Wyatt returns, last call for bingo

A look back at some of the top stories of 2022

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In its first year, the Free Press Community Review East covered plenty of stories from the eastside of the city. Here, we look back on some of the biggest of 2022.

January: Iconic West Kildonan restaurant Blondie’s closes doors

On Jan. 15, Blondie’s closed its doors for the last time.

Photo by Simon Fuller

Blondie’s owner Sandy Doyle closed shop on the iconic restaurant on Jan. 15.

“I’m closing because the past two years have really opened my eyes,” owner Sandy Doyle said, noting she first opened her doors at 1969 Main St. on Sept. 4, 1990. “Life hasn’t been the same, and business hasn’t been the same. I wasn’t able to deal with my customers — who are like family — the same way when the restrictions went down to 25 and 50 per cent. This place is tiny, and things haven’t been the same. This is a really hard business, and I’ve devoted every minute of my life to it, so it’s time.”

Blondie’s began life as a breakfast and lunch place, but for a number of reasons Doyle shifted to a burger-focused model and an afternoon and evening schedule. Alongside classic fare like burgers, fries, and milkshakes — all made from scratch — Blondie’s was home to a legendary nine-pound burger. Anyone able to get through all of it in less than two hours (and without visiting the washroom), got it for free. History will show that only one person completed the challenge.

“She was the only person to ever do it — and she did it in 45 minutes,” Doyle said.

Retired Glenlawn teacher publishes book

In January, Gene Kirichenko, a retired math teacher from Glenlawn Collegiate, self-published a book called Maya’s Memories, based on a collection of memories that his mother, Maya Kirichenko, recalled about her life between the mid-1920s and 1950s.

“It was important to me to this book to honour my mother,” Kirichenko said. “It’s also important to let people know about the suffering of my parents and millions of others experienced under Stalin and the Nazis.”

February: Child care centres struggle under Omicron wave of COVID-19

As the omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic swept across Manitoba, childcare centres across the province struggled to keep their doors open and staff and children under care safe. Daycares in east Winnipeg were no exception.

Researchers from the University of Manitoba found that “childcare facilities in Manitoba are currently dealing with numbers of staff and children COVID-19 cases that eclipse cases from earlier in the pandemic.”

“There is a great deal of stress in the childcare field right now,” Jan Crielaard, executive director of Ecole Centrale School Age Centre in Transcona, said. “Directors are stressed, staff are stressed, and parents are stressed.”

March: Winnipeggers send medical aid to Africa

Photo by Sheldon Birnie

Dozens of volunteers helped make perogies each week for Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church’s weekly perogy sales. Upwards of 700 dozen perogies went out each week, with $1 per dozen sold going to humanitarian aid in Ukraine.

Earlier this year, a group of Winnipeggers came together to help communities half a world away.

International Hope Canada, an organization providing non-pharmaceutical medical supplies and equipment to impoverished countries where such items are in critically short supply, worked with St. Vital resident Mengistu Kindie to fill and send a container of medical items and supplies to Ethiopia.

“I love Winnipeg and I love Canada, and I’ve spent half of my life here. I’m fortunate that I’ve done so many things in Winnipeg,” said Kindie, who is a longtime volunteer with International Hope Canada.

“Why do I do this? In a big way, it’s a tribute to my father. When your father is alive, everything he does, he invests in you, and he looks after your welfare, and so on. So, this is about helping others in Ethiopia, and also about honouring my father’s memory.”

Holy Eucharist providing aid for Ukraine through perogy sales

Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church has long been a place of refuge and worship for the Ukrainian community in northeast Winnipeg. In March, that community began rallying to provide humanitarian aid to refugees of the war in Ukraine.

For decades, volunteers from the church have gotten together on Thursday mornings to make perogies, which are sold in batches of a dozen as a fundraiser for the parish.

“We all have an anxiousness and frustration,” said Rev. Michael Winn, pastor at Holy Eucharist. “We can’t bring the perogies to them, but in some way we’re helping.”

Each week, volunteers sold between 600 and 1,000 dozen perogies, with a dollar from each dozen going to Ukrainian humanitarian aid. When Ukrainian refugees began arriving in Winnipeg, Holy Eucharist was there to help, as well.

