It was 30 years ago, in 1993, when Virden Area Foundation provided its first grants to community projects and needs. This spring, Sacred Heart Parish Hall was buzzing with excitement on May 11 as community groups returned to an in-person event to receive their grants.
Seven Virden Area Foundation (VAF) board members presented $134,790 to 14 organizations from the communities of Virden, Elkhorn, Kola, Cromer, Kenton, and Oak Lake. Citizens from young children to seniors will benefit from the projects that will be bolstered by these donations.
Chair of VAF Board of Directors Cory Barkley welcomed the grant recipients and explained the objective of the Foundation’s grants is to help with personal needs, to promote conservation of human, natural and heritage resources; to provide for charitable, educational, or cultural purposes that the Board deems worthy.
He recounted the genesis of the Foundation, built upon a bequeathed sum from the estate of Murray and Jean Thomas. In the 1950’s the Thomas couple came to Virden and purchased the Pontiac Buick dealership. They were successful in business and had no children. Jean Thomas left their estate to the Town of Virden and it became the seed of VAF.
Barkley told those gathered, “We were quite impressed when we sat down to take a look at the grants and the projects… again with the Covid stoppage to the world, to see the communities get back involved and get things going again, you should all be applauded. We were quite impressed with the work that is going on in communities.”
Representatives came forward to receive grants and to explain in brief, how the money will be spent.
COMMUNITY BUILDING PROJECTS
Allison Volk and daughter Khloe represented Elkhorn Memorial Park Revitalization and accepted a grant of $5,000 to replace the play structure and provide other modifications to the park to include wheelchair accessibility. A new play structure is expected to replace a well-worn one. They hope to see the new feature installed on July 5. Volk explained, “We are putting a pathway through our park too, so our residents from the Manor can go to the park too and enjoy it. Everything is supposed to be in by July 5. So hopefully it’s all ready for our Home Coming in August.”
Leon Friesen represented the Kola Mountain Bike Trail where the funds of $2,000 will go toward the repair of a commercial lawnmower. “It was probably 15 years ago that we started making trails in the Pipestone Valley so we had a place to ride mountain bikes and they’ve all gotten bigger. We’ve got 11 kilometres of trail. I’ve been using weed eaters, and I purchased a used lawn mower, a 36-inch walk-behind and we need to fix that up.
The trailhead starts at PR 257 and goes through pastureland. He described it as a wilderness with wildlife right in the middle of civilization. “When you drop into the ravine, down to the Pipestone Creek, it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere. So, it’s a paradise when you go to bike and hike. With this new lawnmower, we’ll keep the trails clean enough that more people can enjoy them and know where they’re going.”
Tracy Landels and Morgan Rampton represented Cromer Rink which received $20,000 for renovations. Rampton said that Cromer has renovated the rink’s “canteen area and the sitting area, now it’s come down to the actual ice surface and the roof, that needs repairs. We have started gathering up funds to put a new roof on and better insulation to stop the dripping from the roof on the ice. It’s caused some hazards for people that are skating.” He added, “You’ve got to keep the local rinks going because there are so many people, so many kids skating.” The small community of Cromer has also recently renovated its town hall.
Virden Band Program requires new instruments after an influx of 29 Gr. 7 students this year. Band teacher Tyra Zander, Mark Keown and Tracy Ramsey accepted a cheque for $8,000. Zander is excited with the progress and interest and said the band students attended the Brandon Jazz Festival Virden band festival and a third event. “Students need instruments, and there’s a lot of students that can’t afford it, and right now the band is out of instruments… for students to rent at an affordable price. So this money is going to help purchase new instruments for next year.”
Funshine Early Learning Centre facilities I and II received $17,688.74 to build quality shade structures at both daycare centres in Virden. Elisha Park and Telysha Van Eaton accepted the cheque. “Our playgrounds at Funshine I and Funshine II needed a lot of extra work and TLC as the Funshine II playground never got developed after the building was opened because it’s a lot of money to develop a whole playground.” Now the recently built facility has a new sandbox and playground turf the next step is to create shade. “In both centres we are in a heat zone of sun through the whole summer, no shade whatsoever, so shade structures are very much needed. They will be used by many families and kids over the years. They will make many staff happy as we can stay outside, with picnics and at other times.”
