Citizens Service League was formally organized at a meeting of sixteen delegates on November 20, 1965. Hilda Wright, founder of the League, was appointed by the United Church to head a pilot project in ecumenical social service in Glace Bay. She was an experienced social worker with an impressive record of service in England. Hilda Wright’s purpose in founding Citizens Service League was to unite church and service groups, the social service agencies and the town welfare department in a common effort to improve economic conditions in the area.
As her first project, Hilda selected a practical plan for providing clothing for the citizens in need. Hilda Wright also established a Nursery School as a place where four-year olds from all races, religious, and social backgrounds could learn from one another. Nursery School was followed up with cooking and nutrition classes for mothers of the students. Following this, a Committee on Alcoholism was set up which was instrumental in having a Drug Dependency Commission established.
In 1967, Citizens Service League was incorporated and Mrs. Shirley Chernin became the first President of the Board. Initially, there were five staff members, including a Director, secretary, coordinator of nursery schools and two homemakers employed by the League. Approximately 250 volunteers worked on a variety of programs and projects.
During these early years, there were very few aspects of life in the Glace Bay area where the League did not touch upon – for example, home repairs, homemaker services, volunteers with Meals on Wheels, Books on Wheels, Play Therapy in the two Glace Bay hospitals. Volunteers also worked with the Each One Teach One Literacy program for adults, and provided instruction in classes covering Red Cross care in the home, handcrafts, furniture refinishing, gardening, and adolescent psychology.
In early years, Citizens Service League did not have a permanent home location. In 1972, St. Mary’s Parish offered its vacant rectory to the town to be used for League offices. Citizens Service League moved into the rectory and renamed it Town House. The location was ideal for the League’s activities, situated in the centre of the business section of town. Formerly a family dwelling, it had a kitchen which could provide snacks for the Nursery School children, facilities for cooking snacks and lunches for workshops and other gatherings. It had two large rooms for Nursery School. Above all, it had the charm of a home.
As the League developed new programs, a need arose for more space. In 1977, a wing was added to Town House to provide a large room for meetings and workshops. In 1981, another addition was made providing office space and renovations to the Nursery School rooms. In 1986, St. Mary’s was destroyed in a fire. Plans for the new church included the land on which Town House stood. St. Mary’s graciously gave permission to relocate Town House on church property. On December 7, 1987, Town House was lifted off its foundation and moved to its new site. Some benefits were gained from the upheaval. The move provided an occasion for a general face lift with new siding and attractive landscaping. In 2009, a further renovation allowed for a new ramp to improve accessibility, improvements on the kitchen area and the basement stairs, bringing the building up to current fire and building codes.
Passchendaele House was the residence provided for Hilda Wright by the United Church. She lived upstairs and used the downstairs area for meetings. In 1972, the United Church of Canada provided the League with a home in the Passchendaele area and the League acquired ownership in 2008 from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
Nursery School classes are held at Passchendaele House from October to May. March Break Program is also held there along with Summer Day Camps in July and August for school-aged children.
In 2008, Passchendaele House received a face lift with new windows, siding and a new kitchen. Through a generous grant from the Department of Community Services, a beautiful playground was installed in the backyard of the House in September 2008.