“We hope everything will be OK,” parishioner Tatianna Cwyk said at the time. “We hope.”

April: Sugar Mama Cookie Company opens on Provencher

Photo by Sheldon Birnie

The St. Vital Bridge rehabilitation project will extend the life of the bridge for another 50 years, while improving active transportation connections to the north and south of the bridge.

A new cookie shop opened in St. Boniface in April.

“It’s really surreal seeing it all coming together after so many years,” owner Vicki Melo said at the time. “So many people have been involved in this process, including graphic designers, interior designers and contractors. It’s been lots of work, but I feel good about it all. When I started the business six years ago, I knew very early on I wanted to open a coffee shop.”

The shop includes a merchandise wall showcasing custom-made cookie cutters, different baking supplies, aprons and T-shirts.

“We want to become a one-stop shop for cookies and cookie supplies,” Melo said.

St. Vital Bridge revamp moving steadily along

A major revamp of the St. Vital Bridge is in the works, with stakeholder meetings wrapping in April. Construction on the project could begin early in 2023.

Once completed, the rehabilitation project would extend the life of the bridge for another 50 years, while improving active transportation connections to the north and south of the bridge. The speed limit on Dunkirk Drive would be reduced from 70 to 60 km/h, while a number of minor roadways on the northside will be closed off to allow for greater integration of active transportation pathways.

“It looks like a good project,” said Mark Cohoe, executive director of Bike Winnipeg, one of the stakeholders involved in consultation on the project. “Certainly, right now on that bridge is really what they call ‘shy-lanes’ that are accessible for anyone on a bike. A lot of people bike on that sidewalk, which isn’t built for that.”

The completed project would also include updated landscaping and a public art component.

May: Storm, wet weather leave lasting impact

Photo by Simon Fuller

Vicki Melo, owner of Sugar Mama Cookie Company, which opened its doors in April at 184 Provencher Blvd.

Homeowners in northeast and southeast Winnipeg felt the effects of the recent high levels of rain and snow that blitzed the province on April 23 and 24.

An unforgiving winter in Manitoba dumped significant levels of snow in the province’s southern regions. The precipitation at the end of April caused flooding, damage, clogged drains and road closures. It also impacted a number of homes and businesses on the city’s eastside.

“I feel a bit like it was a dream, as it was all so surreal,” said Christine Hanslit, whose Transcona home was flooded.

The Henderson Legion (215 Maxwell King Dr.) had its basement hall flooded, and was only able to re-open the hall for rental and events in late October.

“We had three feet of water in the basement,” Gord Machej, president of Henderson Legion, said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen.”

The excess water also impacted local sports leagues — soccer, baseball, and softball, among others — whose fields were so sodden that start of seasons were delayed well into May.

“It is going to take a while for the fields to be ready after all the rain and snowmelt,” said Dan Cox, president of the Red River Valley baseball league, in late April. “Ultimately, though, we will start whenever the fields are ready.”

June: Minnetonka students raise funds for Ukraine

Elementary school students at Minnetonka School in St. Vital held a sunflower seedling sale in support of humanitarian relief for those affected by the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“They used all of the tools in the classrooms, and they created everything we sold. It was a very student-driven project,” Kim Sawers, a Grade 1/2 teacher at the school, said.

“It’s important to do this because lots of people are suffering during this war, and lots of people are living on the streets and are not safe and could be in danger,” addded Blein Damatros, an eight-year-old. “A lot of people have had to leave their homes.”

Photo by Sheldon Birnie

Sports fields, like this one at Riverview Community Centre (90 Ashland Ave.), were too wet for outdoor sports like baseball, softball, and soccer to begin on time this year.

Through their efforts, students raised over $800 for the Red Cross.

Miles Mac students “depave paradise”

On June 23, a group of students from Miles Macdonell Collegiate turned an underused portion of the school’s parking lot into greenspace.

The project was part of an initiative called Depave Paradise, which is headed by Green Communities Canada. However, to get things off the ground it took considerable work from other partners, most of all the students of the school’s Education for Sustainable Development club.