Virden Aud Restoration Committee, represented by Leon Friesen and Shauna Dunning received $3,600. “This project includes a replacement sign on the front of the building with our new logo and (to provide) a canvass collection in the hallway of the Aud,” said Dunning. The canvasses will feature a collection from festival competitions over the years.
Virden & District Health Auxiliary will purchase a Stryker and a Gynnie Stretcher for the hospital. Thelma Quinn and Sylvia Flecknor representing the Auxiliary accepted a cheque for $14,002.
Quinn said, “The government provides the bare necessities of the hospital, the nursing home and the Sherwood Nursing Home. So, we fundraise to provide any of the needed items such as the stretcher… and we do this to provide care and comfort to the residents of the hospital and nursing homes. Sometimes we also buy things for the ambulance service and the lab.”
Kenton Community Action Committee represented by Patrick Routledge and Danny Whyte received $20,000 for Phase 1 of community improvements to transform a tennis court and build a shed. “The community is slowly growing. We have a number of younger families moving in and as part of that we are seeing more and more use of our affordable recreation facilities. We will use this money to pave over a tennis court… so we can use it as a multi-use facility for floor hockey, basketball, tennis, all sorts of sports. The shed will be a lending shed to provide access to sporting equipment.”
Virden Area New Horizons, represented by Russell Chapman and Wayne Turner, received $3,500 for new flooring, paint and lighting in the New Horizons building on Nelson Street n Virden. Mr. Turner said this will help them keep their building functional. He said, “The community has been so helpful to us… we’ve had very good luck asking to keep things going.”
Mary Montgomery School represented by Jill Warkentin and Racquel Halland, received $6,000 to update and enhance green space with sprinklers and a walkway. Halland said, “We’re making it more accessible to our students and families with mobility access issues. We’re putting in a native wildflower garden to help with pollinators and species at risk, some fruit trees for everyone to share from, some classroom gardens for the students and a raised garden bed for students that are mobility challenged; and we may put in a flower bed to honour our Indigenous peoples.”
Virden Dog Park Committee received $5,000 to build a fence. Representative Larissa Sosnowski said, “We are very close to our goal, hopefully putting in fencing this summer.” She said they will need a few benches and a garbage can and doggie bag dispenser.
Oak Lake Regional Community Development Board represented by Carolyn Roulette received $5,000 to develop an outdoor green space at Ox Cart Trail West. “A couple of years ago the town of Oak Lake was gifted an old church. The community development board stepped up and said that we were willing to do some renovations and bring some life back into it. Since that time, we’ve completely renovated the bathrooms, heating, air conditioning. We’re seeing some really great programs happening in the space too, being able to support our local businesses… and some youth programming.”
Scallion Creek Park Committee is installing a walking bridge. Matt Russell and Syd Warkentin accepted the cheque for $23,500. Russell said, “We formed our committee a few years ago with the intention of revitalizing the walking trail that goes along Scallion Creek. Since then, we’ve been able to expand the trail. Our group has also adopted the fish pond… so we extended the trail down to the fish pond and we also created some community gardens.
“The purpose of this money is because, everyone who lives in the Kenderdine Subdivision has no way to access the garden by foot or by bike unless they cross the creek. So, we are putting a walking bridge across the creek so they can walk or bike directly past the garden, past the fishpond… The idea is to create a safe walking trail and to promote tourism, the scenery of our community and to promote physical activity. The bridge structure has been built with previous funds. This money will be used for the footings of the bridge.”
Virden & District Fat Stock Association received $1,500 to purchase three 30-foot freestanding livestock panels. Allison and Khloe Volk accepted the cheque and Khloe, a member of the Archie 4H Club spoke. “The Virden Fatstock Association is a group of local 4Hers: Pipestone, Oak Lake, Archie and Lenore. This year we have 66 members coming to show their steers. Our show and sale is July 4, at Virden Fair Grounds. We are buying extra panels to keep the steers from going to downtown Virden.” This brought laughter in the hall.
Community Relations Officer Teresa Makarchuk is leaving her position where she served VAF and her community for 15 years. She was presented with a gift from VAF, flowers and a special cake was served in her honour. Teresa said she will enjoy her weekends off, as that was when much of the VAF work was done.
Barkley said, “The (VAF) Board turns over every three to six years so she’s had to train, I don’t know how many boards… Her knowledge of the Foundation and how it operates, will be very hard to replace.” He said to Makarchuk, “We applaud you.”