A new wheelchair lift will increase the accessibility of the Alberni Athletic Hall and make events more inclusive, Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell said.
Stilwell joined Alberni Athletic Association chair Larry Spencer in cutting the ceremonial ribbon to open the lift and even took its inaugural ride.
“This isn’t about the money. This is about your community coming together after a time of distress to do this,” Stilwell said. “You should all be proud that you live here and support each other.”
Stilwell is the government caucus chair and parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Health for Healthy Living Terry Lake. An accident as a teen has left her confined to a wheelchair.
Construction of the lift started in October 2013 and finished in March. Tweaks to it were done at the beginning of April and it was declared fully operational this week.
The $42,000 price tag was underwritten with $29,000 in fundraising over the last three years; a $2,800 donation from the Cook family of Huu-ay-aht; and a $10,000 gaming grant.
The athletic association went hat in hand to private, federal and provincial bodies but to no avail, Spencer said.
After Spencer’s second-to-last gaming grant application he was directed to another ministry official to apply, he said. Shortly after, he received a phone call that he thought was a prank at first.
“The caller said we applied for $5,000 but that they heard we needed $10,000 so we were going to get $10,000. A week before March 31 we got the money,” he said. “This was the culmination of four years of work by a lot of people.”
The lift completes the hall’s building permit requirements, the enforcement of which by the city Spencer described as generously lax. The moment was not lost on Stilwell.
“This will allow you to get a business license so that you can carry forward…legally,” she said.
Stilwell’s visit was her second to Port Alberni. The first time, ironically, was to the athletic hall last winter for the celebrity hoops event organized by Jericho Road youth pastor Harold Lefty Williams. “This is my first visit to the second floor though,” Stilwell said of the athletic hall.