Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Spence Neighbourhood Association

Spirit of Giving

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What they do:

When Santa makes his list and checks it twice, he needs an extra-long sheet of paper when he gets to the Spence Neighbourhood Association's activities.

The community development agency focuses on improving the inner city 12 months a year. Among its many good deeds, it keeps housing stock in the area affordable, improves security for apartment dwellers by installing deadbolts and peepholes, helps fix up rooming houses, connects neighbours with each other through workshops so they feel a sense of belonging and can watch out for each other, helps teen newcomers feel welcome, provides homework help for kids of all ages, finds work for people with disabilities or addictions, builds skill sets for job hunters and provides much-needed meals to the hungry.

Hope for the holidays:

GREEN space in the inner city is another one of the SNA's priorities, according to Jamil Mahmood, its co-executive director. Early in the New Year, it will start planting seedlings in the basement of its Langside Street offices and move them a few weeks later to its three-season greenhouse at 689 Maryland Street.

That all sounds great except for one thing -- the greenhouse doesn't have its own water source. So, instead of simply turning on a tap to fill up a watering can, budding gardeners who live in one of three nearby apartment buildings run hoses through windows. They don't have permission to do it, but without that water, the greenhouse would quickly become a cemetery.

"We'd like to get a tap put in on the site," Mahmood said, estimating a water source would cost about $5,000 to set up. "Green space in the inner city is crucial. We need green garden space for a community to thrive."

Last year, 79 people -- a mix of volunteers and community members -- were regular visitors and users of the greenhouse.

He said the SNA is also hoping to raise money to fund various projects, including those for people with mental illness and disabilities, as well as staff to run the greenhouse.

"It's important because there's not a lot of community resources for people with these illnesses. Gardening is something we can focus on with them. Volunteers help them with their tending to their plots," he said.

How to help:

DONATIONS are gratefully accepted at the SNA offices at 615 Ellice Avenue or the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre at 430 Langside Street. If you prefer your philanthropy online, there's a donation link at spenceneighbourhood.org. Tax receipts are provided for donations of $25 or more.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 10, 2010 B3

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