Carly Woods was growing tired of seeing Wakefield Centre La Pêche empty, quiet and dark.
The Wakefield mother of three and school support staffer has stepped in as interim community coordinator to bring more family programming into the village — and she has some fresh ideas that are sure to catch the attention of tweens and teens alike.
“Things that always fly is a bunch of girls getting together and doing a pile of nails,” Woods told the Low Down. “Maybe we can have a little spa afternoon at the community centre. Just to get bodies in and happy again. I believe that there should be a place [for tweens and teens] to go and gather and hang out. My goal is to get [the centre] lively.”
Woods is no stranger to the centre and spent 2014-2017 as programming coordinator. She was back at the centre in 2020 and 2021 to help with the vaccine clinic.
It wasn’t that long ago – December of last year – when the centre hired director-general Blair Mackay to oversee its programming and give the building a fresh facelift. Mackay was starting to bring in theatre and art shows with more of a regional draw for the centre. But that vision wasn’t entirely embraced by the community.
Low Down readers may recall Wakefield parent Jackie Hansen, whose June 22 Letter to the Editor called for Mackay to “spend the next six months befriending local children, youth and parents” to find out what they want in their centre.
Many parents had also complained to centre board members that there wasn’t enough programming for youth and families at the centre this summer and that many said they were driving to Chelsea’s Meredith Centre for art and dance classes, karate and summer camp.
Woods said every time she passed by a village parent in May and June, they always asked her the same question: “What do you know about this year’s summer camp, Carly?” Summer camps at the Wakefield centre were turfed due to staffing issues this summer.
The centre voted in mid July to remove Mackay as director-general and hired Woods as interim community coordinator for a six-week contract throughout the summer.
The centre’s board president Irene Richardson wouldn’t comment on Mackay’s removal, only stating that “Centre Wakefield La Pêche assures the community that the centre’s activities and rentals will continue as planned.”
When reached by the Low Down, Mackay said the firing was “surprising and unexpected,” as he felt he was doing what he was hired to do: bring more arts and culture into the centre.
“I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to realize some of the projects that I had initiated,” said Mackay. “Projects that I think all of Wakefield would have liked.”
Mackay, who has worked in the arts and culture world for the past 40 years, said that the centre “didn’t want to come around to the way I was doing things.” He added that he has no negative feelings toward board members and hopes to see the centre thriving in the future.
Richardson confirmed Woods’ new role and added that she is currently “in the process of planning summer and fall activities” for the centre.
One of those activities is turning the lounge room inside the Wakefield Association of Youth (WAY) into a “community hub,” said Woods, that would be open every morning to night with coffee and tea and a roster of free workshops for kids, families and the community. Woods said the community needs a free space to host presentations, book readings and other events. But more importantly, kids need a space just to be kids.
“[Youth] can come and use the wi-fi, hang out, use the space as they wish and feel free and comfortable,” added Woods. “but also have candy and junk food to buy and freezies and ice cream. Maybe we will get a local artist to do a pottery workshop.”
Woods said she hopes to get some programming off the ground by the first week of August. Check on the centre’s website at centrewakefieldlapeche.ca/.