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Barbara Wellard finds accomplishment and community pride through volunteerism initiatives

“There’s so much to do and this city has so much to offer."
Sylvia Taus and Barb Wellard
File Photo of Barbara Wellard (left) with North Bay Club Champion Sylvia Taus

“Rooted” is all about the people and places that make us proud to call our community home.

We are a city with just as many features and amenities as you’d find in a larger urban centre. We have the North Bay Regional Health Centre, the Captiol Centre, Laurentian Ski Hill, several golf courses and more than enough to help an individual live a high-quality lifestyle.

But to make those things work, and help them stay operational, the city needs its residents to support and champion the initiatives that will see that through.

Barbara Morland Wellard has been a part of a lot of those campaigns that have helped these amenities either get started or stay in the area. But, the one she says she is most proud of is the Nipissing Transition House.

“Along with Marsha Greenfield, she worked there and I was the chair of the board for many years. We were instrumental in getting the house on John Street. We tore down that house that we bought there and built what is the current Nipissing Transition House.”

Wellard adds, “we raised lots of money for the transition house, which is such an important facility for women in abusive situations.”

As a family lawyer by profession, Wellard saw the true need for this kind of service for women in North Bay and the surrounding area.

“I was very involved in a lot of women who were in abusive relationships and situations that really had nowhere to go to escape the abuse. Marsha and I went to high school together and she got a hold of me and said this was her goal and I said, let's get this going,” she said. 

“She was the one that did a lot of the footwork with going to the city to get a transition house and all of that, but being on the board and seeing it all through was something I’m very proud of.”

 Wellard says services like this can make all the difference in someone’s life. She says, “to be able to get out of a relationship safely and not have the abusive spouse come to a friend's home, break-in and drag them back or something of that effect, that couldn’t happen. Plus there’s counselling services and room for their children. Its an avenue for escaping an abusive relationship which they didn’t have before.”

She adds, “seeing the communities support for this service gave you a sense of pride. To see so many people from different backgrounds who wanted to sit on the board and help make this a reality, you just knew there was an understanding that this was an important facility for North Bay.”

Speaking of important facilities in the Gateway City, the North Bay Regional Health Centre was another place that benefited from Wellard’s volunteerism as she sat on the Health  Foundation Board for several years.

She says, “that turned into a very successful campaign when it was time for the new hospital.”

“Barbara Minogue was the chair of the foundation and the fundraising efforts, and she did an excellent job raising the funds for what is a state of the art hospital. There are still things that need to be done, but I think this region has benefited greatly from that initial fundraising.”

Another program that Wellard helped establish was one for people to get help for their addictions.
“It’s a board that doesn’t exist anymore but it was a place called the Right Away Farm which was a treatment facility, a 28-day program for addicts. It was in Powassan, but it was the first one in or near the city of North Bay.”

Wellard says before this facility there was no other way for people in our area to deal with their issues.

“It was an absolutely essential program. It was very successful in helping people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. There were a number of people that went through this program and received help for those addictions. That program stayed in place for about thirty years or so until we started getting the half-way homes and treatment facilities that we have now.”   

But it hasn’t just been health-related agencies that Wellard wanted to be involved with.

“When I was growing up, the Capitol Centre was a movie house. So it had to be completely renovated to be more of a staged theatre for live performances. We sold those plaques that you still see on the backs of the seats. People would pay so much money to have those specific seats in the new Captiol Centre. It was quite an extensive fundraiser, but something that had to be done for live theatre in North Bay.”

That campaign brought in $500,000 which was no easy task in the early 1980s.  Wellard says that was something she jumped on board with because of her love of the arts.

“I felt that it was important to have a venue where we could have Broadway musicals and featured acts. I remember going to see 'The Guess Who' at the Capitol Centre after the renovations. The acoustics were good. Tom Cochrane played there as well.”

She adds, “its essential for a town to have a place to showcase the arts and culture.”

Wellard was also very active in the sports scene in North Bay, playing golf at area courses for the last 56 years. She was introduced to that sport at a very early age as her father, Bill Morland, was one of the most well known golfers in the region.

“He was a very, very accomplished golfer and just going around northern Ontario, everyone knew who Bill Morland was, and that was pretty neat,” she says.

“He would take us up to the North Bay Golf and Country Club and you could join as a junior when you were ten years old. So my four siblings and I all participated in that program once we all turned ten. It wasn’t that we golfed a lot with him because he was working or competing in tournaments himself, but he certainly got us started.”

Wellard says she always found the importance of not only being active in the community through your work life and your recreational life but also in the aspects that you feel are important to make the community a better place to live. She says being on those different boards and campaigns brought a sense of accomplishment and pride.

“You should be giving back to your community as you have benefited from living there in many ways. I think everyone should be involved in doing something for their community,” she said. 

Wellard is someone who truly loves the city she calls home and thinks there are lots of opportunities here for everyone to take advantage of.

“I think it’s a great place to raise a family. There’s not a lot of crime, your kids can go out and play and there are lots of things for them to do. Outdoor rinks, indoor rinks, the ski hill. We used to go night skiing at Laurentian Ski Club on Friday nights all the time.”

She adds, “there’s so much to do and this city has so much to offer at a cost that’s reasonable compared to southern Ontario. Look at the golf courses for example. You can come here and join and be a member for a reasonable price. If you moved to a town in southern Ontario, you could never just join a course. The fees are so high, it is usually sold out, and you would have to be on a waiting list.”

Wellard has such a caring and positive view of the Gateway City, that it makes you feel lucky to live somewhere that has people working to make it a better community every single day.

 “I’ve always been proud to be from North Bay and I’m a little humbled that someone would have suggested that I should be featured for rooted in the bay.  It is such a fantastic place to live.”

If you have a story suggestion for the “Rooted” series, send Matt an email at matthew.sookram@rci.rogers.com