Just your average day in the nest

When you talk to the tenants in The Redpoll Centre, you immediately get a sense of community that has developed in the short number of months that the nonprofit shared space has been open. Home to a total of 16 different agencies including The United Way of Fort McMurray, its anchor tenant, The Redpoll Centre operates on the principle that we can be stronger if we share resources, authentically collaborate, and create a culture of sharing.

Yesterday was one of those days that stood out as an example of why working at The Redpoll Centre is, as described by the Arts Council ladies, like being “under the rainbow on MacDonald Island.”

It began for me with the smallest, yet most delightful surprise waiting for me at my desk. Someone had planted a little “elf on the shelf” figurine right where I would see it when I began my work. It inspired a huge smile on my face – a great way to start the day. I promptly took the little elf and replanted him on my friend Pam’s desk, sharing the love.

The Redpoll elf will likely make his rounds, much like the Redpoll rat that popped up throughout the month of October.

Barb from the Centre of Hope popped into my cubicle to ask for my feedback on a project, Sandy from St. Aidan’s Society sent over a pdf that she needed changed into a jpeg, and I was able to get some insight about the Syrian refugee crisis from my friend Kouamie from Centre et d’accueil d’etablissement. These organic interactions happen every day and with increasing frequency.

There are also moments of great care and concern that happen in this nonprofit community. A colleague came over to share the story of a family that was going through a very difficult time and that she wanted to bring a little sunshine into their life. She went around to all of us asking if we would throw in some money so she could surprise them with a gift basket. I can’t tell you how nice it felt to contribute and to work with people who love to pay it forward.

Later in the day, we had excitement of a different sort as Valerie came running into the office expressing shock and dismay that one of Diane’s fish had taken a turn for the worse. It was flipping its fins and floating on its back.

“What do I do?” she asked desperately, very upset that this little creature was struggling.

It became clear the tide was going out on this little fish that had lived a full life. Sherry offered some kind words and Michelle and Constance sang “Amazing Grace”. It was a quintessential Redpoll moment.

The day came to an end with Maryellen, Hanna and I attempting to put up a Christmas backdrop in the lunch room. I was on my back trying to get one of the bolts in place while they hovered above holding the tree in place. At the table next to us, Constance and Michelle were applying the final design flourishes to their gingerbread house.

When tenants talk about working at The Redpoll Centre a smile appears and their eyes light up. It is a special place to be, with people and organizations who have the best interests of the community (and each other) at heart.


Author: Russell Thomas

​Russell is a marketing and communications professional who has spent 20 years in Wood Buffalo working with the OK Radio Group, Keyano College, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and now with The United Way of Fort McMurray. A regular blogger, Russell's writing can be seen online (www.middleagebulge.com) and in multiple publications. His paintings can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the community. Married to Heather and "Papa" to Dylan and Ben, Russell is a passionate spokesperson for United Way.