The AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO) has completed its move to a new, expanded office on Main Street.
The organization celebrated the transition by throwing a grand opening party for community partners and stakeholders Feb 9 at the 19 Main St office, where guests were treated to an evening of wine, cheese and hors d’oeuvres served by ACO volunteers. The event also featured a ceremonial ribbon cutting, singing, drumming and dancing, as well as an artwork display created by Joseph Babcock called Peter’s Tree.
Khaled Salam, executive director of the ACO, says the event was “a smashing success” that brought out an array of community members, partners and local politicians, including Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. It also marked an opportunity for the organization’s various stakeholders to commemorate this “important moment in ACO’s history,” Salam says.
“The response to our new space and our grand opening . . . has been extremely positive,” he says. “We are honoured to have had the opportunity to showcase our new home to our friends, allies, partners and stakeholders.” The event, he stresses, represented more than a simple celebration of the new space and instead emphasized the “importance of partnerships and collaborations.”
In particular, Salam points to the 16 partner organizations that participated in an information fair during the party for the group’s annual Snowblower Fair, an event that aims “to bring gay men’s overall health and wellness to the forefront through fun workshops, activities and parties for guys into guys.” The festival started in 2007 as a response “to a community need for events that cater to gay men’s holistic health and well-being,” according to its website.
This year’s event ran from Feb 9 to 16.
Salam says the ACO’s transition into the new office will completely change the dynamics of the group’s work by allowing it “more creative freedom with services and programs.” The move will also allow the group more “room to grow as an organization and explore opportunities for new partnerships and collaborations,” he says.
According to Salam, community members have already shared numerous ideas for how the ACO could use the new space, including setting up a community garden, hosting barbecues in its lots and organizing health-promotion programs by the canal and in surrounding parks.
On a concrete level, the move is significant, with the ACO going from the seventh floor of a multi-tenant building on Bank Street to having its own two-level building with a lot overlooking Ottawa’s historic Rideau Canal. The transition into the new building was completed Dec 1, on World AIDS Day.
The ACO has since announced that it has been accepted into Doors Open Ottawa 2015, set to take place on June 6 and 7.
Salam says the event is yet another great opportunity for the organization to open its doors to the larger Ottawa community and engage them in the work that ACO does.