Réseau Compassion Network Staff Give Back this Winter

30 November, 2023 | Initiatives and Projects

Staff in the network tend to go above and beyond to serve those entrusted to their care, but their spirit of giving back doesn’t stop there. Below are two stories about Réseau Compassion Network staff giving back in their free time.

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When the streets in downtown Winnipeg started to close in preparation for the Manitoba Hydro Santa Claus Parade on November 18, several staff from Réseau Compassion Network were on the ground, preparing the route for over 30,000 folks who were hoping for a glimpse of St. Nick.

Jocelyne Nicolas, Communications Specialist at Réseau Compassion Network, has been involved with the parade since 2017. “It’s a pretty magical event to be a part of,” she says. “It’s a surprisingly small team of volunteers who run the show, and then another several hundred volunteers who enter the parade as costume walkers or help keep the crowds safe on each block.”

In 2022, when the parade needed a new volunteer coordinator, Nicolas knew just who to call. Tracy Laluk, Sarah Van Mackelbergh, Bre Brown and Charisse Dimacali, who all currently work or have worked in Volunteer Services at St.Amant, heartily agreed to take on the monumental task of organizing and overseeing the volunteers, their costumes, and the smooth running of the day.

They could be seen whizzing down Portage Avenue in golf carts, organising costumes and making changes on the fly to ensure a fun and safe day for children of all ages. Their dedication, flexibility and enthusiasm are a blessing for the parade, just like they’re a blessing to St.Amant.

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Robyn Brown, a Healthy Baby Outreach Worker and Peer Connector at Youville Centre, has been helping to make Christmas miracles happen since 2019. She and her husband Graham, along with their two young sons, run a community outreach program called Warm Boots, Warm Hearts. They collect new and used winter boots that they distribute to those in need in Winnipeg.

The Brown family with Mayor Scott Gillingham.
photo: Instagram.com/warmbootswpg

Inspired by her time working in schools, Brown realized that many students didn’t have warm enough boots for the winter months, despite the best efforts of their families and the school community. Scarves, mittens and other layers were easier to come by, but boots were a tricky need to fill.

The Browns decided they could do something to help and launched a campaign to collect boots for children and adults. They had imagined only running for a year, but in 2020, when the pandemic hit, they were called to keep the project going. In 2023, there are red collection bins at eight locations across the city, and the family celebrated distributing their 500th pair of boots!

Warm feet make a big difference during cold Manitoba winters, and the spirit behind the project is enough to warm hearts all year round.

If you have a pair of boots you’d like to donate, a list of donation locations are available on their Instagram page, or by emailing warmbootswarmhearts@gmail.com.