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For many of us Barrie 'oldtimers' the half block from Bayfield to Maple, from Ross towards Dunlop represents the Woolworths Department Store. In its heyday, it was the pre-mall shopping mecca and it truly carried everything, from men's suits to goldfish!

In later years it has held, simultaneously, a huge bar called the Ranch and the Barrie Community Health Centre. Its southern half was home to the city's Youth Centre which closed last year. It's been a privately owned health club, it's been the commercial ambition of a lot of people.

With the movement last year of the Community Health Centre from downtown to a south Barrie location, a huge hole of activity and caring is left in this once-vibrant building.

Enter Yolanda Gallo and a quest for wholeness, holistic care, community activity, art, children's activities, meeting space, and commercial health care providers.

It's in its infancy at the moment, but rooms are abuzz with potential as a few volunteers and Yolanda and fellow-visionary Dave Reynolds busy themselves with the business at hand. Dave is completing all the painting and flooring for treatment rooms for reiki, reflexology, body talk, massage... wholistic modalities that are in keeping with the Community Wholeness Centre's philosophy.

Rose Romita has already committed to the Community Room and Gymnasium space for her community dinners.

Art therapist and teacher Janine Hutchinson has a room set aside for children's physical and visionary activities.

At the centre of the concept is a multi-use facility, run by a board of directors and funded partially by family memberships and partially by grants. A volunteer hub, to register to volunteer and for non profits to find volunteers is just one of the circles of influence that Yolanda and Dave are envisioning.

There will be rentable space--lots of it--whether it's the wonderful gymnasium for youth or adult games, the community room (currently booked for Tai Chi and Yoga), or board room space for meetings.

The budget calls for 500 annual family memberships at $50 a month, with open access to every family member and the organizers plan on sponsorship programs.

Currently nine community groups are involved in using the Maple St facility and as the paint dries, and the open sign gets designed for the door, and the welcome mat sits at the fully accessible entrance, so much potential is just there.

Simcoe District School Board folks are hanging a children's art project, the Yours in Theatre Group is planning rehearsals, a couple of spiritual groups are setting up chairs.

Interest has been expressed, according to Yolanda, by the Barrie Multicultural Association, Canadian Mental Health for activities, the Barrie Civitan Club for youth activities, Barrie Pride organization.

Arts. Culture. Faith. Fun. Health. Community wholeness. Centre.

With an operating budget of $13,000 a month, the organization is currently looking for board members, organizations or businesses interested in renting space for workshops and retreats, group activities like birthday and anniversary parties... pay-as-you-go activities that contribute to the coffers.

When you look back over the building's history, certainly this is what the early Woolworths was sort of all about... a place where people could find what they needed at a price they could afford.

It feels like a good fit.

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