All Around Town House

This week I had a chance to visit Glace Bay’s Town House to find out what they’ve been up to lately. I was intrigued by the organization but not well informed — I was aware of the clothing depot, but not much else. But in a wide-ranging conversation with Executive Director Patti McDonald, I learned a startling amount about what’s happening at Town House!

First of all, Town House is located at 150 Commercial Street in Glace Bay and run by the Citizens Service League, a volunteer-based, non-profit, charitable organization established in 1967 to “improve the quality of life” in the community of Glace Bay and surrounding area through programs designed “in response to needs identified by residents.”

Town House Citizens Service League

Source: Facebook

McDonald, who has spent the past 20 years working in the non-profit sector, including stints with the YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth and Easter Seals Nova Scotia, returned to Cape Breton from Halifax in 2016 and has served as director of development and communications at the Whitney Pier Youth Club and coordinator of the Lumiere festival in 2020. She became executive director of Town House in 2021, that is, mid-pandemic.

I began by asking her how COVID-19 restrictions had affected Town House’s operations, and McDonald said:

The pandemic was kind of hard on us. We had to shut down a lot of our programs. But it offered an opportunity for us to really take stock and decide where we are going to go from here. I was brought on as executive director in August of [last] year. Since then, I’ve been working with my colleague Lori [Young] and the board to figure out what’s next for us, and what kind of programs we’re going to be running. We used to have a daycare. We decided to close that at the beginning of the year of the pandemic, so that’s closed permanently now.

McDonald’s sadness at the loss of the daycare was apparent, but she was hopeful about other Town House projects:

Meals on Wheels is one of our marquee programs that has not only continued to run…during the pandemic…it’s actually grown, because people are in need. …[W]e’re getting a lot more calls for Meals on Wheels. We have a waiting list.

COVID has affected this program too, chiefly through the loss of volunteers, many of whom were seniors or at higher-risk for the disease. Said McDonald:

Juggling the needs of the community with the ability to provide for them has caused the Society to look elsewhere as a temporary measure to deal with getting out the food for Meals on Wheels. The fact that we’ve recently partnered with Colette’s restaurant in Glace Bay is certainly helping that…[W]e’re really excited for that and [the clients are] loving the meals.


McDonald’s enthusiasm for Town House and its ability to “improve the quality of life” in the community really seemed to shine through as she outlined ideas to address what she sees as crucial social issues:

One of the other programs that we are running right now is our Social Enterprise Thrift Store. So, that started out as a clothing depot, in the basement of Town House. And then, during the pandemic, when my colleague Lori Young was here, working pretty much by herself, she moved it upstairs, to become more of a thrift store than a clothing depot.

The move proved such a success that as things started opening up again and more people were visiting the store, McDonald and Young decided it made more sense to give the operation “a home of its own, to have a brick and mortar street front.” And so, the 849 Thrift Boutique is now located at 169 Commercial Street.

In addition to Meals on Wheels and the clothing boutique, Town House also hopes to relaunch some seniors’ initiatives which have not been running due to COVID restrictions. Said McDonald:

One program that we’re excited to bring back is our Seniors’ Brunches…[W]e’ll be doing those quarterly, the first one taking place this summer, I don’t have an exact date, but we’ll be doing that. We hope to run some other seniors programs because, you know, seniors have been the most impacted by the shutdowns, and by the pandemic. An old program we are hoping to bring back is the Walking & Photography Club, just a chance for seniors to get out, get some exercise, learn about taking photographs, that sort of thing. So we’re really excited about that.

Town House Thrift Store Glace Bay

Source: Facebook

But McDonald is also looking to help deal with one of the most serious problems facing her community:

Another program that we’re in the process of trying to create, this is kind’ve a big one, because one of the needs we have identified in Glace Bay and the surrounding communities is people experiencing homelessness and poverty.

As she explains, Town House is not “in the business of creating policy” and they can’t be landlords but they’re hoping to get funding to turn the basement of the building—formerly the daycare and then the clothing depot—into a Community Day Centre. A place, McDonald explains:

Where folks can come in during the daylight hours…So, if there is someone who is experiencing homelessness, they can come in, they can get a hot shower, they can have a place to spend time with a friendly face here. And folks who, maybe, have housing but they can’t get to a laundromat, they might not have laundry in their units, they can come here and do laundry for free. So we plan on putting all those things in place.

One of the most important (and innovative) things they’ll provide is mailboxes, so that “people who might not have housing right now will still have a permanent address,” which can be key to registering for government programs and assistance.

So as you can see, there are many ideas floating around Town House these days, some of which have become realities, some of which are still on the drawing board. But don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself. Their website is under construction but you can find them on Facebook or give them a call at (902) 849-2449.


Donald Clarke

A “military brat,” Don Clarke finally put down roots in Dominion, Cape Breton. A graduate of CBU (Communication) and NSCC (Business Administration), he has been active in the local theatrical community for years, having performed and directed at the Boardmore Playhouse and Two Hoots Productions. He has worked in film and television, directed a Canadian Short Film and published poetry in Caper’s Aweigh, and The Caper Times, where he also served as editor.