Staff, students and parents at Island Lakes Community School have spent the last five years literally watching their community grow.
On Fri., March 22 the school (at 445 Island Shore Blvd.) held an assembly entitled Service and Giving Back to the Community, which celebrated both a $5,000 matching grant from the Winnipeg Foundation — which has aided the completion of the final phase of the school’s School Yard Revitalization Project — and the ongoing fundraising efforts of the students for organizations such as Coats for Kids, Ronald McDonald House, Siloam Mission, Winnipeg Harvest and the Winnipeg Humane Society.
Before the start of the five-year project, the school grounds had only one or two trees. Since then, the ILCS Parent Advisory Council and the school community have transformed the area into a shaded space that includes 24 trees — which have been planted in stages — and numerous benches.
Not only will the trees provide shelter from the elements, having benches placed near the trees will allow the students and the community to embrace the new environment, said council volunteer Colleen MacIver.
"The children now have a nice place to enjoy," said MacIver, who has two young sons at the school and another on the waiting list. "We had a picnic last year and it was really hot, so people were able to seek cover under the trees."
"In terms of spirit and working together, everybody has been really gung-ho and excited to transform the playground. All the kids are excited, especially Grades 6 to 8, about having a place to sit and talk with friends."
"We’ve needed to do it in phases because the trees are very expensive and the landscaping plans have needed to be approved by the school board. It’s about $200 a tree, because you have to plant a larger tree for a larger space. We’ve also had to water them a lot," she added, noting several of the newer trees still have protective fencing around them to support their growth.
MacIver said since the start of the project, the school community has raised around $28,000 for the project. Fundraisers have included Show and Save book sales and popcorn sales.
She said the "coolest thing" about the recent student-led assembly was that the students were able to meet representatives from the Winnipeg Foundation, while showcasing their respective fundraising initiatives for the other Winnipeg organizations.
"They say it takes a village to raise a child, but they’re taking it much further than that. It’s great that they’re able to give back. These kids do so much, it’s amazing."