On September 29, 2022, we were finally able to celebrate our Grand re-opening.

The following is a speech that our Executive Director, Vandra McQuarrie, gave.

The board of directors and staff of Literacy Nipissing want to welcome and thank you for being here today.

We want to acknowledge that Literacy Nipissing resides on the traditional territory of the Anishnabe and within lands protected by the Robinson Huron and Upper Canada Treaties. This land is occupied by the people of Nipissing First Nations, Treat #10 in the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 since time immemorial.

When you get down to it, there are 2 areas in which Literacy Nipissing works : words and numbers. So “in words” I will give you the “numbers”. 1014 days ago, our office was destroyed by a fire. It took 12 hours for our office to go from office to ashes. It took us 87 days to rebuild to go from ashes to office and be ready to open. One huge global pandemic stopped that and it has taken us 927 days to officially reopen.

We have had a journey. Ashes to office. December 20, 2019 will be permanently branded in our history. It was incredibly devastating day for so many people in North Bay and we are part of that group. I just remember saying “our office is ok right” to a firefighter and then saying “well, can I get in there and try to get some stuff out before it all burns” and then finally saying/yelling “ah, you can’t tear it down.” In 12 hours we went from offices to ashes.

During those 12 hours, so many people reached out to us. The ministry personnel who fund us, MLITSD, was literally down on Main Street with me or talking with me on the phone. LeeAnne Maille from YES told us that we had a home at their office when we needed it, the media was getting the word out to the community and especially our learners, that we were down but not out!! I went home that night and I was met in my driveway by a tutor who handed me a cheque and gave me a hug. These are the type of experiences we had over the next few months. The generosity of our community and the hugs/compassion.

It is hard to even know where to start to say thank you. Actually, I made this banner to list those we wanted to thank but it was scary to put it in to words. What if I forget someone? I don’t want to forget anyone who helped us. And I don’t mean people or organizations who gave money or supplies but the ones who called, emailed or met us on the street to say that we were in their thoughts and prayers and then gave an encouraging word. We could never repay the kindness that we received but we will try. Just saying the words Thank you” will never seem like enough to adequately express our appreciation for all that was done for us.

So here we are, in our new office. I must tell you that there is nothing in this office that is over 1000 days old!!! Except me!!! We love our new office. We went from office to ashes to ashes to office. Here we are.

I want to draw your attention to this wall behind me that has our mission statement. You may notice that the “n” in opportunities looks different from the other letters. The day after the fire, two of our staff went to mourn over the rubble. We happen to look down and we saw that “n” in the rubble. It was part of the sign that was above our door. It was encased in ice but one of the staff worked furiously to dig it out. When it was free, we held it like it was the a newborn baby. We lost everything but we found the n from our sign. This N was all that was tangibly left after 42 years of service. (A fire can never take away all of the good work that has been accomplished here but it sure took away our stuff This little letter became our driving force and our inspiration for rebuilding. It may seem corny to many of you but to us it was a fist pump in the air moment for us. This letter survived and so did we. We could rebuild and we did.

Welcome to Literacy Nipissing 2.0

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