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March 14, 2002 Fraternity and friends fundraise for charity



by Natasha Mekhail

Concordia staff and students have organized a three-day fundraiser for the Action Centre, a drop-in facility in Ville Lasalle for the physically disabled.

It starts March 26, when Global Television’s Jamie Orchard will host a comedy night in Room H-110 of the Hall Building, featuring players from Ernie Butler’s Comedy Nest.

On the following two days, members of the TKE fraternity will solicit change from pedestrians outside the Hall Building, as they usually do this time of year. The annual campaign, called Teke in a Box, runs for 36 hours and CHOM FM will follow its progress on air.

The fundraising organizers hope to raise at least $20,000 for the Action Centre.

The centre’s not much, really — a big sunny room, a few chairs and tables, a wall of board games, a kitchen, a TV — but it’s pretty important to its roughly 100 members, and it’s the only place of its kind for Montreal’s English-speaking community.

At the centre, members take courses in everything from cooking to horticulture to computers. The staff organizes parties and outings, but the centre is there mainly for support.

The centre is a roomy, wheelchair-friendly oasis that gives members a place to work on their skills. That means Yvon Francoeur didn’t have to abandon his old woodworking station when he moved into a hospital. The centre set up a corner for him there.

In the computer room, Paul Donovan is the resident tech expert. He guts and rebuilds the centre’s computers. Though he would like to see the computers upgraded and wired for the Internet, he knows new machines are a long way off.

Early this year, the centre went through a move and costly renovations. In a matter of weeks, volunteers turned an old pool hall into the centre’s new home. Twelve new members have joined since the relocation and the centre is looking to expand membership to the West Island. There’s talk of hiring another full-time attendant and of offering more courses. All these plans, of course, will take money.

Most of the centre’s $150,000 annual operating budget is covered by the McConnell Family Foundation, but much more is needed. Action Centre director Catherine Michaud left a career in finance to help keep the centre operating.

“Working here puts things into perspective,” she said. “People are in such a rush to get anywhere. Here you just slow down and realize how fragile life is. Any of us could be in a wheelchair tomorrow.”

The effort is being coordinated by Kevin Harrison, a Concordia and TKE alumnus who is now a career fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada. The honorary campaign chair is Dean of Students Donald Boisvert.

The comedy night is on March 26, at 8:30 p.m. in H-110. Tickets are $10 and are on sale at the Hall Building Information Desk.