Martin C. Barry
Agape, the Chomedey-based charity known for its fierce determination to help the needy while promoting access to English-language health services in Laval, last week celebrated the 20th anniversary of the day in 1995 when it first opened in a former fish market on Notre Dame Boulevard.
An evening not to be missed
Supporters gathered at the Agape daycare on June 11 to mark the occasion. The evening included the celebration of a Holy Mass of Thanksgiving by former Holy Name of Jesus parish pastor Fr. Peter Sabbath, followed by a buffet style supper with beer and wine, a few words from Agape’s president, and finally a social evening with music and entertainment.
One of Agape’s most faithful supporters, Chomedey Liberal MNA Guy Ouellette, dropped by with his wife to spend some time, in spite of the fact he had to attend another function that night. Addressing the crowd, he referred to Agape as “one of the few resources that we have in Laval in the anglophone community. I have called it a jewel before and when you have a jewel you take care of it.”
“This has been a place of laughter, tears, passion,” said Fr. Sabbath. “If I were just to describe Agape, to me it would be as a great instrument of mercy not only in this Year of Mercy, but also in the many years of its existence. We’re all very grateful.”
Mulcair’s help instrumental
Describing the events leading up to Agape’s taking up residence at its permanent address, treasurer Elizabeth McLeod recounted how they were initially rebuffed by elected officials from the municipal, provincial and federal governments. However, they received support from future MNA and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair before he went on to be elected to the Quebec National Assembly.
McLeod recalled the treatment they got when they went to see former Laval West Liberal MP Michel Dupuy, whose political attaché, she said, told her and other Agape supporters, including Mulcair, “You walk in here as if you were in a bakery.” According to McLeod, Mulcair told the attaché that, with or without him, Agape would open. “And three months later we opened,” McLeod said.
Mind you, since the venue that became available to Agape was a former fish store which had been closed for a year-and-a-half, “the stench was unbelievable,” she continued, “and being the fancy little girl that I am, I said wait Cliffe, we’re not coming here.” But Agape co-founder Cliffeline Young had other ideas and tried to persuade McLeod that 3952 Notre Dame Blvd. in Chomedey was indeed the right place.
First opened on June 29
Thus it was that on June 15, 1995, Elizabeth, Cliffeline and other Agape supporters got on their knees and prayed for guidance. Then on June 29, they finally opened and held a large press conference which was well-attended. Among Agape’s first supporters, she added, was the Laval News.
McLeod gave credit to former Liberal MP for Laval-Les Îles Raymonde Folco for helping Agape obtain a federal subsidy that allowed the organization in 2002 to acquire ownership of the building it had been leasing until then. Folco, who has been out of politics since 2011, described McLeod as someone who is so tenacious when pursuing a goal that it becomes easier for someone being lobbied to say yes.
“One thing that we hardly ever mention about Agape is the fact that this organization that Betty and the other volunteers have created has become a family,” Folco said. “And it’s a wonderful thing that all the people of different ages have got together and are helping other newcomers who are coming into Laval, whether their language is English, French, Arabic, whatever. It doesn’t matter. They are helping and in doing so they are helping themselves.”