A welcoming space can go a long way towards building a community.
On Feb. 7, the Elmwood Community Resource Centre (ECRC) held an open house at its newly renovated 545 Watt St. location as a ‘welcome back’ to the community and a thank you to those organizations and individuals who made the renovations possible.
The ECRC took over a former City of Winnipeg building in 2015, and have been working to make it their own ever since.
"We grew, became bigger," Nina Condo, ECRC’s executive director, said about the move to the new location from their previous HQ at 200 Levis St. "That was not a great location. There was a barbed wire fence, it was hard to find. It wasn’t accessible by bus, not really."
For the past couple months, while the Watt Street location had been undergoing the bulk of their major upgrades, ECRC staff and volunteers working out of satellite spaces, including their former head office at 75 Brazier St.
"The renovations have been partly successful because of the City partnership, but also because of the funders who were willing to give us money towards the capital renovations," Condo said. "Without them, I don’t think we would be able to be here. With them, we were able to make this dream come true."
The renos at the ECRC’s "Community Hub" on Watt Street came at a cost of approximately $200,000. Upgrades to the space include an expanded public drop-in area, creation of a universal accessible washroom, new boardroom, classroom and child minding space, along with new flooring, windows, and lighting.
The ECRC received support from the City of Winnipeg not only in terms of providing the space, but also by way of a $40,000 Community Incentive Grant. The Province contributed $42,000 in funding through the Community Places Program.
The Richardson Foundation, The Winnipeg Foundation, the Thomas Sill Foundation, Crosstown Civic Credit Union, East AM Rotary Club, Bill and Margaret Fast, the Kildonan MCC Thrift Shop, RCS Insurance, and Allmar Windows and Doors all contributed funding, in cash or in kind to make the ECRC’s new location open and accessible to the community.
"This really has been a journey," said Leanne Hildebrand, ECRC’s board chair.
"It’s been amazing to see all the different stakeholder groups and different levels of government come together to support this group," Matt Wiebe, MLA for Concordia, told The Herald. "When we see a group like this who are delivering these services, getting people engaged, we know that when we support them, they’re going to make amazing things happen."
The ECRC offers programming to residents of Elmwood, which includes youth employment, parenting support, adult literacy, and support for newcomers.
"It’s a family resource centre," Condo explained. "We offer drop in where anyone is able to come in and use the computers, or sit on the couches and relax. We have an in-house child care room."
With the new space, Condo said the ECRC is planning to add more programming, including a full-time family counsellor.
"We’ve been able to secure a part-time youth counselor," she said. "Now we’re working to securing a full-time counsellor to work with whole family."
Dozens of community members, volunteers, and stakeholders attended the open house on Feb. 7 to check out the work that has been done over the past two months that the centre has been closed for renovations.
"I love it," Tneasha Pelletier, a community member who is involved with the ECRC’s Elmwood Youth Employment Experience (EYEE) program, said of the new space. "It’s nice, cozy. There’s more space."
Pelletier said her experience in the EYEE program has been "really great."
"They’ve been helping me build my resume," she said. "It’s a good way to learn job skills, interview skills, how to keep a job, and everything."
"They’ve grown with needs of community," Wiebe said. "Ultimately, having a space like this where people can feel comfortable coming in to access those services is absolutely key."