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PAL Place Stratford celebrates grand opening
As posted on the Stratford Beacon Herald website on May 25, 2013. By Mike Beitz, The Beacon Herald
Celebrated Canadian actor Christopher Plummer, joins John Wilkinson and Des McAnuff at the grand opening Saturday of PAL Place Stratford at 101 Brunswick St. (MIKE BEITZ, The Beacon Herald)

When Christopher Plummer says “Places, please,” people listen.

The Canadian theatre icon, Stratford Festival favourite and patron of the local Perform Arts Lodge capital campaign was on hand Saturday morning for the official grand opening of PAL Place Stratford at 101 Brunswick St.

Inside the attractive heritage home, there are five places – affordable housing units for members of the professional and performing arts community.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment. It’s been a dream for a long time that PAL gets its own place in Stratford,” said board president and campaign co-ordinator John David Sterne from the front steps of the attractive heritage building, just a short distance from the Avon Theatre. “And here it is.”

Nearly 100 people gathered on the street outside for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, where Plummer was joined by capital campaign co-chairs Des McAnuff and John Wilkinson and a long list of PAL supporters.

John Banks, the organization’s past president and one of the key drivers behind the local lodge, recounted some of the history behind PAL Stratford, which first started taking shape in 1999 with Stratford Festival founder Tom Patterson.

The idea was to provide affordable housing to members of Stratford’s arts community in need of assistance because of low income, age or disability.

“We didn’t think it would take us 14 years to reach this stage,” said Banks Saturday.

But finding a suitable building and raising money takes time, he noted.

By February 2012 PAL Stratford had both, thanks to a series of fundraisers over the years, as well as strong community support, assistance from the Festival, and the backing of all three levels of government.

He called the opening of the PAL Place Stratford “a dream come true.”

Festival executive director Anita Gaffney praised Banks’ commitment and “tenacity” in seeing the project through, and also gave a nod to the fundraising team of Plummer, McAnuff and Wilkinson.

“Together, they’re showing us how to take care of our own,” she said, a reference to PAL’s motto “caring for our own.”

Four of the five units at PAL Place have already been rented out. Local musician Glen Dias, who delivered a power rendition of Bring Him Home from Les Miserables at the event Saturday, lives in one of them.

“That’s my suite up on the second floor. It’s the Christopher Plummer suite. Apparently it’s the one that he chose if he was going to live here,” quipped Dias. “I thought of putting a plaque on the door: The Christopher Plummer Suite, and my friend Dorothy said ‘no, no, you should put a plaque up that says Christopher Plummer never slept here.’”

The actor was impressed with the building.

“I think it’s great. I love the idea of it,” said Plummer after the ceremony.

“I think all of us actors need a place to go, and be looked after when we’re too senile to move around, like me,” he added with a wink, as the crowd streamed into the building for a tour of the main floor. Inside, it’s tidy, comfortable and welcoming, with a combination of dark wood and bright, cheerful spaces. There’s a sitting room with plush chairs and a bookshelf that includes, appropriately enough, a history of the Stratford Festival.

LaReine Smith, who has a background in visual arts, occupies the spacious and smartly decorated third-floor attic space, and was the first tenant of PAL Place.

“I think they were happy to find someone that could still climb the stairs,” she said with a laugh. “But I just love it here.”

Organizers stressed that the grand opening Saturday does not mark the end of the fundraising campaign.

There’s still a roughly $400,000 mortgage on the $1.1 million property (the remainder was covered by an affordable housing program grant), which the board would like to retire by September 14.

More information about PAL Stratford, and a link to make a donation, can be found on its website at palstratford.ca

mike.beitz@sunmedia.ca


Special thanks to all PAL Members, speakers and attendees for joining us at the Grand Opening of PAL Place Stratford. Many articles were written and photos taken. Check the linds below to see more or go to the Opening Home Page which also has all the links.

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Copyright © 2016 PAL Stratford (a chapter of PAL Canada)
Original web design and hosting donated in memory of former PAL board member Bruce Swerdfager.
Home page header images by Marg Boemer, Lynn Boehler, Amanda Ryan.
PAL Stratford logo design courtesy of Maxine Graham.