July 19, 2018

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Uplift: Magic begins by opening a book

Christine Melnick will receive the Peter Gzowski Award for her promotion of literacy through Share the Magic.

Sometimes all it takes to curl up with a good book is for somebody to give you one.

Christine Melnick could be that somebody; after all, over the years she has donated thousands of books to people and organizations.

Back in 2004, when the former NDP MLA was at a yard sale, she saw what would spark the creation of Share the Magic.

"It was in the area I represented and I saw these wonderful books on sale for good prices," Melnick said recently.

"Some looked like they had never even been opened, but I knew, just a few blocks away in Manitoba Housing, there were families without any books at all."

Melnick bought the books and delivered them to families who were thrilled to get them.

Flash forward 14 years and Share the Magic has tallied 428,000 book donations to children, daycares, schools and other organizations.

That would translate to tens of thousands of children and youth who received books to read.

All that sharing has garnered Melnick a national award for her efforts.

Next month, the Peter Gzowski Foundation for Literacy is giving Melnick the Peter Gzowski Award for her promotion of literacy through the organization she founded.

"When they called me I became quite emotional. My mother just loved Peter Gzowski so she would have been thrilled," Melnick said.

 "It is quite humbling actually."

The Free Press first caught up with Melnick in 2009 in the newspaper's monthly Philanthropy Page.

"To me, books are magic. There's nothing like reading a good book," she said at that time. "I don't think computers can duplicate that exposure... this is a literate world and God help the child who can't read."

Today, Melnick recalls knowing she was on the right track when she was giving away books at an event in Point Douglas and Sel Burrows called her over to observe a group of guys sitting quietly and reading.

"They were just engrossed in books. A book can make an incredible and wonderful difference," she said.

The organization, of which Melnick is executive director, officially became a charity with its own board of directors just this past December.

"I still go to garage sales. I also get books at rummage sales and when the Winnipeg Public Library put books out for sale," she said.

"And sometimes when I come home there are books on my front stoop — I don't even know who to thank, but I know that next year I want to donate even more books."

Have some slightly used books or even new books you want to donate? You can help Share the Magic by calling Melnick at 204-257-0517 or email her at cmelnick@mymts.net.

Pop-up biffy to help people go

  • The brightly coloured public pop-up biffy features two washrooms, including one for handicapped patrons, and a kiosk. (Bridgemancollaborative Architecture)

    You might think having to go one or two would be as simple as adding one and two, but it isn't easy when it comes to those living mainly on the street.

    Years after the last public washroom was demolished in front of the legislature building, Winnipeg's homeless have to look for a place to relieve themselves day and night. A crew of eight to 16 employees with the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ Enviro Team goes out daily to spray clean dumpsters, store fronts and yards of urine and feces.

    But now, local architect Wins Bridgman, founder of BridgmanCollaborative Architecture, will soon have a pop-up washroom facility on the street. The washroom is seen as a pilot project to raise awareness that public toilets are needed in Winnipeg.

Grandma didn't wipe out for whiteout

  • Alice Bourgouin and her two grandchildren Brady, 12, and Hannah, 9, can't hold back their excitement when they were allowed in to the Whiteout street party Saturday. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

    The fan numbers may be down at the Winnipeg Whiteout parties, but that didn't matter to a local grandma who didn't realize on Saturday that people now have to get free tickets in advance to get into the party now.

    Alice Bourgouin had two pretty sad looking grandchildren, Brady, 12, and nine-year-old Hannah, beside her. At least she did until suddenly Willy Wonka gave them three golden tickets to see his chocolate factory... um, actually a Winnipeg police officer tapped them on the shoulder and gave them tickets to get into the street party.

    And to make it even more fun, the Winnipeg Jets beat the Vegas Golden Knights that night.

Senators honour Asian Canadians during Asian Heritage month

  • Sen. Yonah Martin made a video tribute honouring Sang Chul Lee, the first person of Asian descent to be moderator of the United Church of Canada. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press Files)

    It's Asian Heritage month and seven Canadian senators are paying tribute to inspirational Asian Canadians.

    Five video tributes are up already, with two more still to come this month. They include Sen. Lillian Eva Dyck remembering Chow Quen Lee, who helped eliminate the collection of the Chinese head tax, and Sen. Yonah Martin honouring Sang Chul Lee, the first person of Asian descent to be moderator of the United Church of Canada.

Wabbit season not duck season?

  • May 12 was World Migratory Bird Day. (Anupam Nath / The Associated Press Files)

    If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then you have saved a wood duck.

    About a century ago, hunting and the chopping down of the preferred perch of wood ducks — large knotty trees — had combined to decimate the colourful duck population to the point of heading to extinction.

    But on World Migratory Bird Day this past Saturday, Ducks Unlimited and Oak Hammock Marsh were celebrating how ordinary people had saved the duck by building nest boxes and placing them near wetlands.

Way to a donor's mind is through the stomach

  • Chef Mandel Hitzer of Deer + Almond is a regular at the Art of Good Food fundraiser. (Cory Penner Photo)

    We started this Uplift with donations of books to feed the mind, now we'll end it with donations of money to feed the stomach.

    The Art of Good Food fundraiser to help the NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre is on May 16, but even if you miss it, you can still help out.

    The fundraiser sees chefs and artists come together at the Manitoba Museum to cook food to sample and make art on site to auction off. The Co-op served more than 17,000 meals in 2017, with 67 per cent of the recipients saying the program helped them make positive changes to their physical health.

    You can get tickets at www.norwest.ticketbud.com/art-of-good-food/ws or to just donate you can go to www.norwestcoop.ca.

Your weekly squee

Two-and-a half-year-old Riley Stastny, daughter of Winnipeg Jets centre Paul Stastny, wears her favourite Jets jersey while out shopping with her mom, dad and little baby brother Friday. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Uplift is published weekly.

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