WBCO welcomes new executive director


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This article was published 21/01/2022 (429 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

What the outgoing and incoming heads of the West Broadway Community Organization have in common, apart from their passion for the neighbourhood and its people, is that they both entered into their roles somewhat organically.

Nearly 14 years ago, the WBCO hired Greg MacPherson as a labourer to fix up its former office at 608 Broadway. When administration learned that MacPherson worked for Statistics Canada, he was hired for an interview project with area landlords.

“From that point, I really got excited about community development and the work they were doing,” MacPherson said.

MacPherson was the organization’s community safety co-ordinator for a time, until, upon the suggestion of the board, he applied for the executive director opening. He got the job and held it for 11 years.

“It was the best job I’ve ever had,” MacPherson said. “It really was a great chapter in my life.”

Many initiatives come to mind when MacPherson looks back on his time with the WBCO. But one that stands out happened right when MacPherson began his career in the field.

West Broadway is home to a uniquely high number of rooming houses — a type of housing that can be stigmatized.

MacPherson wanted to help flip that narrative on its head.

For five years, MacPherson worked with tenants and landlords through his rooming house outreach program. The WBCO helped renters paint their rooms and common areas, and offered up free cleaning supplies. The landlords often pitched in, too, he said.

“There were a lot of really good outcomes in stabilizing people’s tenancies,” MacPherson said.

As the years went on, MacPherson felt as though his capacity to get things done as the head of the organization had increased but that his energy was on a slow decline.

“It’s kind of a lifestyle job,” he said. “I loved it all, but I did feel towards the last year, as I got through the pandemic with the organization, that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have someone take over.”

MacPherson feels confident the incoming executive director Ella Rockar is the right person to breathe new life into the organization.

Rockar, like her predecessor, didn’t enter into the role of executive director in a traditional sense.​​ Her first introduction to the organization was as an area resident participating in WBCO’s food security program. She took part in a summer farm trip to pick onions.

“It’s this beautiful experience of seeing a real connection with food, spending a day with other people from your community,” Rockar said.

In 2019, she was hired to develop a tenant support program (92 per cent of West Broadway’s community members rent). From there, she worked as a housing co-ordinator. Rockar did a master’s degree focusing on a right-to-housing framework at the University of Manitoba.

“It’s something that I’m really passionate about,” Rockar said.

“The work with the organization allowed those values to expand … At this point, I’m just taking the time to learn and grow into the role. I’m really lucky to have had great mentorship from our previous executive director.”

As for MacPherson, he has accepted a role with the city as administrative co-ordinator for the City of Winnipeg’s LiveSAFE crime prevention strategy.

MacPherson suspects that this new role will help him “move the needle” on issues in the municipality at a higher level.

Katlyn Streilein

Katlyn Streilein
Community Journalist

Katlyn Streilein was a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review.

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