Plants for the butterfly garden went in the ground and community spirit was in the air Monday in front of Michel Morin's building at 1261 Main St.
A group of 18 Grade 6 students from nearby Champlain School helped Morin, owner of North Winds property development, cap his two-part North End development initiative by assisting him in planting the butterfly-friendly plants.
Using the pay-it-forward concept, Morin began his plan to beautify the neighbourhood last month by landscaping the front of his own business while also tackling four others in the area at no charge.
The butterfly garden is located on his property but has a community-seating area.
"It's gone very well. The kids have done a great job here," said Morin, who dug holes as some students planted. "Look at these kids: They're having fun and they're making a difference. This is their community and now, when they're walking by here, I hope they have a sense of pride in how they helped make this happen."
"We're helping to beautify the area that we live in and I do like the fact that we're planting," said Shay-Ann Jolicoeur, 12. "I think I'm going to feel pretty excited to see this all finished and I'm going to tell my children one day that I did this."
Morin designed the garden and selected the plants with veteran gardener Leona Schroeder from the Manitoba Master Gardener Association, a non-profit group which volunteers their time to community-based projects.
Schroeder was on hand Monday to guide the students and assist in overseeing the planting.
Morin, who treated the students to a hotdog lunch when they were done, said his goal is to change attitudes toward the North End, starting with visual improvements and engaging students.
"It's special when you get a chance to help the community and make it look better," said Trent Runez, 12.
As the second part of his initiative, Morin presented the class with a $2,000 donation for them to "pay it forward" and help other projects needing assistance.
"There are a number of schools in the area, so it was very generous and we are so lucky that he chose our school for this project," said Grade 6 teacher Carleen Lewicki. "Our school does a lot of different philanthropy work, such as at Holy Family Nursing Home, and this is a very empathic group. Giving them this chance really reaffirms for them that there are good things that happen in the North End."
The class researched local charities and then voted to split the money four ways among the Children's Hospital, the Ladybug Foundation, Dreams Take Flight and the Children's Wish Foundation.
"I was really excited when he made the donation and I thought it was a really good idea to give it to four different charities," said Jolicoeur. "There was a lot of discussion and voting, but we chose them because they are children and they're just like us. They're children who need help in their day-to-day lives."