“This project that we’ve been working on, it’s by far the biggest thing that this club has done,” said Kultaj Kaur, who took charge of the club communications. “It brings the community together, because we all have this shared goal of wanting change and wanting to see improvements in making things more sustainable.”

Funding grants and support for the project came from Green Communities Canada, the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, the River East Transcona School Division, and Learning for a Sustainable Future. Greensite Recycling on Springfield Road donated the wood chips.

Old St. Vital Business Improvement Zone welcomes new executive director

Kevin Wenham became the executive director of the Old St. Vital Business Improvement Zone this spring, taking over from Regina Teplitsky, who, in turn, had replaced Maurice Allard in the late spring of 2021.

“All businesses in the zone, after COVID, need help,” Wenham said. “They’ve struggled through thick and thin. This spring and summer, for example, lots of business owners are having trouble finding staff. This is one of the things we want to see remedied.”

Founded in 1995, the Old St. Vital BIZ serves about 150 businesses within its catchment area.

Miles Macdonell Collegiate students took out part of a parking lot at the school, replacing it with green space earlier this year.

July: Santa on Nairn fundraiser brings Christmas cheer to East Elmwood

On July 3, vandals knocked the statue of Santa Claus on Nairn Avenue off his stand and smashed him to pieces.

“He was dressed in Canada Day garb and Canada flags and all that,” said Richard Holm, who curates Santa on Nairn’s attire with his wife, Nicole. “He was irreparable.”

“I was so upset when he got broke,” Nicole said.

But when folks on the neighbourhood Facebook page caught wind, they rallied around St. Nick. Hundreds of replies poured in, expressing sadness and frustration that a beloved neighbourhood landmark had been vandalized. A GoFundMe page to replace Santa was launched and within a few days, the $250 needed to buy a new Santa had been raised.

“It’s so nice that we have so much support,” Nicole said. “We didn’t know if we would be able to put a new Santa up.”

Victory Pints opens new storefront in Elmwood

Visitors to Victory Pints Games might just feel like kids in a candy store.

David Weber started the business in 2021 and spent many of his weekends last summer selling board games at farmers’ markets, especially those in cabin country in the Interlake area. Most of his sales were online, until he opened up shop this summer at 213 Hespeler Ave. in Elmwood — the former location of Zed Books.

“So many people have come in and said, ‘Oh, we just live a couple of blocks away and we’re so glad to see you here,’” Weber said.

“It’s a wonderful community. Other businesses in the area have been very welcoming and the feedback I’ve received from customers has been great. People coming into the store have commented on their positive experiences and almost everyone that comes in buys something.”

Photo by Simon Fuller

Minnetonka School students Blein Dematros and Adam Margolin are pictured holding sunflower seedlings in front a large display at the St. Vital-based school.

August: St. Vital Ag Fair returns after pandemic hiatus

The St. Vital Agricultural Society’s Annual Display and Fair returned to an in-person format for the first time since 2019 on Aug. 5 and 6 at St. Vital Centennial Arena.

“Everyone’s spirits have been lifted like you wouldn’t believe,” president Karen Fontaine said. “We’re social beings, and it’s important to have that closeness between us. Members of the society are like-minded friends with lots in common, so it’s great to be able to share these experiences with the community again.”

Teen athlete received new device from War Amps

An East Kildonan youth who was born without the lower portion of his right arm is using a new weightlifting device to keep in top shape.

Kieran Dalkie, who plays for Miles Macdonell Collegiate’s Buckeyes basketball team, wanted to find a way to balance his physique to gain a competitive edge over his opponents on the court.

Dalkie and his parents found the device they were in search of through resources provided by The War Amps. The organization will fund an amputee’s new limb if their personal health plan doesn’t cover the cost. A specialist fitted the youth with the new limb, which connects to his arm with a rubbery sleeve and is supported by a harness he wears over the shoulder.

The bottom of the device has a clamp that connects around the bar of a weight. A quick-release button allows Dalkie to switch up the angle of the weight so he can work out a different muscle set.

“Since I started using (the device), I’ve definitely seen a difference in being able to push somebody out of the way,” Dalkie said. “It’s really the only one I’ve been using.”

