Rita Bourgeois: Centre Flavie’s New Chair

28 March, 2024 | Centre Flavie, Profiles

Rita Bourgeois has been involved with Centre Flavie in one way or another for several decades. As a mother, she used to donate children’s items to the centre. As an employee, she helped real estate consultant Raymond Simard prepare and open the Marion Street location in the early 2000s. She’s been a board director on and off since 2010. Now, it’s Bourgeois’ turn to take on the board chair role as the centre settles into its location on Archibald Street.

“It’s definitely a big responsibility, but our Executive Director Gilbert Vielfaure is awesome and we’re growing like crazy,” she shares. “It’s the sort of place that you want to be involved with. I try to stop by as often as I can, to lend a hand to volunteers or ask Gilbert what he needs.”

The timing is right for Bourgeois to take on a larger role as she is retired from her role as resource teacher and cultural programming coordinator for the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine. “Centre Flavie is a place where I feel at home,” she shares. “Our board is amazing, and we love getting together. And our volunteers are incredible. We have some people who give 40 hours a week! What organisation has volunteers like that? We’re so very lucky.”

Luck might have something to do with it, but the mission of Centre Flavie pulls together people of all walks of life who want to contribute to the greater good. “It’s fun, this work, but it’s so much more than that,” Bourgeois continues. “You don’t only serve the mission here, but the mission serves you and your personal growth. You get a feeling that you’re actually helping. You’re changing someone’s life, just a little bit.”

The clients who use the services of Centre Flavie each have a unique story. “There’s a line up outside each morning,” says Bourgeois. “Our demographic is changing rapidly. We see Ukrainian refugees, we see families and people from across the city. More and more often, we’re seeing the working poor. Some people only need to come once, some need to come often and that’s ok, too. We’re here to help.”

As Bourgeois takes on the board chair role, Centre Flavie is in the midst of raising funds to improve the infrastructure of their building and creating more space for receiving donations. As the organisation increases capacity and broadens its clientele, others are taking notice. Centre Flavie is starting to be approached by larger suppliers and stores like Costco who are interested in donating goods. “The other day, we received 5,000 pieces of clothing including brand new jeans,” she says. “There was a young woman there that day with a smile from ear to ear. This is not just about providing material goods, it’s about providing the things that gives us comfort and value in our lives.”

The attitude taken by staff and volunteers is a particular pride point for Bourgeois. “That’s what I appreciate about Gilbert and his staff,” she shares. “They are empathetic but respectful. We are offering a service, and these are our clients. I wish more people would get involved in their community with places like Flavie or others. Volunteering brings a lot of joy to your life. This isn’t a chore, this is life-giving.”


If you’re interested in finding a volunteer role for yourself with Réseau Compassion Network’s member organisations, please click HERE.