Hidden in Plain Sight

The inspiring transformation of this northern Nova Scotia region is being driven by neighbours with an extraordinary vision, and The Sobey Foundation’s $8.3 million commitment.


From where he stands, Wade Tibbo sees unlimited possibilities for Pictou County, and the entire Northumberland Shore of Nova Scotia. The transformation that is just starting to unfold is not happening by chance; it’s the result of years of hard work, neighbours supporting neighbours, and a community that knows what it will take to shape a better tomorrow.

“I'm proud that the county is saying we're not going to listen to why this can't be done. We're not going to put up barriers or blockades,” says Wade, Chief Executive Officer of the Pictou County Partnership. “It's about identifying a roadblock or an issue and figuring out how we are going to address it.”

Behind this commitment to generational change is a culture of collaboration. “It blows me away that there is such a sense of community among all of the towns, whether it's New Glasgow or Pictou. What's good for one community is good for Pictou County, and good for the region. That spirit of cooperation is key to all of this. Without that cooperation, it just wouldn't be possible,” says Wade.

The energy and collaboration in the region is building a prosperous future, says Wade Tibbo, Chief Executive Officer of the Pictou County Partnership. “Knowing that the region is going to be better off, and knowing that there’s going to be a community where our children can thrive, that's huge.”

Standing with the organizations, businesses and community impact groups that are driving this new vision is The Sobey Foundation. 

In May 2024, The Foundation announced a five-year commitment of more than $8 million, with the objective of fostering transformative change in Pictou County, The Foundation’s home region. The commitment comes after an extensive strategic review that sharpened The Foundation’s focus. The resulting plan is a pilot project that will provide valuable insight into how the project can eventually be replicated in communities across Canada.

The plan is built around five strategic partnerships The Sobey Foundation has formed with organizations dedicated to building capacity for primary healthcare delivery, and investing in community development and sustainability.

The strategic partnerships are:

The partnerships were chosen following extensive conversations with the people who are already working to make a difference every day in the region. Their time and expertise helped to guide The Sobey Foundation, ensuring that the five partnerships encompass the core areas required to build a strong and healthy foundation for the future of Pictou County.

Taken together, these initiatives will build capacity in primary healthcare and home-based care; provide small businesses, non-profits and community impact organizations with the resources and guidance they need to thrive; strengthen the experiences that draw visitors; honour and celebrate the region's diverse history; provide enriching cultural, artistic and educational opportunities; encourage people to move to the region, and once they get here, welcome the newcomers as family and give them a reason to stay and put down roots.

“The impact of this, we won't know until it’s 10 years later and we look back and see the magnitude of it,” says Wade about the all-encompassing nature of The Sobey Foundation’s commitment. But he believes that the community will have grown and become more diverse, that businesses and organizations will be thriving, that leadership and governance will be diverse. “I picture a community that has increased the quality of life for everybody who's living there.” 

Change is already underway but it’s just beginning, says Wade. “The fact that The Sobey Foundation believes in that and supports this community, it's huge. And we're so grateful. I can't overstate the impact of what this could be.”

This story needs to be told on a national level. People can look and see a model community with a model of philanthropy happening. 

Troy Greencorn

Executive Director, deCoste Performing Arts Centre


Pictou County is starting its transformation from a position of strength. “Aside from Halifax, the corridor from Truro to Antigonish is probably the most economically powerful and stable,” says Troy Greencorn, executive director of the deCoste Performing Arts Centre. “On the infrastructure side, people want to move to places that have big town infrastructure with a small town feel. And I think that's where Pictou County is really punching above its weight.”

Attracting people to the region – and keeping them here – requires infrastructure and health services. And it requires an investment in arts and culture. “People don't always connect arts and culture with health,” says Troy. “But The Sobey Foundation understands that art and culture isn't just an embellishment, it can actually be a major driver to the health of a community.”

“What is a healthy community? It's a community that's growing and it's a community that's happy,” says Troy Greencorn, executive director of the deCoste Performing Arts Centre. “And there's two roads that lead to that, one is by way of the residents and the other is by way of visitors.”

A new, modern library is integral to the new DeCoste, set to become a major draw on the Pictou waterfront. “It sets the foundation for further creativity and innovation,” says Eric Stackhouse, chief librarian for Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library. “The deCoste will generate other activities, other projects. It'll help existing businesses because this will be a year-round opportunity.”

Great cultural experiences and thriving creative communities draw newcomers to the area, says Troy. “Every community in Canada is competing with every other community. It used to be that we were trying to attract doctors, but today we're also trying to attract accountants, plumbers and electricians. And we're learning that you need to recruit a family, not just a dentist. You have to recruit his or her partner and their children because if no one is happy, then the family doesn’t stay.”


Bahati Maganjo knows firsthand why newcomers to a community stay long term – they put down roots. “My babies have both had a good start to life because they were born here,” says Bahati, an RN in the surgical unit at the Abderdeen Hospital in New Glasgow.

Originally from Rwanda, she spent years as a refugee in Nairobi, Kenya before coming to Canada. For someone who comes from a refugee background, finding a place that feels like home was not easy. “I always say that home is somewhere you've been looking for for years and could never find. But Pictou County has become that final place for me. The neighbours, the people, the church, the community, my friends, everyone has been so welcoming.”


