Volunteers from three community centres in River Heights recently began discussions that could see the clubs forge a much closer working relationship.
At a Nov. 30 public open house, key players gathered to present their ultimate goal of amalgamating the boards of the three centres — Crescentwood, River Heights and Sir John Franklin — under the banner of Central Corydon Community Campus.
"People really want to have some transparency and consultation about an amalgamated budget, so we can expect more open houses in the future," said project co-ordinator Marcella Poirier.
Poirier, who is managing director of BridgmanCollaborative Architecture, said community consultation will be the key to the evolution process of the centres. She said that information from the open house and the exit surveys filled out by many attendees will be available on the three club websites by mid-December.
"One of our goals next year is to establish a one-stop-shop calendar, where visitors can go and see everything on campus collectively. It’s an amalgamated approach," Poirier said.
"We’ve also had lots of questions about sports convenors from parents who want to enrol kids in the same class on the same sports teams. We want to work toward a collaborative program without the catchment limitations that have existed in the past."
Poirier said it’s the first time in history that organizers at the three centres have opened up their books and shared their finances with each other.
"Another key principle that the group decided on is that no and low cost programming, such as a quilting group, has as much value as revenue programs, such as hockey. We want to create a level playing field and one budget considering equal value to avoid have and have not centres," she said.
Poirier said the centres now face numerous challenges as usage of the aging facilities increases, such as inadequate storage facilities and accessibility issues.
"For example, at Crescentwood, the gymnastics program is bursting at the seams, but the mats are stored in another part of the building. To work to create better storage space closer to the room would be a simple, common sense move," she said.
Poirier noted that Plan 2025 — the General Council of Winnipeg Community Centres’ blueprint for the future of city-owned community centres — recommended "looking at ways to alleviate stress on volunteers."
River Heights resident Naomi Patey, the current president of Sir John Franklin Community Centre and a longtime volunteers at the club, said addressing the issue of volunteer fatigue is imperative.
"We’re facing many challenges and volunteer burnout is a big one. When most board members sign up, they don’t realize they are taking on so much work," Patey said. "It could be between five and 30 hours a week on top of a full-time job and a family. You must remember that our operating grant pays for zero staff."
Patey, who said the centre was built on the site of a steam plant in 1966, said the club’s hockey convenor had to wade through 2,500 emails this past October and November alone. "Imagine how daunting this task is," she said.
Patey added that amalgamation of the three boards — which collectively consist of 45 volunteers — would improve the running of all three centres in the proposed campus.
"If we can merge, then we can treat the process like running a business, instead of one exhausted person wearing four hats. I’ve sat on many boards and we need to prioritize what we want and work together," Patey said.
"I am passionate about the neighbourhood I live, work and play in and I truly believe the community centres are a home away from home for families, friends, children and adults to gather, participate in activities alone or in groups, and a safe have to have fun, make friends and relax."
Keith Wilson, a long-time volunteer who was president of Crescentwood Community Club until this past June, was happy with the outcome of the open house.
"I was very pleased with the meeting. Personally, I think it is very important for our neighbourhood to amalgamate the boards," said Wilson, who has also done tours of the duty at the club as a hockey coach and ring announcer at boxing events.
"We need to be balanced here. Our clubs are not in crisis, but things need to improve" Wilson said.
"The catchment issue is one example. My 12-year-old-son goes to River Heights Junior High. The guy on one side of him in class plays for in River Heights while he plays in Fort Garry. It seems kind of odd."
"All in all, I think there’s a lot more to be gained by amalgamating than lost. We want facilities that will work together, in close proximity, to best serve the community at large," Wilson added.
Community journalist — The Lance
Simon Fuller is the community journalist for The Lance. Email him at email@example.com Call him at 204-697-7111