September: Centre Flavie opened doors to new facility

Photo by Sheldon Birnie

Nicole and Richard Holm are the caretakers of Santa on Nairn Ave. The iconic East Elmwood statue, located at 491 Nairn Ave., was vandalized beyond repair. However, a grassroots GoFundMe campaign replaced the statue and covered costs of installing security cameras to keep an eye on Saint Nick.

After 15 months of construction, Centre Flavie opened the doors to its new facility at 301 Archibald St. to the public on Sept. 2. The centre’s new headquarters provides nearly twice the space of its previous location at 450 Provencher Blvd. This means the centre is now better positioned to offer clients and visitors a warm, spacious welcome, and its large side entrances means donations of material goods can be dropped off and received more efficiently.

“Now we’re in this new space, it’s going to be a much more pleasant experience,” the centre’s board chair Julie Turenne-Maynard said, noting the new location is 13,000-square foot, whereas the former location was 8,000-square-foot. ““For our staff and volunteers, this new space gives them the opportunity to breathe and be able to do work in a much more effective and efficient way.”

The centre has also invested in two adjacent properties on Rue Plinguet, so it can expand further in the future if it needs to.

The new building has been made possible because of an ambitious fundraising campaign, which has garnered about $3.5 million to date.

Belgian pole archers upholding tradition

For more than nine decades, members of the St. Boniface-based Robin Hood Pole Archery Club have been shooting for the stars. Established in Winnipeg in 1929, has continued to uphold the centuries-old tradition of Belgian pole archery, which is also sometimes called popinjay in Europe.

As well as the Robin Hood Pole Archery Club, the St. Boniface-based St. Sebastian Pole Archery Club and St. Sebastianette Archery Club, plus the Ste. Rose du Lac-based Witty Belgian Archers, are member organizations of the Manitoba Pole Archery Association.

“It gives us the chance to carry on embracing our Belgian heritage here,” Laurry Lesage, a longtime member of the Robin Hood Pole Archery Club, said. “Also, you may not be of Belgian descent, but once you’ve had a few shots, it gets in your blood and keeps you coming back for more.”

The Winnipeg-based clubs currently shoot at a triangular piece of green space called Mission Park No. 1/William Tell Archery, which is sandwiched between Mission Street, Provencher Boulevard and Dawson Road North in an area located in what has traditionally been home to industry and the railway. But the clubs are hoping to relocate to a better space in the future.

October: Popular outdoor venue moves indoors for winter

On Oct. 5, the Centre culturel franco-manitobain announced that its popular outdoor venue — Le Patio 340 — would set up inside the centre (340 Provencher Blvd.) on the second floor in the Antoine Gaborieau Room for the winter months.

Photo by Simon Fuller

From left: Centre Flavie’s board vice-chair Rita Bourgeois, board chair Julie Turenne-Maynard and executive director Gilbert Vielfaure pictured at the centre’s new building at 301 Archibald St. on Aug. 29 on the eve of its grand opening the next day.

Organizers hoped the move will build on the success of the outdoor patio, which was launched in 2020 and has been open the past two summers. The indoor space has been renovated and refurbished for Le Patio 340, which is dubbed Winnipeg’s “cultural and bilingual bar.”

“We’re opening this venue as a cultural, bar space for the community to come and hang out and enjoy the local music scene, with a francophone accent,” Liliane Lavack, CCFM’s director of artistic and cultural programming, said.

Familiar faces return to city council

On Oct. 26, east Winnipeg residents re-elected a number of familiar faces to city council.

Coun. Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River) was elected by acclamation, while incumbent councillors Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan), Jeff Browary (North Kildonan), Matt Allard (St. Boniface), and Brian Mayes (St. Vital) held on to their seats at the polls.

In Transcona, incumbent Shawn Nason, who was first elected in 2018, was defeated by former four-term councillor Russ Wyatt, who stepped away from public service in 2018 following a public battle with addiction.

“I want to thank you all for your support,” Wyatt said, surrounded by family, friends, and campaign supporters at Dal’s Restaurant on election night. “It’s a very humbling experience to be able to come back to public life and serve the community.”

