The Redpoll Centre, strengthening organizations and people

The Redpoll Centre on Franklin Avenue has been a successful nonprofit shared space for over 5 years. A professional office environment, made possible by generous support from the Suncor Energy Foundation, The Redpoll Centre has been home to The United Way of Fort McMurray and a number of nonprofit and charitable organizations. It has also successfully incubated small organizations, helping them grow and strengthen.

As The Redpoll Centre is in the planning stage of moving from its current location to Shell Place, it seems an appropriate time to share a specific story that illustrates how being part of a shared space environment can be transformative.

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Photo: Leslie Ross and Julie MacLennan at their goodbye celebration at The Redpoll Centre

Children First, a long-time member of The Redpoll Centre, recentl left our nest to work out of their own Nest in Eagle Ridge. They had successfully grown to the point that they needed to be located at their base of operations. Julie MacLennan is the Day Home Coordinator with Children First. We asked her a few questions about her experiences at The Redpoll Centre.

Q: First of all, how did you first end up at The Redpoll Centre?

A: As fate would have it, I first ended up at The Redpoll Centre as a result of misdirecting my resume submission to the former head of the Nonprofit Sector Link. And despite her inability to offer me the employment position – which was posted on the Nonprofit Sector Link website on behalf of another social profit agency – she invited me to The Redpoll Center to discuss options for expanding my connections and improving my employment prospects. Although, I ultimately suspect she sensed my desperation.

During that visit, she happily introduced me to the other members of The Redpoll Center. I distinctly remember the connectedness between the individuals that worked in the building. Having been away from an office environment since relocating from Grande Prairie, I longed to be once again “part of the team”. From this experience, I gained a few contacts and began volunteering with one of the agencies affiliated with Nonprofit Sector Link.

Fast forward a year later, I submitted my resume to Safe Communities Wood Buffalo in the hopes of securing a position. And although I was unsuccessful, the executive director graciously forwarded my resume to a fellow Redpoll tenant that was actively searching for a Family Day Home Coordinator. In the end, I landed the position and finally ended my exhaustive employment search.

Q: How did being at The Redpoll Centre enable your progression with Children First?

A: By being located at The Redpoll Centre, our agency was afforded a point of contact for families, childcare providers and other affiliated organizations. It allowed us to better serve the above mentioned individuals by promoting the agency’s mandate of being readily available and supportive. Moreover, individual office space allowed us to close the door and offer strict confidentiality as required by our visitors. But when the door was open, the structure and flow of the centre allowed us to share ideas and problem solve with our fellow tenants.

Q: One of the aspirations of The Redpoll Centre is to develop a sense of community. How did that manifest itself for you?

A: I do confess that I was spotted regularly eating at my desk during my stay at The Redpoll Centre. The excessive amount of crumbs in my keyboard provides the proof. Ah, the joys of being a workaholic. With that said, the regular flock meetings were extremely positive and fun to attend. But more importantly, these gatherings forced me from my desk and greatly increased the connectedness between the organizations that shared the space. These flock meetings – and the socialization between members in general – made it impossible not to be motivated by each organization’s contributions to Fort McMurray as a whole. It was truly inspirational.

Q: What do you feel are the benefits of working in a shared space environment?

A: It may be overly simplistic, but one statement comes to mind: we are stronger together. In my profession, we sometimes isolate ourselves due to the high workload or physical constraints. This isolation is often exacerbated by the fact that we may have relocated to Fort McMurray and are separated by family and friends. The wonderful thing about working in a shared space is the sense of family that is created. I feel that I am better, both personally and professionally through my experiences and the relationships created while at The Redpoll Centre. Although I may leave the centre, I will take these relationships with me. For this, I am truly grateful.

If your sports, rec, arts, or social profit organization is interested in applying to be part of The Redpoll Centre at Shell Place, contact Russell Thomas at 780-791-0077, or email:


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.