Redpoll Centre on a roll

Visit in March 2014

The Redpoll Centre – March 2014

It seems like just yesterday that I stood in this space with Diane Shannon and a group of media personalities getting a construction update tour of Shell Place. The exterior walls had not been closed in yet and The Redpoll Centre space was bitter cold as we tried to imagine what it would be like to move the nonprofit shared space to MacDonald Island the following year. That was not that long ago; it was late March of 2014, before I even started working with United Way.


The Redpoll Centre – March 2015

Fast forward six months and walls were in place, the building was completely closed off, and all the finishing details were coming together. We began regular visits early in 2015 to finalize our improvement plans, everything from modular walls to kitchen cabinets and fixtures had to be ordered and in some cases, manufactured.


The Redpoll Centre – May 19, 2015

The walls arrived around the May long weekend and started going up immediately; the furniture came the following week. We began our move from the Franklin Avenue location of The Redpoll Centre to Shell Place in the final week of May and got our occupancy permit on June 1st. We were officially up and running.

As with every new facility, it took some time to work out the kinks. Getting all the technology figured out along with the temperature balancing took longer than any of us expected, but we had a lot of great help from the staff at Shell Place and various contractors.

elf on the shelf small

This has been home for seven full months to 16 different organizations. We have slowly gotten to know one another, have broken bread on a number of occasions, and even achieved a level of trust that we can play practical jokes on each other from time to time. Ask any of us about the Redpoll Rat or the Elf on the Shelf and you will likely get a great story. I screamed on several occasions when the fake rat had been clandestinely placed in my work space.

Barbara Rex

Russell Thomas with Barb Rex with the Centre of Hope

“Working at The Redpoll Centre is amazing because of the facility itself, which is impressive, but it is more than that,” said Barbara Rex, Fund Development and Communications Coordinator, Centre of Hope. “The Redpoll Centre is a cornucopia of talented and like-minded individuals who collaborate, inspire and share a very obvious passion for our amazing community. Not only have I benefited professionally from working in this environment, but I have been enhanced personally.”

Most important, are the little collisions of collaboration that happen every day as agencies, who may have previously had little opportunity to engage with one another, are now finding common ground and ways of contributing to each others’ missions. Friendships have been formed and a community of individuals and organizations has blossomed.


Valerie Winters with Board Member John Evans and his wife Denise, and Board Member Lisa Hilsenteger

“The best part of living and working at The Redpoll Centre is the culture and diversity of all the people who settled here,” said Valerie Winters, Executive Assistant, The United Way of Fort McMurray. “Getting to know everyone is so interesting and fun. We all have a unique story. The magical part is when someone connects with another person from ‘the flock’ in a work-related or personal way. That is what makes this space unique.”


Diana Moser, Constance Scarlett and Michelle Thorne with Arts Council Wood Buffalo

“Moving to the Redpoll Centre has allowed Arts Council Wood Buffalo to feel more integrated with the wider nonprofit community and to see opportunities for collaborations with unusual partners,” said Constance Scarlett, Executive Director, Arts Council Wood Buffalo. “This innovative shared space has also provided us with a professional home base, allowing us to more effectively meet the needs of our members, and the wider arts community.”

The Redpoll Centre was always envisioned as a place for people to work together, but it was also to be a place to meet, learn, plan, innovate and govern. Our three meeting spaces – the Conference Room, Collaboration Room and Mary-Anne Warren Innovation Room are popular places. During the busy months, there were many times when all three were buzzing with activity and we needed to utilize alternate gathering spaces in our lunch room or in the Barb Jewers Reflection Room and Resource Library.

Diane Shannon with our former Community Investment Coordinator Sherry Duncan

Diane Shannon with our former Community Investment Coordinator Sherry Duncan

“Nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than seeing The Redpoll Centre thriving with tenants and visitors using our meeting spaces,” said Diane Shannon, Executive Director. “This has proven to be a magical place where the community meets, colleagues in the social profit sectors work together to strengthen our community, and visitors feel welcome.”


Community Animator Hanna Fridhed with Cait Evans from the MS Society

According to Redpoll Community Animator Hanna Fridhed, the space utilization statistics for The Redpoll Centre during its first six months are illustrative of how it has been embraced by the sector and the community.

“In the first six months of operation, The Redpoll Centre hosted 232 scheduled meetings,” she said. “Over 1,700 individuals participated in meetings that we were able to track with the busiest month being October.”

The Redpoll Centre is a capacity building initiative of The United Way of Fort McMurray supported by the Suncor Energy Foundation.

“We have created an open and inviting atmosphere,” said Fridhed. “People here connect, not only on a purely professional level, but on a personal one as well. The brightness doesn’t just come from the large windows that allow sunshine in, but from the people themselves.”

Sandy Grandison

Russell with Sandy Grandison of St. Aidan’s Society

Coming from a standalone office situation, St. Aidan’s Society has experienced the benefits of joining the collaborative community that has been formed at The Redpoll Centre.

“Working out of The Redpoll Centre has been an unbelievable experience,” said Sandy Grandison, Community Projects Facilitator, St. Aidan’s Society. “On a personal note, it has offered me the opportunity to meet and work beside individuals who I would never have crossed paths with in regular day to day movements. It has provided the fun and interactive social environment of a bigger organization that I was missing. On a professional basis, I am surrounded by an incredible depth of skills that I can access to assist me in completing my job so much more efficiently.”


“I often see people from different organizations discussing future events and ideas, sharing knowledge and even planning collaborations,” she said. “We meet in the kitchen, at the front desk, and over a cup of coffee. People, not only tenants, but visitors as well, who would not have spoken otherwise, interact with one another.”

If you are involved with a nonprofit sports, recreation, cultural, arts or social profit organization looking for great space in a collaborative professional office environment, call Russell Thomas at 780-791-0077, extension 3018.


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 ( 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.