Sad loss of an icon

IT is sad to see the passing of an era for the Goodwill Centre in Campbell Street, and for the Port Alfred Benevolent Society itself.

The Goodwill Centre in Campbell Street now houses a hair salon

Residents would have noticed by now that the quaint little building which for many years served as a community hall for various groups, from dancing to Alcoholics Anonymous, is now occupied by a hair salon.

The matter was first raised by local amateur historian Rob Sutton, who expressed dismay that an icon of community affairs had been lost. Sutton holds the view that the hall was meant to be reserved for community benefit in perpetuity.

He mentioned how the little hall had been used as a tearoom for elderly residents to rest and chat over a cuppa after shopping in town. I recall my own late mother visiting the Goodwill Centre for that purpose during her shopping expeditions in town.

TotT also attended karate demonstrations there, and many AGMs by the Kowie History Museum, Benevolent Society and other groups. In the old days, it was even used for boxing.

But Kevin Heny, the Benevolent Society management committee, said visits by the elderly – most of them Damant Lodge residents – had tapered off, and very little revenue was coming in from community use.

Another sad loss has been the closure of the Benevolent Society’s welfare section feeding scheme, due to ongoing problems with Lotto funding. The feeding scheme was run from the Goodwill Centre. Joy Altson, who heads the welfare section, is finally throwing in the towel after years of perseverance through the trials of securing funding.

And that means needy people will be going without the help the Benevolent Society provided.

Heny said it was purely a commercial decision to rent the property to a hair salon, and the income from the rental would go to Damant Lodge, which is the core of the Benevolent Society’s work.

He said he did not know the details of whether the centre was meant to be reserved for community use in perpetuity, as the original document was lost. This is something that could probably do with further probing.

Heny also said the Benevolent Society had in fact tried to sell the property 18 months ago, and had it listed with all estate agents in town, but it was a difficult sell, as the building is over 50 years old and needs Heritage Council permission for any alterations. In addition to this, the building is lower than street level and prone to flooding.

The loss of this old community gathering place is unfortunate, but a sign of changing times.

– Jon Houzet

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