In East St. Paul, Carla Devlin was elected mayor, defeating former mayor Lawrence Morris. Devlin had previously served a term as Ward 1 councillor, while Morris served as mayor from 2008 to 2014 and as a councillor for 10 years prior.

Last card called at Holy Eucharist bingo

For more than three-quarters of a century, the Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church held volunteer-run bingo sessions, which grew to become a popular gathering place for congregation members and community members alike.

Photo by Sheldon Birnie

Russ Wyatt, who was councillor for Transcona from 2002 to 2018, was re-elected on Oct. 26, defeating incumbent Transcona councillor Shawn Nason at the polls.

Owing to a number of factors, including the impact of the pandemic and the loss of many hardworking volunteers, the weekly Tuesday night bingo sessions have come to an end. The last-ever session took place on Oct. 31 (an anomaly, being a Monday) and attracted a packed house.

“We gave it a very good send-off,” said Carlene Deptuch, Holy Eucharist’s office administrator and key organizer, said.

November: No Stone Left Alone returns to Transcona Cemetery

On Nov. 7, more than 500 students from River East Transcona School division descended upon Transcona Cemetery to pay tribute to fallen soldiers in the lead up to Remembrance Day. During the course of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony had been on hold.

Peter Martin, Manitoba co-ordinator of the No Stone Left Alone ceremony, said he’s confident the next generation will continue to honour veterans. The cause is dear to Martin. He, too, is a veteran. And the same goes for his father, who landed on Juno Beach during the first wave of the Allied forces’ D-Day invasion of France on June 6, 1944.

“The students were very respectful,” Martin said of the morning’s proceedings. “It is really heartwarming and emotional when I see how (the children) had the opportunity to meet the three of the last remaining Second World War veterans.”

Second World War veterans in attendance were Robert Bullen, Stephen Andrushko and Peter Frejuk, all of whom are in their mid to late-nineties.

CN Transcona air car, locomotive crews decorate cars in support of Harvest

Air car and locomotive power workers at CN Transcona Shops spent some time decorating a retired air car and locomotive in the lead up to the holiday season. Complete with lights, decorations, and all manner of holiday cheer, the two cars were in place next to the front gate on Pandora Avenue by Nov. 12.

“CN Transcona’s been a pillar here since 1912 in this community,” Maurizio Alongi, air car supervisor, explained. “We wanted to bring some Christmas cheer during this hard time of COVID during the last two years.”

“I’m so proud of the guys,” locomotive supervisor Derek Dolphin, a third generation Transcona resident and CN employee, said. “It was a pleasure to watch them work together as a team and I couldn’t be more happy with the outcome. This is so cool for me to be a part of.”

Photo by Sheldon Birnie

CN Transcona’s locomotive crew decorated a retired six-axle locomotive, to be displayed along with an air car next to the front gate on Pandora Avenue starting Nov. 12.

The Shops collected donations for Harvest Manitoba leading up to Christmas.

December: Non-profit tree lot continues tradition of service

For the past 43 years, a group of steadfast volunteers have run the East Kildonan not-for-profit operation. Now, a new generation of helpers has stepped in to continue the tradition.

“Our Christmas starts when the trees arrive,” said longtime Winnipeg Y Service Club volunteer Brad McKay, 67.

All proceeds from tree sales go back into the community. The initiative donates to a number of local charities including Harvest Manitoba, the Christmas Cheer Board, Make-A-Wish Canada and CancerCare Manitoba. The lot also donates directly to those in need. The Winnipeg Y Service Club tree lot gives scholarships to students from four area high schools: Elmwood High School, Kildonan East Collegiate, Miles Macdonell Collegiate and River East Collegiate.

“We’re seeing generations of families coming to buy their trees here,” said Colin McDougall, 41, who has been volunteering with the organization for 12 years. “We all believe in the message. That’s why we’re all here.”

— with files from Cody Sellar, Katlyn Streilein

Sheldon Birnie

Sheldon Birnie
Community Journalist

Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at sheldon.birnie@canstarnews.com Call him at 204-697-7112

Simon Fuller

Simon Fuller
Community Journalist

Simon Fuller is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. Email him at simon.fuller@canstarnews.com or call him at 204-697-7111.

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