Thursday, July 7, 2011

Burgeoning groups quickly outgrow basements

Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner

It’s great when citizens to come together to somehow improve the world, or at least their community. I’ve been involved with quite a few such organizations, ranging from registered charities and non-profits to ad-hoc local groups. One of the challenges such an initiative faces is where to have meetings.

Early group meetings usually begin either at a person’s home or a local café or bar, but rapidly outgrow those facilities. Meeting at a café or bar is problematic in that you may not get good seating, or it might be too noisy due to other patrons or music. What’s more, it is expected that each attendee will buy something, which might get expensive for some participants.

Meeting at someone’s home seems a good alternative, but it can feel awkward for new members to show up at a stranger’s home. Then you run into the “life’s like that” situations, when the host has to cancel at the last minute due to illness or some other family happenstance, leaving you scrambling for another location or meeting time.

Which leaves booking a meeting room. Many churches have meeting spaces they rent fairly cheaply, or maybe free if your group includes a congregation member. But their willingness to host might depend on the nature of your group or its mission. You can rent rooms at City Hall or the various rec centres, but that costs money your group might not have. If you were active years ago, you might recall when Zehrs offered free community room bookings (provided you bought their food), but now they charge a rental fee. Luckily, there are still some excellent sources of free rooms in Barrie, some you may not have been aware of.

The best-known is the Barrie Public Library. For group sizes ranging from 10 to 50, they have meeting rooms available for non-profits to book on a first-come, first-served basis. They’ll set up chairs and tables to suit your plans, have free wi-fi, and can provide a screen, whiteboard, or flipchart to help with presentations. The Kozlov café is on site, and in the larger rooms you can set up your own kettle or coffee machine. To find out more or to book, visit their or contact 705-728-1010.

Perhaps more unique to Barrie is what Steckley-Gooderham Funeral Homes offers: free bookings of their Sir Robert Barrie and Kempenfelt community boardrooms at their downtown and Minet’s Point locations, respectively. Each features a computer and wi-fi, a phone for someone call in to your meeting, and VCR/DVD players and projectors. They even serve complimentary coffee & tea! Like the library, these are first-come first-served. To book one of their excellent rooms, call Nicki at 705-721-1211.

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.


  1. There are lots of places to conduct your meeting. You should have considered any near hotels. Thanks for that information anyway.

    office furniture

  2. Our groups have sometimes had meetings at local hotel facilities, but we've always had to pay for the use of the room. However, if you know of any that offer free meeting rooms for local groups or non-profits, please let me know and I'll mentione them in a follow-up column. I have also learned of a local senior's residence that will allow free use of their meeting rooms.