Look for the old walls at 960 Silver to start bulging and bopping with a fresh round of activities now that Lianna Sottile is finding her feet as program coordinator. “My goal is that a year from now, Alexander Community Centre will be a clean, busy, popular place with a name that people recognize.”
The centre's core customers were Sottile's first focus: the over 40 children who attend the after-four Gap program, the young stars of Saturday's dance classes and the youth who enjoy the Monday night basketball and Wednesday sports drop-in. “Coming from parks, I like the interaction with the kids here. They know me now, I know their names and their parents.”
Sottile, who joined the Alexander staff late in 1999 after nearly three years with the City of Ottawa's Parks recreation team, will have more responsibility now that the position of Centre Director is part-time, shared with Bellevue Community Centre. Tanya Kamienski is acting director of both centres while Jan Davis is seconded to Churchill Seniors' Centre.
“I'm willing to try new things and take the risk that perhaps some of them will be unsuccessful. I know we can do more with special events,” says Sottile, who was responsible for many a carnival and summer party when she managed a dozen wading pools and a dozen rinks in Glebe and Ottawa South. “I was responsible for sponsorships city-wide, and I beg for prizes really well. For our February winter carnival here, all the food was donated by Loblaws and we had lots of prizes.”
That kind of professional touch for events will continue. “We're trying to do something major each month that gets all the kids out whether they are part of The Gap or not,” Sottile promises.
Sottile's other love is athletics, as she continues her volunteer work as head coach of synchronized swimming for the Gloucester Synchro Swim Club. In her teens, she competed at the A level and was provincial champion two years running. She began coaching while earning an honours degree from the University of Ottawa in Leisure Studies.
The centre lacks a true gym and is smaller than most, which is a challenge for staff who want to enable more community members to get active and get participating. Perhaps the time is right to revive the dream of a weights and fitness room, a concept which has worked very well at centres like Hintonburg, Pinecrest, Dovercourt and Hunt Club.
Another goal for Sottile is to get the word out that Alexander is a safe, supervised place for children and youth. “Parks work is very focused on the safety aspect and I think safety should come first in our recreation here.” She'd like more neighbours to know that the park and the centre are great destinations for young people who want to be active and build their skills.
Energetic and “proud to be part of the City of Ottawa recreation team,” Sottile is determined to make waves even without a pool. If you've ever had a notion about trying something new in a fitness or leisure activity, the doors of your local community centre are wide open. Call Lianna Sottile at 798-8978 and make some suggestions.