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Winnipeg’s Thrive Community Support Circle needs your help

A west end community agency that’s bursting at the seams due to the COVID-19 pandemic needs a little help to meet the growing demand for its holistic services.

Winnipeg’s Thrive Community Support Circle saw about 10,000 people come through its doors at 555 Spence Street in 2019 but it’s expecting to welcome more than 25,000 before 2022 is done. But what’s most surprising isn’t the number of people needing food, clothing, pregnancy tests, hygiene products, counselling, birth certificates, financial empowerment support or even just a cup of coffee, but who they are and where they’re from. They’re no longer just from the surrounding area and other impoverished neighbourhoods and they’re people who never would have dreamed of needing a helping hand just a couple of years ago.

“We’re getting new faces every day,” says Rhonda Elias-Penner, executive director at Thrive. “They say, ‘I’ve never had to access food before.’ It’s couples, both of whom used to have full-time jobs, who are now living day-to-day. They need food and clothing so they’re able to pay their bills. It’s middle-class people coming in to access services because of the challenges the pandemic has brought on.” 

Thrive operates a thrift store (which features a job skills training program) out of its Spence Street location, a child care centre around the corner at 475 Sargent Avenue while running its administrative offices at 505 Sargent.

After a half-century of helping others, Thrive is hoping for a little reciprocity. The time has come to consolidate under one roof to improve the provision of its services, make things more accessible to the people it serves while reducing operational dollars into the programming side.

It has blue prints to double its 1,900-square-foot space by building a second storey on 555 Spence, which it owns. Elias-Penner says more than $650,000 of its $4-million goal has been reached.

The most pressing need is an elevator, which will not only help those with mobility issues, but help Thrive’s employees gain the trust of the people they serve.

“Trust is a huge thing. If somebody has built trust with one of our counsellors and needs other services, to physically take them to another building is time consuming and there are safety issues with that. When we’re all in one building it will be more dignified for people and raise the level of interconnection,” she says.

The construction phase is expected to take 12 to 18 months, during which time Thrive will need to relocate to temporary facilities nearby.

Elias-Penner has secured some grant money but she needs Winnipeggers and the companies they work for to get out their cheque books. One local company has donated $100,000 and its executive team is working on others to follow their lead.

“I realize that big business always looks at the bottom line but supporting the community brings money into the economy and builds better neighbourhoods,” she says.

Safety is a much bigger issue today than it was prior to the pandemic as many people are dealing with mental health challenges and increased poverty has led to spikes in violence and crime, such as car-jackings and home invasions.

The demand for Thrive’s services won’t be going down any time soon.

“In 2015, we had a staff of 17 and a budget of $750,000. Today, we’re at 32 employees and a budget of $1.6 million,” she says.

For more information about Thrive or donating to its expansion, visit or call (204) 772-9091.


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