While the old Latvian House still stands at 491 College Street in Toronto, it has now been eclipsed by the new centre, which is home to most of the community' s main activities and events. Membership exceeds 1,100 individuals and families, each of whom has donated a minimum of $1,000 towards the acquisition and renovation of the centre, which until 1979 served as the head office of the Ontario Credit Union League. With a Wintario grant of $750,000, the total investment in the centre is now close to $2.5 million.
The centre boasts an art gallery, bookstore, library/resource centre, Latvian credit union office, permanent and rotating exhibition of folklore artifacts and a growing collection of Latvian art. The centre is home to the weekend Valodina (language) school, girl guides and boy scouts, the Latvian Youth Association in Canada, the Investment Club Riga, the Latvian Arts and Crafts Association, student sororities and fraternities, and every year the centre plays host to numerous visitors to Toronto Caravan's Riga Pavilion, representing the capital of Latvia. As such it has won numerous awards, including Best Pavilion in 1982.
The centre is, in fact, the heart of the Latvian community in Toronto. It is used by Latvians of all ages and interests- dancers, singers, actors, musicians, bridge players, weavers, stamp collectors and numismatists-for meetings, rehearsals, concerts, dances, lectures, films and shows, poetry readings, evening courses and Sunday brunches (providing a convivial forum for food, thought and social contact each Sunday from October to April). The centre has excellent facilities for all types of functions for up to 500 people. Catering is directed by the catering manager, aided by a very active and gourmet minded women's committee, which has established an enviable reputation for high-class, yet affordable, catering.
Being a charity, the centre is run by a board of directors who receive no remuneration. In addition to the women's committee, there are three special function committees-an arts committee, a library committee and a building committee. As a result of their energies the centre functions smoothly and efficiently and is entirely self-supporting.
Our Latvian Canadian Cultural Centre is open to the community at large. It is easily accessible, just a couple of minutes east of the Don Valley Parkway and Eglinton Avenue intersection, has ample parking and public transit at its doorstep. It is a true community centre-financed and run by the community for the benefit not only of Canadians of Latvian origin, but Canadians of all origins. It is a small, but bright component of our multicultural mosaic.