Yesterday, a crowd of community members, business people, Central Station volunteers and staff gathered Tuesday to celebrate the grand opening of the new facility at 555 Main Street in Winkler.   

The facility is equipped with a large, spacious licensed kitchen, and eating and meeting area, as well as several offices for community partner organizations to meet with people for support, a childcare room, and a multipurpose room with dividers for programming. The Winkler Food Cupboard is also located at the end of the building, complete with freezer and cooler space. 

Board Chair Phillip Vallelly shared the heart for the new spaces, realizing limits had to be in place to stay focused on their mission. The board created four pillars to guide their work.  

"Our vision is to strengthen community partnerships. We want the Central Station staff team to be critical and actually help other organizations utilize the building. Centre Homes, (Winkler's Affordable Housing) we want to invest in Center Homes, we have a team with three people working with the tenants of those homes providing a community space, which is a big part, which again we use every week, every day. The fourth one was amplifying the voice of the voiceless. We know we can become an advocate for those people within our community, who don't have somebody to represent them, somebody who may not have somebody to support them when they're in a difficult place."  

Vallelly said this space was made possible by so many people, businesses and The Government of Manitoba. 

"Community support has been, from my perspective, overwhelming, in terms of the volunteer network that we have. It is overwhelming in terms of even people, just the donations through the build. As a not-for-profit, it's not that we've got lots of money. We have a bit of a mortgage that we'd love to pay off and it would be great just to get that off our backs, but in terms of financial support, it's been incredible. But more the word-of-mouth support people say, 'Have you heard?' 'Have you heard what they're doing?' 'Have you seen what they're doing?"  

In March of 2021, then, Justice Minister Cameron Friesen announced $150,000 in funding for the Winkler, Altona and Swan River Community Hubs through the Community Mobilization Hub Grant. 

In the press release, Minister Friesen explained the importance of this type of support. 

"Community mobilization hubs provide a proactive and coordinated approach to helping people in communities. This approach focuses on bringing together the agencies, organizations and supports that otherwise work alone, improving community safety, ensuring better use of police resources and putting people first. Our government is proud to be expanding this innovative program to more communities across Manitoba." 

Vallelly noted in addition to supporting people in the community, Central Station is supporting other communities who want to recreate their own hubs and have subsequently received funding from the grant. 

"We have been able to create something here through lots of partnerships, lots of relationships, lots of trust with other community agencies, and we believe that other rural communities should not have to do that amount of work. So, our ultimate dream was to transfer Central Station into as many rural communities as possible, to alleviate justice, to help with the justice system, to help with community services and partnerships." 

Tours and meetings with other communities have helped launch other community centers around the province. 

Merchandise is for sale in the center. Many volunteers and staff were wearing t-shirts with the new logo and statement, "I Belong". Vallelly explained why they chose that particular message.  

A row of people wearing "I belong" T-shirts"We wanted a place where everybody knows your name." - Board Chair Phillip Vallelly on why "I Belong" is the slogan on their t-shirts.

"Part of the vision behind the building was this was not just to be a place for clients or people who had needs. We wanted somebody to be able to wear the T-shirt and say, they wore the t-shirt 'cause they can walk in here and go, 'I actually belong in here,' 'I can sit in the beautiful leather seats,' 'I can go and have coffee,' 'I can go and have apple pie 'cause I can belong here.' Actually, it really doesn't matter who you are, we wanted a place where everybody knows your name."   

There is always fresh baking made every day and programming such as community meals, the Bag Program, Easy Eats Program, Women's Fitness, Cooking Classes and more.  People are invited to come in and find support or volunteer.  For more information check out the Central Station website.