After years of planning and countless hours of work, Northern Growing Abilities has finally, officially, opened its doors.
The Creighton-based organization officially welcomed the public in for their grand opening July 23, held on the fifth anniversary of when the group was officially incorporated. Northern Growing Abilities has opened their own headquarters on First Street West in Creighton, in the former Northern Fellowship Chapel church. A formal ceremony and ribbon-cutting were part of the grand opening.
The not-for-profit group has already been operating out of the building for some time. In the front, the main building works as a base for programs and a place for people with intellectual differences to hang out and learn - there are two days per week for youth drop-in programs and two per week for adults, running during Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Out back, the centre boasts a lush community garden, tended to by the centre’s clients.
The original goal of the project was to provide a place within Creighton for people with intellectual and cognitive differences to have fun and meet friends while learning valuable skills. Over time, some parts of that goal changed - at first, that vision included an indoor, hydroponic greenhouse that ended up being cost prohibitive, so a more conventional outdoor community garden became part of the plan. The main goal, said board chair Tracy Brown, has not changed from day one.
“It started as a grassroots program, families who thought there was a need for a program like this in the community. It came to a point where these families decided we needed to do something to make this happen,” said Brown.
“We got a board together, we started looking for a location, we were gifted this building and we went to work from there. Lots of fundraising, donations and applying for grants have got us where we are today.”
While the road to last weekend’s opening was at times bumpy, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and difficulties in finding funds at first, the ribbon cutting was a sign for Brown that all the work had paid off.
“We started this organization as a way for these individuals in Flin Flon, Creighton and Denare Beach to feel like valued, supported and included members of our community and to have suitable opportunities and choices. We are so thankful to so many of you who have been able to help us or who've been with us every step of the way so that this day would finally come,” she said.
Clients of the centre and its programs water and tend to the plants - and since it is a community garden, members of the community are free to take off whatever they need.
“We started a lot of these vegetables inside with seeds and planted them, watched them grow inside in cups and different planters. All the hard work with the board and our clients have been planting - now we have an immaculate, gorgeous garden,” said assistant coordinator Loreena Hrechka.
“Three of our clients have their own gardens now that they plant - watching them when we come out and to see that look on their faces when they see their gardens growing… I get goosebumps. I’m so proud of them and they are so proud of themselves.”
The group plans to continue operating the project as long as needed, including some tentative plans to expand in the future if funding and opportunity arises.
“We’re seeing how this goes for now - then, who knows?” said Brown.
“I’m beyond thrilled with where we started and where we got to, where we are now. I’m very proud from our board members, our staff and our clients - without them, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
“There’s days where I’m literally like, ‘Wait… I’m getting paid to do this?’ This job is so rewarding. It’s fulfilling, it’s fun… it’s the best place to be,” said Hrechka.
The clients have a close, friendly relationship with Hrechka and program coordinator Jennifer Jones. The two workers are the ones most often at the building. They’ve built up a friendly rapport with some of the regulars.
“We’ve got one client, he’s a jokester. He’s always got jokes, comes up with jokes all the time. We’ve got another client who comes in and she is full of hugs, we get so many hugs, it just fills our hearts and she makes us feel so loved,” said Hrechka.
“There’s little things with all of our clients - there are so many little memories that are so wonderful,” added Jones.
“We’re still taking in new clients. It’s definitely nice with the clients we have, it’s way more intimate with them - we can engage a lot more with them, one on one.”
Anyone who wants to enroll someone into the program, who wishes to volunteer with or donate to the program can contact the group’s board members. The organization is looking for both board members and volunteers - along with anyone who knows about gardening who has some time to help out.
“That’s not something you need to have, but if there’s someone there with a green thumb that wants to come check it out and give a few pointers, we’re always open for that,” said Brown.