"It's really a critical situation," according to Morden Area Foundation (MAF) Board Chair Sue Nelson when referring to the lack of healthcare workers in the Pembina Valley. Nelson stood in front of a crowd of anxious people to introduce a generous donor to the newly created Learn and Return Bursary (LRB) through the foundation, less than a year ago, created by two former Citizens of Distinction (COD) Pat Gibson (2007) and Marilyn Skubovius (2021) in collaboration with Nelson (COD 2018), to address the need for healthcare workers in the region.  

MAF Board Chair Sue Nelson address  the crowd.MAF Board Chair Sue Nelson address  the crowd.

Nelson introduced longtime Thornhill resident, David Lumgair to the audience who made a $500,000 donation to the bursary, one of the largest in its history of giving.  

Lumgair made the donation in memory of his late wife and former nurse, Donna, after he sold a parcel of land. They met in 1958 and were married in 1959 and farmed for over 40 years and retired for 20 years.  

"I had difficulty recognizing that Donna was an equal partner with me, but it came about, and then when she passed away, I had difficulty recognizing that it's all mine. And it's more than a need, absolutely more than a need. With the COVID thing happening and this healthcare system under the stress as it was, and Donna's occupation, it just seemed to be a very natural thing that I should do, would be to recover some of the value from the land. It was only producing crops and changing it to, you have used the word commodity," he chuckled, "that can be applied for the learning of healthcare skills."  

Donor David LumgairDonor David Lumgair

He wanted to make sure her legacy lives on through this donation, which when it reaches full maturity in 2026 will grant $25,000 every year after that. 

"Healthy people are happy people, and civilization and democracy will persist. I have told people, ‘Be good to yourself.’ They agree with that. ‘Be good to the people you know.’ They agree with that. ‘And, if you can be good to the people you don't know, if that were to become contagious, world peace would come about.’ How's that for an image?"  

The first Wednesday of May at the United Church Women's Group (UNCW) meeting, Lumgair approached Donna's colleagues and asked them if they supported the idea of this contribution in her name and they certainly did.  

Pat Gibson, UNCW member and Co-Creator of the LRB, gave her thoughts on what Donna's reaction would be to her husband's generous gift in her name and a few thoughts about her dear friend. 

"She would say, 'I can't believe that he's done this.' I mean, they started the ski trails out there (Shannondale) through the trees. They did all of that themselves. In UNCW, she was the treasurer for half the time we were in existence. In Thornhill, she did the heart stroke every single year, you'd see her at the table (collecting the money), and for Rock Lake Camp, she always, always supported them. We had a sale for quilts and the funds raised went to Rock Lake. She would buy at least five quilts minimum every year, and then afterwards donate them to Genesis House. That's the type of person that Donna was."  

A few pictures of Donna on a table for people to remember her by.A few pictures of Donna on a table for people to remember her by.

Skubovius noted the funds are managed by the Winnipeg Foundation and so they are well taken care of. 

"To me it's self-sustaining. We can offer staff, or new staff, or potential staff an incentive, a bonus if you come and work here, we will help you with your education. Right now, there's a great need."  

Gibson agreed and has heard interest in the bursary in the Pembina Valley.  

"There was an LPN information session a few months ago, and at that there were interested parties from all around. I spoke to a mother and daughter from Altona. They wanted to know if they could apply for this bursary and the comment was you're in the catchment district, so of course you can apply. There was a father and daughter from Carman. They asked me the same question. The only thing that's going to limit how many bursaries we give out is the amount of money within the foundation." 

Nelson said, this donation will not be available this year but will be at full maturity in 2026, with a smaller amount eligible next year.  

Donations to help reach the one-million-dollar goal are gratefully accepted here.

Nelson added, this year's funds were the result of the combining two scholarships the Morden Masonic Lodge and Krueger Scholarships, the funds received from the Power of the Purse fundraiser held earlier this spring, plus a donation from RBC.  

According to the MAF website, "This bursary will provide a financial award to a person entering or continuing post-secondary studies leading to employment within the health care field and with subsequent employment at Boundary Trails Health Centre (BTHC) or Morden Menzies Medical Centre (MMC). The recipient agrees to return to the area to provide service for a minimum of one year."   

Applicants for this year's $10, 000 first time granting need to apply here by May 31st.