On Nov. 22, I was thrilled to take part in LITE’s (Local Investment Toward Employment) 17th Annual Wild Blueberry Pancake Breakfast at the Indian & Métis Friendship Centre.
In what has become an annual North End tradition, hundreds of people and volunteers gather to celebrate building community together. People from all over Winnipeg came out to enjoy a locally-sourced breakfast of blueberry pancakes and sausages, a crafters market, community group displays and local entertainment.
At this year’s breakfast, it was my pleasure to perform as a member of the Norman Chief Memorial Dancers, a square dance team named in honour of my late father. Other entertainment included legendary performers Al Simmons, The Treble, Alexander McCowan, Dustin Harder and a pancake-eating contest featuring the North End’s own favourite pancake-eating champion, Judy Wasylycia-Leis.
LITE is a non-profit organization that supports employment for businesses and people in the North End and inner city. LITE was created as an alternative Christmas hamper program. People in need still receive hampers, but now the hampers are filled with products and groceries purchased from local businesses and social enterprises — a gift that gives twice.
Since it began, LITE has raised over $1.4 million in donations to support community economic development. Last year, LITE helped to create more than 440 jobs in our area. Today, LITE has grown to include two more community giving programs: Community Economic Development grants and the Star Blanket Initiative. In February 2014, LITE will host a gala dinner to celebrate 20 years of supporting jobs in the inner city.
As we enter the holiday season I am always encouraged by the generosity of our community. For many years, Manitobans have led the country in charitable donations. As others have noted there is a good reason, beyond geography, why Manitoba should be considered the heart of the country.
Stories like the success of LITE show us that our community is always willing to lend a hand. Whether it is a donation of money or time, everyone finds a way to make a contribution. Let’s continue to be inspired by that sense of generosity and caring during this holiday season and throughout the New Year.