By Vince Clark
On June 8th, 1998, Wings of Power opened its doors for the first time. The non-profit organization was the brainchild of Paul & Tanya Magnan. Paul, who was the principal of École Powerview School at the time, was concerned about the students beginning kindergarten being unprepared. Paul and Tanya then began to investigate the issue further and discovered that this wasn’t just an issue at the school, but an issue for the community at large. So, through community consultations and brainstorming meetings, the concept for Wings of Power was born.
“We wanted to create a resource centre. Not only for the children, but for the parents.” Paul stated. “If the parents were worried about their living conditions, or whether they had food to put on the table, they wouldn’t necessarily be as concerned about their children’s preparedness for school.” He continued.
Around the same time, the old Pine Falls Catholic Church came up for sale. Paul and Tanya approached the church with their vision. They loved the idea so much, that they sold the church and rectory to Wings of Power for $1. Over the years, the buildings have been gradually renovated into what we see today.
Now, 20 years later, the organization has grown immensely. As well as the old church and rectory, Wings now runs other properties, such as a house in Pine Falls, which houses three young men with special needs and has 5 around-the-clock employees. Wings of Power started with a small grant from the province, 2 employees, and a dream. Now, they employ twenty full time staff members.
Wings of Power is a non-profit community family resource centre. As far as non-profits go, they are very unique in the province. Most non-profits focus on one or two services, where they provide over 10 programs and services for the community.
One very important program run by Wings of Power, is called the Helping Hands Program. This program allows young adults with disabilities to help out local businesses by doing simple tasks, such as folding pizza boxes and filling salt & pepper shakers for Chicken Chef, or stocking shelves at Dancyt’s Foods. This gives the participants a sense of community, a sense of usefulness, and great work experience. The program currently has 8 participants and has 18 partnerships within the community.
Wings also currently runs several other programs, including the little wings pre-school, which operates out of École Powerview School. They also run a pre-natal/post-natal program, which operates out of the former rectory, next to the main Wings of Power building, and sees on average 50 families per year. They run mini chefs & junior chefs, which are kids cooking programs, as well, which are also based out of École Powerview School. Another program run by Wings, is called Little Gigglers Playgroups. These twin programs, which run both at the main Wings of Power building and Wayside Church in Grand Marais, allows children 5 years old and younger to socialize with other children of the similar ages. They play games, sing songs, do arts & crafts and more. They also run boy’s and girl’s clubs, which take place daily in the summer months. Wings of Power also offers a free photo copy and fax service for those on social assistance and free computer access for resumes and job searches. Last but not least, Wings also provides the breakfast program at Ecole Powerview School. Every morning the students from grades k-9 are offered fruit, cheese, milk and hardboiled eggs. This program supplies 300 children daily with a healthy morning snack.
Another thing Wings is well known for in the community, is their thriving thrift store. “It all started one day, when someone dropped off a garbage bag full of clothes.” said current executive director Guy Borlase. This was when Wings of Power was still in its infancy. “We called it the Nothing More than a Quarter Store.” said Paul Magnan. “This was our gateway to creating a relationship and a trust with the community.” He continued. Last year, Wings received 2853 bags of donations. All the clothes in the store sell for $1 each. They also receive furniture, such as couches and beds, and sell them at very low prices. Wings also has a community garden, which they plant and maintain every year. The vegetables from the garden are also available in the thrift store.
Wings of Power hosts four yearly community events, the Summer Kick-off barbecue, the Farewell to Summer Barbecue, the Fall Harvest Dinner, and Breakfast with Santa. All of these events are completely free for anyone who’d like to attend. Although all four of these events are always well received, the fall harvest dinner and breakfast with Santa always stand out, with attendance consistently between 150-200 people. These events are made possible by generous donations from local businesses, especially those aided by the aforementioned helping hands program. These events also wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for all the hardworking volunteers. Last year, 42 volunteers aided with Wings of Power events and programming.
Wings of Power is funded largely through grants, ranging from Healthy Child Manitoba, to the provincial government, to the RM of Alexander, which help cover operating costs. The income from the thrift store sales also goes toward operating costs.
Last year, an estimated 7000 people visited the thrift store, participated in Wings programming or events, or used one of their many services.
To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Wings of Power opening it’s doors, they will be hosting a special event on the Wings of Power grounds, in lieu of their annual Summer Kickoff Barbecue. This event will feature barbecue food, face-painting, a bounce house, live music from a fiddler, and more. The event will take place on Friday, June 15th, 2018 from 11 am to 2pm. The event is completely free to attend, and Wings of Power hopes to have a large turnout. So, if you’re in the area that day, come out and enjoy the festivities!