part of a province-wide effort. Innovations addressed a variety of issues, including homelessness, literacy, skill development, health, and community inclusion for people with disabilities. These investments will help the entrants further develop or implement their efforts to build healthier, stronger BC communities.

“BC Ideas offers an effective way for government to engage individuals, businesses, not-for-profit organizations and others to collaborate in making BC communities stronger,” says Gordon Hogg, parliamentary secretary for non-profit partnerships to the minister of social development.

“With the success of this competition, British Columbia is leading the way in identifying, showcasing and supporting social innovations.”

Exley is proud as the Learning Place was selected as one of four winners in the community literacy category.

“This is a wonderful recognition of the power of coming together to create something impactful in a community,” she says. “Our application shared the idea that we are stronger together than we are alone and that is truly what we are creating in our Learning Place.”

With the provincial recognition, comes $5,000 of support for the initiative. Exley says the funds will go toward furthering the existing project that uses available community space and relatively few resources. This serves as a good example to other communities that big isn’t always better.

“I am told that what we have created is unique, simple and powerful,” she says.

BC Ideas was launched in May with input and support from 25 community-based partners, including businesses, not-for-profit organizations, universities and government.

In total, BC Ideas attracted 466 entries from 82 communities.

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