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from "The Beacon Herald"
by Editorial Staff of The Beacon Herald (Stratford, Ont.)
December 19th 2001

The Falstaff Family Centre has acquired its first tenant just a little more than a year after Stratford-based singer/songwriter Loreena McKennitt purchased the historic building. Family Services Perth-Huron is now running one of its programs at the former Falstaff Public School, serving 47 developmentally challenged adults ages 18 to 26 who have graduated from high school and are living at home. The program has two components: Foundations: Making Choices Beyond High School and the Literacy/Numerary Network. Both help developmentally challenged adults make the transition from school to the next phase of their lives.

Through the programs, these adults are taught the life skills they need to enjoy fulfilling lives, such as shopping, doing volunteer work, being able to read things like recipes or type an e-mail address. They are also taught how to speak up for themselves.

"This is a very personalized program. It’s hands-on and very realistic," said Sue Melkert, supervisor of developmental service programs with Family Services, in a press release. Ms. Melkert, program co-coordinator Tammy Timmermans, three instructors and three support workers will be working at the Waterloo Street centre.

"The site there is so beautiful, being right beside the river " and the grounds are wonderful," Ms. Melkert said. "We also support the center's concept of community helping community. There’s a synergy that comes out of that. It’s really about promoting life in general and that’s exactly what we’re about."

"We knew we fit into the center's overall picture," explained Alan MacIntyre, executive director of Family Services. "It’s a really nice space and we’re pleased to be in there."

Ms. McKennitt said having Family Services on board is a positive first step in finding tenants for the Falstaff Family Centre. "We’re very pleased to have them with us. Helping improve lives is what the Falstaff Family Centre is all about and we’re pleased to have a tenant that so fully shares this vision." 

 Falstaff committee is currently working on programming for the facility. The committee is also communicating with community groups and organizations interested in signing on as additional tenants. Space is also available for occasional use on an as-needed basis at the centre. 

Author and education specialist Jean Hewitt has already rented space in the building and intends to use the space on an ongoing basis. Ms. Hewitt, who has more than 35 years experience in education, will be running workshops for parents, teachers and administrators on topics such as strategies for improving literacy, dealing with disruptive behavior in the classroom and leadership in school discipline.

The historic building, erected in 1929, was sold at auction to Ms. McKennitt by the Avon Maitland District School Board in the fall of 2000. Ms. McKennitt said she hopes the building will serve local needs for families and that it will eventually become financially self-sustaining so the community can buy it back and once again enjoy full ownership.

Anyone requiring information on space availability and rates at the Falstaff Family Centre is invited to contact John Devlin at 273-3403.