Sarah Rennie –
A classroom upstairs at the Huntingdon Adult Education and Community Centre has been transformed into a humming workshop. With beautiful Christmas inspired crafts and creative decorations stored on shelves, piled on tables and along the walls, there is no escaping the feeling something magical is happening as students across almost all departments stop in to help in their own unique way.
After several years of toying with the idea of doing something more substantial to display the kind of work being done by their students at HAECC, staff members Marie Claire Charlebois , Vicki Hamilton, McKenzie Hooker, Christine Dussault, and Michael Werenchuck have launched the Boutique Café Tous within the school. The student-made creations officially debuted at Christmas craft fairs across the Valley this holiday season.
“The goal was to find something that reached out and was inclusive of all the different departments,” says Marie-Claire Charlebois. The name chosen for the boutique Cafe Tous, literally translates to everyone or everything. And, with around 75 students participating in some way in this school-wide project, it has brought everyone together.
“It takes a little bit of talent from everyone,” says Vicki Hamilton, noting there is a job for all the students. “It has given everybody purpose,” she adds, of the different skill levels required to complete the various crafts. “We are forever making things,” continues Hamilton. “It’s finding their best skills and then finding ways to put their skills to work.”
Along one wall in the workshop/classroom there is an idea and inventory board postered with images of different possibilities for decorations, furniture, clothing and even preserves made with ingredients from the school’s garden. Many of the creations to be found at the boutique have come from recycled materials, and everything as much as possible is environmentally friendly. For example, recycled tires have been used to create beautiful footstools and pallets have been converted into any number of items.
The Boutique Café Tous has benefitted from the full support of the administration at HAECC, with some of the wood being used in their designs even having come from the woods behind Director Daryl Ness’ house in Elgin. The New Frontiers School Board is also very supportive of the project.
Once the holiday season is over, the teachers and students will focus on converting one area of the school into a permanent location for the Boutique Café. Students in the carpentry program at the Chateauguay Valley Career Education Centre in Ormstown crafted beautiful counters for the boutique and once the snow melts the horticulture and landscaping students at HAECC are also expected to become more involved. The goal is to open the Boutique Café Tous sometime in the Spring to the public.