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This article was published 30/7/2012 (3376 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It was a test of strength hours before a grand opening.
Sunday night's storm downed two large trees in the Barbara Mitchell Family Resource Centre's parking lot. Another caught fire when it was blown against a power line. Power was restored in the building hours before the official ribbon-cutting.
But despite the wicked weather -- and tough economic times -- the Salvation Army officially opened the resource centre Monday.
"It's nothing short of a miracle that we got the funding and at such a time in history," said Wendi Park, executive director of the centre, referring to the tough economic times. "There is incredible poverty and social needs here and that's a surprise for many."
The new centre in St. Vital -- a cedar and glass structure -- sports a gymnasium, community kitchen, large living room, daycare, classrooms and a computer lab. The centre opened in March after construction began in July 2010. The total price was $6.4 million.
The resource centre is located at 51 Morrow Ave. off St. Anne's Road, an area many don't associate with social need.
"Outside the core, this is the worst area. People don't know that so it's important we get programming in here and the centre provides that," said Brian Mayes, city councillor for St. Vital.
The area has a high immigrant population and also a lot of seniors, Park said. Many people visit the centre from around the city.
It's a far cry from the old centre, she adds, which had mould and water problems.
"We had water issues. We had roof leaks. We used it the best we could, but where our vision was to be safe and productive, it wasn't the best setup for what we needed," she said.
The Salvation Army raised part of the funding for the new building, while $1.5 million came from the federal government and another $1.5 million from the province. An additional $1.4 million came from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, with another $500,000 for programming. The centre is named after Garfield Weston's late daughter.
One of many programs provided at the centre is LEEP (Life and Employment Enhancement Program), which helps new immigrants, many from war-torn countries, learn employability, financial skills and Canadian culture.
Samuel Gebremedhin, 23, fled his native Eritrea, travelling as a refugee through Sudan, Libya and Tunisia before arriving in Canada in December 2011.
"I was in the desert with a tent and now I'm in this big building. No one can imagine this. This is amazing," he said.
On Aug. 24, he will graduate from the program and start a job at a printing company.
"There are a lot of people who are newcomers to this neighbourhood and they want to participate in our society," said Nancy Allan, the province's education minister. "This facility has been so important to families in this neighbourhood and lots of people don't even know this exists."
Park likes to describe the new facility as a house, with its large kitchen and living room to make people feel at home.
"It's like an oversized home," she said, "so we can create that family environment."