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Northwood CC looks to youth to build its future as it celebrates 60
When George Vanderlip was a kid, the Northwood Community Centre was an old railway boxcar dropped just off the tracks at the corner of Burrows Avenue.
It was 1953, 23 acres of sport implanted in the middle of a farmer’s field, the bungalow rows of Shaughnessy Park to the south only years away from development, and the Inkster industrial park to the north an idea yet to be born.
"In 1950, this whole area was under water," recalls Vanderlip, 67, who grew up playing baseball, hockey and football at the club.
"Sixty years is a lot of history."
Indeed. Since that time, Northwood has gone through two new clubhouses, seen Sisler High School sprout up next door, groomed more than half a dozen NHL hockey players under the Norsemen banner and battled through low points of dwindling enrolment and volunteers.
And to commemorate, the pitches will be hurtling, the bats swinging, the beer flowing and the social hall thrumming as the club celebrates its 60th anniversary this weekend.
"We’re very proud here," said Vanderlip, who served for more than 30 years as a club board member, and stepped down as its president in April after an 11-year tenure.
"Things change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. But you have to adjust. The reason we’re still with our doors open is because we adjusted."
Part of that adjustment, Vanderlip says, has been opening the club’s doors to outside groups as the club deals with an aging population and low youth numbers in its catchment area for its sports programs.
The club runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day throughout the year, and has become a second gym for neighbouring Sisler and a space for immigrant groups and Imagine Ability, a charity that offers work-related training and jobs for people with intellectual disabilities.
Another part of that adjustment has been an increase in youth representation on the board that operates the club on a daily basis.
Out of 12 members, four are under 30, including newly-minted president Allen Froese.
The 26-year-old, who first joined the club as a cook for the canteen, is supported by a majority of members who have 11-plus years of experience running the club.
"I was up for a challenge," said Froese, who also served as the club’s first vice-president.
"I’ve been doing a lot of things I’ve never done before. I get to meet a lot of different, interesting people, and work with different levels of government."
Froese said he’s still learning the ropes of being a board president and, for now, is taking his cues from colleagues and volunteers to help bring their ideas to fruition — whether it be a new basketball court, currently being planned, or a new freezer for the canteen, as he did as the club’s VP.
"I want to be able to help bring the club back to what it once was," said Froese, who grew up in Steinbach and moved to the area last year.
"Back in the day, by the sounds of it, there was a lot of action and stuff going on through the club. As long as I can continue to have board’s support and training, I want to be able to be a part of bringing that back."
With a full board, Northwood is in a rare year where members don’t have to juggle several tasks, said premises manager Curtis Kazuk.
"You want the younger people to step in," said Kazuk, 53, who has been pressing for the new basketball courts.
"My ideas are my ideas. But you want the young ideas to keep young people coming in."
Kazuk joined the Northwood board in 1994 to help organize its hockey tournaments as his kids grew up playing various sports at the club.
Though many parents step down from their board positions once their kids are finished playing on club teams, Kazuk said he stuck around to continue helping bring in new equipment and other sporting options he didn’t have when he was younger.
"You try to help out as much as possible," he said.
That help includes Kazuk’s daughter, Kali Kaminsky.
Kaminsky grew up playing soccer for the Norsemen and eventually took on janitorial duties for the club. But it was two years ago when she jumped in to try to save a canteen her father simply didn’t have the time to devote himself to, between a full-time job and maintaining 23 acres of land.
"That made me want to take it over and run it as my own personal business to bring in money for the club," said Kaminsky, 21.
Beyond that, Kaminsky is helping to write newsletters for the club and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty painting walls or digging up holes.
"I love it," Kaminsky said.
"I spend a lot of time here. I enjoy it. Even though I’m a canteen person, we all try to help out in different positions."
Froese, who believes he might be the youngest community club president in the city, hopes the board can attract more youth to fill board positions as Vanderlip and Kazuk eventually move on.
"This position, God knows never in my life would I have sat in the same room as the mayor, let alone the same table," he said.
"It’s a life experience."
The exuberance is a boon for Vanderlip.
"I really respect them for coming on board," he said. "It’s given me new energy. I can’t keep up with them, but I have new energy. They’re our future."
Northwood is located at 1415 Burrows Ave. For more, visit www.northwoodcc.ca or call 204-582-7555.
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