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60 years of community effort

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A dedicated, adaptable crew of local volunteers saw Northwood Community Centre through its first 60 years, and they’re on board to keep things going for the years to come.

This year, the Burrows Avenue community centre celebrates its 60th anniversary, and centre president George Vanderlip said the facility’s longevity has everything to do with the volunteers.

"We take a lot of pride, all of us take a lot of pride (in the centre)," Vanderlip said.

"Our strength is our people, our executive, our volunteers... we have such a strong group and always have had."

The centre was first built in 1953, and had a capacity of about 125 people. Plans to build a new centre began in the mid-1990s, and the current centre opened its doors in 2004. Twice as big as the original, its main gymnasium holds about 260 people, while a nearby multi-purpose room holds an additional 70.

The centre also operates a satellite location at 1245 Fife St., which is the home location for the North Winnipeg Nomads football club, and also features a full-size hockey rink from December to March.

With 23 acres worth of property, the centre dubs itself a "full sports facility" with baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and a new addition of beach volleyball courts. The volleyball courts were only completed last year, albeit too late for the sport to be in season.

But a 60th anniversary celebration later this year might just be the perfect way to introduce them to the public. Vanderlip said the board has yet to sit down and hash out a definite celebration plan, but there are plenty of ideas floating around.

"This 60th, we’re really looking forward to it. Right now we’re tentatively looking at the second week in June," he said of a celebration.

"We’re hoping to incorporate slo-pitch and beach volleyball. That’s going to be the grand opening."

There has also been talk about a social, though Vanderlip thinks a daytime come-and-go might be better suited to the neighbourhood’s more elderly residents.

Over the decades, the centre has produced countless successful sports teams and individual athletes, chief among them its hall-of-fame of past NHLers including Dave Hrechkosy, Warren Skorodenski, John Bednarski, Lex Hudson, Jim Dobson and Gordie Tumilson.

Vanderlip’s own personal "pride and joy" is the centre’s ringette program, which produced teams from 1982 to 2011. The centre has a large collection of photos, medals, trophies and other symbols of victory, but lacks the proper space and materials to display them properly.

"One of our regrets is we have so many more we can’t put up because we don’t have the space or proper casing. You can’t just put pictures on a wall, because they disappear," Vanderlip said.

"We want to either apply for a grant or get some donation in some way for framing."

The reason Northwood has thrived over the years, Vanderlip said, is because its board members and volunteers have been quick to change its offerings with the times.

"Centres are not staying open today (just) because of the youth sports programs... You have to become more community-oriented, and we are," he said.

For more information on the centre’s programming, visit its website at northwoodcc.ca.

Vanderlip said suggestions for what the community would like to see at the centre are welcome. The centre can be reached at (204) 582-7555.

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