Communities have chance to ‘spruce up’ local spaces

For the fourth year in a row, Red River Mutual’s Community Initiative is offering funds to renew and restore spaces in Westman and beyond.

The Spruce Up Your Story initiative, launched in 2020, offers $150,000 in total to help restore well-worn but well-loved community spaces in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The goal of the program is to ensure that the places where communities gather continue to thrive for generations to come, said Jennifer Ewankiw, vice-president of strategy and business development with Red River Mutual.

“It’s not about replacing these spaces, but rather breathing new life into them.”

Communities that choose to apply have the chance to receive a share of the $150,000, and winners will also have access to additional volunteer hours from a crew of Red River Mutual and local brokerage staff members to help complete their projects.

The inspiration behind the initiative is the partner organizations that Red River Mutual works with, said Kailynn Newediuk, marketing and communications manager.

“A lot of them are still very independent and local, and they’re deeply connected to the communities they live in … they’re at the heart of these communities, and they’re really well-loved,” she said. “The whole point is being able to put funds towards sprucing our communities up.”

Libraries, community centre and town halls are examples of community spaces that have previously benefited from the fund. In 2020, Red River Mutual chose the Southquill Food Bank Community Garden, located in Erickson, 76 kilometres north of Brandon, to receive funding.

Through the funding, the community organization was able to properly landscape the garden to prevent runoff and soil erosion, level and re-grade the parking pad to accommodate increased visitor traffic, and add picnic tables, signage, a tool shed, and more, said Heather Parrott-Howdle, volunteer board member with the food bank’s community garden.

“Spruce Up Your Story has helped our communities develop and build towards sustainable food security,” she said. “It will be a gathering place where people can build relationships around healthy food.”

Applications are now open for this year’s initiative. The submitted renovation or beautification projects will be evaluated based on community use and significance, commitment to sustainability, volunteerism, and connections to a Red River Mutual-affiliated insurance brokerage.

Since its inception, Red River Mutual has awarded more than $450,000 to support 30 spaces in communities across Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Newediuk hopes many communities will apply for funding.

“If there’s a space that you love, and the community rallies around it, we want to hear stories like that.”

Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun