The Week – Our search begins again

Victoria's Our Place is in search of a new executive director - again.

Human Body Project creator Tasha Diamant (seventh left) recruited nine artists and activists to stand in solidarity to show their vulnerability on New Year’s Day.

Our Place had only just got over losing Reverend Al to retirement, when new executive director Sandra Danco informed the group that she also would be moving on. Now, the real search begins, with interviews starting up this week for the second next Reverend Al.

“We are looking for someone who has experience in terms of managing an organization in a time of transition and change, preferable someone with good grounded experienced in this work,” says Our Place Society Chair Shannon Renault. “Part of the role is managing our community relations, so it would be great to have someone familiar with Victoria.”

Rev. Allen Tysick founded Our Place in 2007, but retired last summer and started up new organization called Dandelion Society, which works one-on-one with members of the street community. Meanwhile, Danco, former head of the Edmonton Women’s Shelter, filled Tysick’s shoes as executive director just until November. Now, the community centre serving the poor, disabled and homeless of Greater Victoria is looking for its new leader.

“We do hope to come to a decision as soon as possible,” Renault says. “This is one of the busiest times of year for us.”

Victoria turning 150

Happy big 1-5-0 Victoria!

Indeed, 2012 marks the year Victoria has been waiting on for, well, 150 years now. Specifically, the last few, however, as the city revs up to plan its big sesquicentennial celebration this August.

To help bring on the celebrations, the city has two big grants it’s offering community members who have the thrill to get involved. The first is an art and cultural grant program to artists of all disciplines that will “bring to light the beauty and history of Victoria’s most valued spaces.” The deadline to submit an Expression of Interest is Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, with the budget for the completed artwork(s) up to $100,000. The second is designed for neighbourhood associations, community groups and community based non-profits to produce their own participatory celebration or project.

According to the city, “The Victoria 150 identity will be incorporated into virtually everything the City of Victoria does in 2012.” Yes, that means spending tax dollars on new street banners, high-profile signage, promotional products and campaigns. “City programs and activities will be tailored to the anniversary wherever possible and appropriate, to maximize resources and create a well-rounded, highly visual celebration year.”

Oh, goodie.

No more getting Fat at Phege’s

Victorians who frequent Market Square will soon notice the absence of a genial, if portly, face in the heritage space. Fat Phege’s Fudge Factory will take in its familiar sign for the last time and serve its final confections at the end of April, after failed negotiations with landlords left its owners with nowhere to go.

“We are disappointed that our lease will not be renewed,” said owner Herman Friesen, who runs the store with his wife.

Their Vancouver-based landlord gave the owners the option of relocating their business, but the expense of moving all of the kitchen equipment in their shop was too steep, and left them with no choice but to shut down operations.

Established in 1976, Fat Phege’s Fudge Factory is the oldest business in Market Square, and the only original business remaining from the centre’s early days. It boasts a long history of satisfying sweet-tooths — from both Victoria and abroad — with its proprietors’ secret fudge recipe, and other handmade treats.

“People that were little kids when the store opened are bringing their own kids into the store,” he said. “We have couples who visited the store on their honeymoons that come back on their 25th anniversaries.”

Although he says he’s upset by the decision, Friesen is encouraging long-time patrons to visit again before the shop closes its doors for good.

“We want our customers to know that we’re going, and to invite everyone to come by during the holidays and say goodbye,” Friesen said.

If you’re hoping to bid farewell to the Market Square mainstay, or just want to sample some of the remaining holiday fudge and chocolate before Phege’s shuts its doors for good, the store will still be open seven days a week at 560 Johnson. M

– Kate Shepherd

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