A new community hub in Leverburgh is bringing people together – before it even reaches its official opening date.
Families, friends and work-mate bubbles have been turning out to prepare the Leverhulme Community Hub.
Now a call is being put out for still more people to help with a last push to get the building ready for its soft opening, currently planned for the first Friday of July.
Board vice-chair Catriona Maclennan said: “We are still doing interior work like preparation of walls, painting and cleaning.
"We had members of the Leverburgh fire crew in this week assembling flat-pack shelving for what will be the charity shop.
“We’ve had family groups coming in and working together cleaning up after rooms have been painted.
"We are, of course, taking social distancing into account so it’s best if people come along in pre-existing groups and bubbles, but luckily the building is so big that we can have a fair number of people in and keep them separate from each other.”
The board’s ambition with the centre is initially to open the charity shop in July, the launderette after that and finally the gym, then to close all the facilities again and move everyone out to let contractors in for the big renovation.
Catriona said: “The big renovation involves rewiring, moving walls, creating offices and a new kitchen for the café and installing new toilets including an accessible toilet. With all that going on, it will be better for the contractors to have the building empty so they can work.
“The tender is currently being prepared and we hope to appoint contractors this winter, with a view to opening in full this time next year. But we’re adaptable and we have already seen how we need to adjust to an ever-changing world, so we will be flexible and see how it works out.”
The changes forced on to the planning group through Covid have had their benefits, since if the timetable had run as expected, there would have had to be substantial changes to make the building Covid-compliant for the future.
Now, though, everything can be put in place to allow for space, hygiene and a clear route through the building.
Another benefit has been the appointment of two project co-ordinators, Lucy and Nigel, who each have a part-time job and are helping to manage the volunteer workforce.
Catriona said: “Creating two jobs in South Harris is an achievement in itself, but having the building alive with volunteers getting it ready for opening has been the beginning of something we have looked forward to from the start.
“We want the Leverhulme Hub to be somewhere the people of South Harris can come and get a coffee, catch up with people, a facility for our own community.
“Tourists will use it, and they are most welcome, but it is primarily for the people of the area to use as their own place. The way in which people are coming out to help is showing that happening already.
“We had two young girls – friends and neighbours – who came out and spent four consecutive evenings putting four coats of paint on a wall. They posted pictures of themselves on Facebook and a few days later we had some of their friends getting in touch to say ‘what can we do?’
“It’s been a long time since this community has felt really alive and in October it will be six years since 100 people got together at an open meeting and voted unanimously to try and save this building.
“This is it. We are doing it. And it’s South Harris people making it happen.”
The pictures show volunteers at work in the hub over the past few days and the scaffolding around the whole building for the renovation (Leverhulme Community Hub).