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This article was published 11/3/2021 (194 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Claudette Lavack has spent many years ensuring that the children of Ste Anne are fed, educated, and set on the right track to succeed.
Last month, the Manitoba 150 host committee awarded Lavack an Honour 150 medal for her multifaceted service to the community she calls home.
A retired educator, Lavack said it was a little overwhelming to be named among the province’s most outstanding community-builders.
In an interview, she reflected on her career at Ste Anne Immersion, where she served as principal.
"It wasn’t Ste Anne Immersion when I started. It was an English school, and then some parents got together and wanted a French immersion program," she recalled.
In 1984, Lavack was appointed by the town to a provincial justice committee on which she continues to serve.
"We deal with local youth, and sometimes adults, who have had a lapse in judgement and committed things they shouldn’t have done," she said.
Participants are referred from a probation officer and complete community service work or other tasks. The community-based justice model has helped many young offenders avoid a criminal conviction and recover a bright future.
Lavack is also a driving force behind Ste Anne’s food bank, the Accueil Kateri Centre, where she volunteers on pickup days and organizes the annual Christmas hamper drive.
Lavack said she felt compelled to act when a social worker told of the town’s struggles with food insecurity.
"There was a steering committee that was formed to see what we could do about this. I was part of that committee and we decided to organize a food bank."
"I learned through my education that if students didn’t eat well, then they couldn’t learn well."
The first challenge was to find a space. In 2014, the Knights of Columbus offered a garage.
"We started with about 10 families. As the demand grew, we had to get another place."
Last year, after outgrowing yet another space, the food bank purchased a hall on Centrale Avenue.
Lavack said the food bank’s grand opening was her proudest moment as a volunteer. Today, it serves 72 families biweekly.
Prior to the pandemic, Lavack would return once a week to Ste Anne Immersion to help out in the classroom. She also visited Villa Youville to bake and lead singalongs with residents of the personal care home. Lavack said she looks forward to those visits resuming when the pandemic ends.
Raised near the Manitoba border in Bellegarde, Sask., Lavack came to Winnipeg to complete her teacher training. French was her favourite subject.
"I came to Ste Anne because there was an opening at the school, I met my husband, and I’m still here," she said.
Lavack said she her fellow volunteers continue to inspire her.
"We have an excellent group, so that spurs me on. Everybody does their part and everybody’s happy and even though there’s COVID times we make the best of it. That’s what keeps me going. I like helping out."