The Community Exchange (TCE) in Altona marked its first full year of operation in September.

It's been an incredibly busy time according to Cal Funk, TCE board chair, with the amount of programming coming out of their building having increased exponentially. 

"We have more and more people coming through our doors, for a variety of reasons, from all sorts of different backgrounds and different socioeconomic backgrounds," said Funk. "It just feels like it's more and more of a place where it's a level playing field, where it's not ‘us and them.’ It's just ‘us.’"

Townspeople are becoming more familiar with the acronym, TCE.

"We're hearing more and more, when we're out and about in the community and we mention The Community Exchange, people say, ‘Oh yeah, I know about you guys. I know what you're up to. I've heard something about what you're up to.’ It wasn't that long ago when you would you'd say TCE or The Community exchange, people would have this blank look on their face. It seems like the word's gotten out." 

The non-profit has benefitted from strong community support -- financially and otherwise. 

Funk says some of the initial programming has continued to grow, such as the community meal, which to this point has provided over 1,500 free meals.

"But what's beautiful about that event is it's bringing people from all sorts of different walks of life, and we're all sitting around the table together on a level playing field. Muffin Monday continues to be really popular. The Food Rescue program we only started this Fall has really taken off. We're so thankful for our partnership there with IGA. Recently, Roadside Foods has made a donation. Pioneer Meats has been a a partner with us. It's just been great to see the support we're having there, and how food that might otherwise be thrown out is getting into the hands of people who need it."

Activity at the center is increasing constantly as well.

"You might have people having CFS (Child & Family Services) supervised visits here while somebody's meeting with the community support teams person here for the wrap around program, while drop-in is happening and while food rescue is happening. It's sort of all intermingling. Different needs are being met and different relationships are being built. Some people would say they found a home here and they are here regularly. When the drop-in is open, they're here on a regular basis. You're getting to know these people; you're building relationships with people. That just scratches the surface. There's lots more going on than that."

Through Share the Warmth, a program that provides warm winter clothing to those in need, the center has distributed over 800 articles of clothing.  

However, ultimately, the numbers only tell part of the TCE story.

"You can talk about numbers; you can talk about how many meals are served. That's all great," said Funk. "Numbers are great, and it's a way of quantifying things, but relationships with people, right? I mean, there's lots of stories that are out there.

To give a sense of what it means to be a partner with TCE, Funk tells the story of a young woman named Catrina (not her real name.)

"She came in here. That happened to be a morning where I was volunteering, and I ended up hanging out with her and her two kids at the end of the morning. We've gotten to know each other over the last number of months, and so I think there's a comfort level with me, and me with her and me with their kids. At the end she said, ‘You know, this is my first unsupervised visit without any CFS Rep here.’ This is the beginning of her being able to restore a permanent housing situation with her kids, right? She asked me if I would be willing to report back to the CFS worker to tell her how well things had gone. I said absolutely, and would gladly do that. Now, there's been several more unsupervised visits that have happened since then, and you can kind of see her confidence growing. But at the same time, she's pregnant now with her third child. I don't know what the situation is like with her partner, but I think it's probably precarious. So there's good stuff, and then there's hard stuff, all happening at the same time."

From the outset, organizers have hoped to find meaningful ways to connect more intentionally with the community's Indigenous neighbours and enter the conversation around reconciliation. Recently, he was invited to participate in the first of what's hoped will be ongoing conversations with elders of Roseau River First Nation aimed at furthering that process.  

In November, the center hosted a Lunch and Learn healthy relationships workshop, providing twenty-five women with information and connection as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. That's one example, among many, of how the center was developing into a community hub.

In his year-end letter to supporters, Funk points to a number of other highlights during their year of operation:
- the hiring of Kayla Giesbrecht as TCE's administrator to organize the agency's day-to-day activities and build its volunteer network. 
- Diana Wiebe, a retired social worker with Border Land School Division, was brought on staff to help develop a "Community Connector" program. 
- since July, TCE has extended its drop-in hours to Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 12 noon.

One of the main priorities in 2024 is to hire an executive director to sustain the center's growth, as well as give energy and direction to what the non-profit will become in the years ahead.

In a letter to supporters, Funk outlines a 'dream list' for the future, including:
- finding opportunities for the community to come together for evenings filled with local musical talent
- building a presence as a community hub, making access to local programs and services easier for those in need
- becoming an active part of the housing shortage solution for the community - a big dream that will take much work

Funk admits that some needs have gone unmet due to limited resources. However, financial support from the community has been great and they're seeing growth in terms of moral support, words of encouragement and volunteer support.

"A big thank you to community for the support," adds Funk. "We would love to see more people come by. If people are looking for an opportunity to volunteer, there's a lot of opportunities we'd like to explore with folks."

The Community Exchange can be reached by calling 204-216-1577 or by email to 

A listing of upcoming events can be found online at 

As a registered charity, TCE is now able to issue receipts. Donations can be made by e-transfer to:

Cheques can be mailed to: The Community Exchange, Box 1128, 116 Main Street, Altona, MB, R0G 0B1

Through Canada Helps:

~With files from Candace Derksen~

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