Many of you are asking this same question. Where is Literacy Nipissing and why haven’t we heard from them in a while. Well…..we’ve been busy.

I look back at the past blogs and it shocks me that the last time I wrote one was a year ago. And then I think “that felt like yesterday”. I am grimacing while I write this sentence because a lot has changed for us in just one year.

I remember writing that blog one year ago, so excited about our move to our new office at 175 Main Street. We were giddy about our store front location, proud of how it looked and busy with all the students who were learning. We went through the fall and that excitement never stopped. We had a Halloween party for our students and it was a blast. We had GED testing in our new building (everyone passed by the way!!!) and then we participated in our first Downtown Christmas Walk. We served hot chocolate to over 200 people who stopped in to see our office. We sold the Santa series books and Vintage Whine books and met so many people who really just wanted to warm up!!. We had the office decorated for Christmas and it was so pretty (anyone who knows me, knows that Christmas is my favourite time and decorating for Christmas is a passion)

It was time for our staff Christmas lunch before we had a Christmas break and we planned to get together for lunch on the Friday before Christmas. I was going to wrap things up at the office on Friday morning and head to lunch. 2:00 AM on Friday morning, I was awakened by a phone call from Cassandra. The alarm company was trying to get in touch with me and couldn’t so they called her ( I can sleep through a lot). Our office was being threatened by a fire in a building near by. I quickly pulled on my heavy coat and drove down there. Main Street was blocked off but I could see flames and smoke near our building. I found a firefighter there, who happened to be a friend, and he introduced me to someone in control. I was told that our building was safe at that time. There would be smoke damage but at that time it was felt that the fire could be contained to the vacant building beside us. I was worried about anyone being able to enter our building and loot but I was assured that the firefighters had things secured (and I trusted them). So after watching the mesmerizing flames for 1.5 hours, I headed home around 4. I went back to bed and received a call from Cassandra around 5:30 to tell me that she was watching the news and the fire had jumped to our building. I calmly told her thanks, hung up and fell back to sleep. It didn’t register as to what was she said was happening until I woke suddenly at 7 and recounted the conversation we had at 5:30. (Never wake me in the middle of night with important information – I am truly useless) I quickly went back down and our building was engulfed in flames. The roof had collapsed and I could see flames through the broken front windows all through our office.

I remember standing there and my firefighter friend found me and hugged me. He told me that they were in shock as to what happened. I had a good cry and then my mind started to whirl. It looked like things were bad but maybe there was a possibility that we could get in there once the fire was out to see if there was anything we could retrieve. That is what they do in the movies!!

I went to speak with our ministry representatives about next steps and to make some phone calls. I called the staff and we decided to still meet for lunch to see what we should do. I know I gave an interview to CBC radio, The Nugget and CTV news but I have no idea if what I said even made sense. I do know that I said that a fire wouldn’t stop us and that is the truth. It has been our mantra since that day. When I came back down before lunch, I saw a heavy duty machine digging into the side of our building and tearing it down. My eyes got wide and I remember say “wait, what are you doing?” A few more grabs of the building and it was completely down. It was taken down in order to limit the fire to just that area. In 12 short hours our office was gone – and I mean an empty space of rubble. Our paperwork, our books, our computers, our 41 years of historical documents – all gone. I write that and it still leaves me in shock.

Christmas 2019 will ever be remembered as the time of re-birth for us. My husband surprised with a new ornament for our tree – a fire engine!!! I am never going to forget this Christmas. We spent our holiday making lists of what we needed and what we had to do. We really had no idea what the next few months would look like for us but we knew that we would start over and continue the good work that we are known for. We have excellent staff and a community that supports us – and that was so evident during those first days. We also have students that set an example to never give up. How could we give up after this devastation?? Our students have never given up and we were going to be just like them – strong and determined.

So this is the story of what we have been doing – at least the start of the journey to where we are now. This is getting long so I will recount January to June in the next blog but I won’t wait for a year to do it – I promise. Who would have thought that we would lose our building and then a pandemic would hit?? Not me but I was wrong again. Stay tuned…..

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