Sunday afternoon the Niagara-on-the-Lake Farmworker Hub’s social space opened for the first time and welcomed workers to a place for rest and relaxation.
Director Julia Buxton-Cox was excited about what the new space will provide.
“It’s a place that they can come that’s away from the farm, where they can feel like they can relax a bit after work. We’ve got free wifi up here, they can just relax and have a little bit of fun,” she said.
“They can play pool, we’ll have sports, there are snacks for them and then at the back there’s some dominos and games.”
Volunteers said the space was already bustling within the first hour of opening.
“We probably had close to 80 people stop by within the first hour and a half today,” said Buxton-Cox.
The upstairs space was donated by Cornerstone Community Church and features multiple small rooms in addition to the large, communal space.
One of the rooms will be dedicated to religious and spiritual affairs.
“Many of the workers are people of faith and so they’re looking for prayer and pastoral counselling,” said Buxton-Cox.
“So starting in April we have four different pastors from different churches and different denominations who will be coming to volunteer their time.”
Two Sundays of the month Spanish-speaking pastors will visit.
The NOTL Rotary Club presented a cheque to the Farmworker Hub to help with its rent payments.
Buxton-Cox said the cheque is greatly appreciated and that her next goal is to find more volunteers.
“We could use some drivers to help bring workers who aren’t within a biking distance here,” she said.
“There’s two of us leading this and 2,000 workers, so any extra hands are appreciated.”
The Farmworker Hub is operating with about 34 volunteers, including Chrystal Haverstock, a new resident who chose to volunteer as a way to get involved.
“I’m new-ish in town and NOTL is unique so I’m looking for my place to fit in,” she said.
“I really decided after talking to Julia when I came to donate some stuff and I thought, ‘I like how this woman thinks.’ ”
With the opening of the social space, Buxton-Cox expects more workers to visit.
“Last year we had just under 3,100 visits, this year we’re expecting close to 5,000,” she said.
The social space will be open every Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. and the hub will also operate Tuesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for drop-offs and donation sorting.
“We come from a place of abundance, this is our way of neighbours helping neighbours,” Buxton-Cox said.