It’s a case of use it or lose it.
After facing an uncertain future for years, the Ruskin Hall on 96th Avenue and 284th Street, is being used more and has had a good year and there maybe more to come.
A year ago, said Jordy MacDonald, one of the members of the Ruskin Community Hall Association, the hall was empty most of the time, with not enough money coming in for the maintenance costs.
But MacDonald did some creative fundraising to get some cash rolling in to cover the bills.
“In the last year, we’ve made some incredible progress,” said MacDonald. He started scrimping and scratching and raised $2,000 by collecting old car and truck batteries. He put the call out to Whonnock and Ruskin neighbours and soon he had more than 2,700 kilograms of old batteries in the back of his pickup truck. He took those to the scrap yard and got more than $2,000.
He also sold space on brass plaques which are displayed in the hall, which raised another $2,500.
The number of hall rentals each month has climbed also and the kitchen is working again as weddings and pot luck dinners take place. “There are people in there all the time now,” said MacDonald.
But the old structure, built in 1922, will need work year round and activity year round to keep it open for years into the future. MacDonald doesn’t want the building to get beyond repair, as happened to the old Finnish hall in Webster’s Corners on 256th Street and Dewdney Trunk Road.
Nor does he want to see it torn down, as happened with the Albion Hall on 240th Street.
But one major project is looming, soon.
“After the last pot luck dinner … and I’m standing there in the hall and it’s dead quiet and it starts raining and then I could hear water dripping. We’re going to need a new roof.”
MacDonald is hoping that a local roofing company will help out, in return for recognition, but he doesn’t know for sure.
“It’s an ancient building and it needs work and maintenance and money to keep it going,” said MacDonald.
He’s trying now trying to collect a second crop of old batteries but fears they may have all been cleaned out of eastern Maple Ridge.
After the roof is replaced, the floor will need redoing. “It’s a beautiful, 98-year-old tight grain hardwood floor but it just needs to be refinished. We don’t have any money to do cosmetic things like that.”
Ruskin Community Hall Association owns the building and gets no government funding.
MacDonald noted that the99-year-old Silver Hill Hall in Mission, built by Swedish immigrants, was destroyed by fire last month.
“We’re one of the only one’s left of these ancient, handmade community halls.”