Pictou County is a perfect place to have kids, says Bahati Maganjo who lived in a refugee camp in Kenya before moving here. “It allows you to slow down and make sure you are balancing your work life and family life. You have time for the little things.”

Bahati also appreciates the equality amongst healthcare professionals, saying that the gap between roles is not that far. “You can make friendships across those gaps and I think it comes from the sense of community here. No one is better than the other. I make you better, you make me better.”

“People choose to live here when they can live anywhere else. And I think that speaks to our people, our opportunities and just that balance in the community,” says Nicole LeBlanc, project manager for Healthy Pictou County. 

Nicole, who grew up in the region, moved away and now is back, is proud to be part of Healthy Pictou County, a grassroots physician-led effort focused on the attraction and retention of healthcare professionals and students. “This is a once -in-a-lifetime chance to give back to the community through my work.”


The beaches in Pictou County, such as the iconic Melmerby, are famous for having the warmest salt waters north of The Carolinas, averaging 19° Celsius in the summer.

The experiences that Pictou County has to offer – such as the refurbished Ship Hector and reimagined Ship Hector Heritage Quay – will not only attract visitors, they will also bring value to the people who live in the region, says Vern Shea, project manager for the Ship Hector. 

“We want to see people visit this community, and we want to give them a reason to move here. We're hoping that businesses will see the opportunities. This is probably one of the best kept secrets around,” says Vern. “The first day the Ship Hector heads out of this harbour under full sail with a load of passengers, it's going to be something to see. It's the future.”


As the next five years unfold, there will be lessons learned and expertise gained. That, says Wade, is what makes The Sobey Foundation’s strategic plan and community partnerships so valuable.

“When we're able to share this from the rooftops, there's going to be a lot of people elsewhere who will want to be a part of it,” says Wade. “This is a model that is scalable. The Foundation can replicate it in other communities across the country.”

What's good for one community is good for Pictou County, and good for the region. That spirit of cooperation is key to all of this.

Wade Tibbo

Chief Executive Officer, Pictou County Partnership

The change that is underway in Pictou County brings Carol Curley a sense of hope. The Associate Vice President, Home & Community Care, VON Nova Scotia sees a bright future for the region following the darkness of the pandemic. “I think our whole world has shifted globally. There are a lot of challenges and strains and pressures. But we see businesses that are growing again. There's new businesses opening their doors.”

Carol, who was raised in New Glasgow and went to nursing school at the old Aberdeen School of Nursing, is proud of the contributions the VON is making, not only providing care to VON clients, but also introducing newcomers to the community. “We've brought international nurses to Pictou County, and we see the growth of their families. I feel optimistic about the future.” 

What’s happening here, thanks to a strong community and the long-term vision of The Sobey Foundation, is unique and powerful. “This story needs to be told on a national level,” says Troy, the executive director of the deCoste Performing Arts Centre. “People can look and see a model community with a model of philanthropy happening.”


If you find yourself in Pictou County on a beautiful summer’s day, head to the beach. It’s where you’ll find friends, neighbours and community. It doesn’t matter which one you choose – Melmerby, Caribou, Waterside – you can’t go wrong. They all are wide open and boast some of the warmest salt water north of the Carolinas.

Beaches are just one of the reasons to love living in Pictou County, but there’s plenty more. Many people will tell you it’s all about nature, including endless trails, open fields, and refreshing rivers.

Then there are the events that cover practically any interest from Read by the Sea summer literary festival to the Pictou Lobster Carnival, to the Jubilee East Coast Music Festival. Want to learn about the area’s Mi’kmaq culture and history? Pictou Landing First Nation hosts the annual Piktuk Mawio'mi on the first weekend of June featuring special ceremonies, traditional dancing, drumming and craft demonstrations.

Head to Trenton Park where there’s a pool, splash pad and lots of serene walking trails. After working up an appetite, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from with an array of global influences. And, of course, there’s the famous Pictou County pizza, with its distinctive brown sauce.

“Why do I love Pictou County?” Wade, from the Pictou County Partnership, ponders the question, taking a moment before answering. “Geez, I don't know if there's a single word. Honestly, there's so much.” Primarily, he says, it comes down to the people in the community who have such drive and determination. “They have supported one another instead of hindering one another. It's the mindset that we can do it.” 

Generational change is within reach, thanks to the support of The Sobey Foundation, which pushes aside the final barriers to the transformation that’s just getting underway in Pictou County. “The fact that The Sobey Foundation believes in the possibilities removes the self-doubt and elevates the vision. They see it,” says Wade.

“Forget the naysayers. This is happening. Just watch us.”

Fast Facts

Land area: of 2,846.28 square km

Total population: more than 43,000 ( 2016)

Borders with:

  • Northumberland Strait to the north
  • Antigonish County to the east
  • Guysborough County to the south
  • Colchester County to the west

Comprised of:

  • Pictou Landing First Nation
  • Municipality of Pictou County
  • Town of New Glasgow
  • Town of Pictou
  • Town of Stellarton
  • Town of Trenton
  • Town of Westville

The Mi’kmaq and their ancestors have lived in Piwktuk for more than 11,000 years.

In 1767, the Ship Betsey arrived with settlers from Philadelphia, among them some of the first people of African descent, some arriving as enslaved. Six years later, the Ship Hector arrived from Scotland.