As a non-profit organization, delivering services during a pandemic has been hard enough. Throw in a major renovation and things can get downright difficult.
Despite the challenges, the Movement Centre of Manitoba made it happen, managing to provide its clients with support throughout two rounds of lockdowns while completely reimagining their home base at 1646 Henderson Hwy.
"We didn’t realize the extent of (the coronavirus) and how it would impact our world," said Olivia Doerksen, executive director of the Movement Centre, looking back on the past year.
In 2019, the Movement Centre committed to overhauling its space, which had been gifted to the organization in 2002 by Martin and Miriam Bergen of Edison Properties. A capital campaign was launched, and a couple major benefactors, including board member Rick Kuffel, stepped up to make the dream a reality. In December 2019, the centre temporarily relocated to a space on Waverley Street, expecting to be there for a few months during renovations.
Then, of course, in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit home.
"We went virtual pretty quickly," Doerksen said. While Doerksen admitted that it is hard to provide conductive education digitally, the centre’s staff made the most of it, working with families and caregivers on the other end of the camera. "They kind of got trained at home how to implement the things we work on in the centre. We wouldn’t have had that opportunity normally, the way we operate."
That connection, and the ability to provide ongoing support to clients across the province virtually, is something the centre will be looking to continue even after restrictions have eased.
"It’s expanded our reach, which is great," Doerksen said.
"Our clients rely on people to help them live their lives.
"We felt it was crucial to do everything we could, over and above what we were providing before."
However, Doerksen noted that many of their clients have experienced some regression during the pandemic.
Renovations to the Movement Centre were completed in the fall. While the changes did not expand on the centre’s 5,300-square-footage, it has made better use of the available space, and improved accessibility throughout.
"Once we can open to full capacity, we’ve increased our client potential about 20 per cent," Doerksen noted. "The renovation is a milestone, leading us into this next chapter for our centre. It’s been a new leaf, too. I can feel a new energy, even though we’re in the middle of this pandemic. It has given our staff and clients a new light."
Currently, the Movement Centre has a waiting list of 40 people, approximately 30 of whom are children.
"Early intervention is critical," Doerksen said, adding that the centre is currently hiring program leaders in anticipation of being able to open up the space beyond the current 25 per cent occupancy limit.
As a non-profit, the Movement Centre was hard hit by the pandemic.
"We subsidize the fees for all families so that it’s affordable for them to attend," Doerksen explained. "We charge 30 per cent of our operating cost to our clients. Last year, all our third-party fundraisers got cancelled. Donations were down. We were down about 65 per cent going into last year."
Doerksen credits the federal government’s wage subsidy and grants from the Winnipeg Foundation on allowing the centre to continue providing support to its clients throughout the pandemic.
"That saved our world," she said. "We cut every expense that we could."
With a need to raise at least $700,000 this year to cover programming costs, the Movement Centre intends to run two of its major fundraising events: June’s Perogy Run and a fall golf tournament. The centre also has a number of options for those looking to help.
"Every dollar donated goes right to programs and benefits the people who need it," Doerksen said. "Every dollar makes a difference. It’s not how much you give, it’s the fact that you give."
Visit movementcentre.ca/support for more information.
The Herald community journalist
Sheldon Birnie is the reporter/photographer for The Herald. 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 email@example.com Call him at 204-697-7112