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Banner year for ‘the Beach’ day camp

CounselorBy SIMONE COHEN SCOTT Winnipeg Beach, Manitoba August 2nd, 2021 Winnipeg Beach Day Camp has come a long way. Around 1953 I was a counselor there, and if memory serves me, it had been founded only a year or two earlier.

KidOver the decades, having enrolled my kids, grand-kids, foster kids, and now a surprise grandchild, (no great-grandchildren yet) I have noted an evolution in style and attitude. Add to that the fact that this year appears to be a bumper year in enrolment (probably due to Covid 19’s lifting of various restrictions on kids playing together), it seems an appropriate time to focus attention on this staple of ‘the Beach’, (once but no longer known as ‘Jew Beach’, due to all other Lake Winnipeg resorts being restricted).

I enrolled my granddaughter Katra, who lives in Vancouver, at the day camp for the full seven weeks. Delivering her each morning I soon noticed the rapid growth in attendance. Parking for drop offs became more challenging. The line-up for temperature checks and hand sanitation every morning grew ‘way beyond the roped off area. But once past that bottleneck, the kids, mask free, could dash, unhampered, into their designated spots under various trees. This year Katra is an ‘intermediate’, re-acquainting with last year’s friends, one from as far away as Toronto.

Jacqui Cohen is the Camp Director, and has been for the past two years. Immediately I was impressed with how efficiently she handled her position. She was the first line of greeting, checking in all the children, welcoming the new ones with comments of reassurance, and recognizing returnees with personalized remarks. A terrific people person I thought, as standing in line with Katra I observed her each morning, but as the weeks progressed and I saw the extent of the camp programming she was handling, intertwined with government regulations, both general and virus necessitated, my esteem soared. Sitting down with her the other day, at a picnic table screened from the rest of the camp by a clump of bushes, I got to know her better. For the past two years Jacqui has been at McGill, studying philosophy. Possibly due to the critical thinking and writing skills she gleaned from these courses, she realized that, for her temperament and life goals. she would be better served by becoming a teacher, and so come this fall, she’ll be taking Education at the University of Winnipeg. A career in teaching will bring her into line with her mother and grandmother, both teachers. (Jacqui’s mother is the ‘other’ Simone Cohen.) Days upon days filled with children is not daunting to Jacqui; her past experience includes four years of BB Camp at Lake of the Woods.

Whether or not day camps would be allowed this year was an up-in-the-air question until almost the last minute. I myself was apprehensive; how would I manage with a six-year old child if I couldn’t leave her somewhere for five hours every week-day? Meanwhile camp organizers were experiencing fluctuating proposed regulations: initially they expected to be able to enrol 25 children, this dropped to 10, then shrunk to none. Despite the uncertainty, management and staff for the camp, including its board, proceeded exactly as if it would be a ‘go’, and so it was. Their faith paid off: activities are well-planned; counselors are well-trained; systems are innovative and run smoothly.

TubbyIn total, 200 children are enrolled for the summer. Beginning the season with 15 participants, by week four there were 71 in attendance, the highest in years. Publicity outreach before the summer included Facebook, notification to schools, and distribution of brochures. Winnipeg Beach Day Camp is attracting participants from further away than the immediate area. Fifteen percent are from Gimli, many from elsewhere in the Interlake, even a few from Matlock. Registration requests included fundraising, as a new building was necessary this year, and projected additional facilities and equipment are in the works. Most donations were in the neighbourhood of $100, with several larger amounts. Appreciation for the camp translated into generosity. They are only a few thousand short of their goal of $15,000. Sale of lunch boxes, T shirts, and baseball caps, were introduced this year. Plans for next year include in person presentations in the schools, if things are back to normal.

Speaking of fundraising, one of the best known features of the camp that has run for years (I can remember it from the ‘50s) is the Penny Carnival. The day of that coin is long gone, but the tradition is fixed; the name has stuck. Instead, for the past several years, strips of tickets have been sold. “Attendance this year was amazing,”says Jacqui. “There were always 100 people on the site.” (Covid restrictions allowed for 150.) This surge was due mostly to word of mouth – parents of course, but also past campers who summer at the Beach and its environs, and have made it an annual outing. Last year’s Covid restrictions prevented the event -the only cancellation ever.

Support from local merchants is strong. Pizza Fridays are a tradition, supplied at a special price by Pizza Place in the town. Between the special price to the camp and the still bargain cost to the campers, the small margin becomes part of the development budget, no doubt for equipment such as the bouncy castle sometimes featured. (Who knew there were such things as bouncy castles?) These last few years Pizza Place has had a vested interest; the owner’s 3 grandchildren participate for the full seven weeks. Until Covid 19, each midsummer Interlake Garden Centre invited the children to a ‘field trip’ at their greenhouses. There, they would be shown various plants and seeds and do a little planting of their own. This year an amended presentation was brought to the campsite, with flowers, pots, and potting soil, tying in with their end of season sale. Beyond participation from the local merchants, for the past five or six years on Ice Cream Day, Eva’s Gelato in Winnipeg has provided ice cream for sale at the camp. Generally, though, fundraising strategies are worked out together with the camp’s board of directors, which Jacqui commends as forming a “very strong team”.

There is a good rapport with the Town, which issues the permit for the camp, as well as with Provincial Parks, technically the locale, which is responsible for many features, for example the camp’s toilet facility. (Much of the Interlake region became a Provincial Park in 1969.) The camp, for its part, is very careful when planning extra events so that they not conflict with those
held in the area, such as Boardwalk Days. There is interaction, too, with Gimli, as occasionally the entire camp will locate for the day in the sprinkler spray park there. Other activities and special days include tie dye day, the Gimli Aquatic Park (before Covid), the bike parade (a tradition)…..and…..and…wait for it…Prairie Exotic…when a fellow brings around assorted creatures such as spiders, snakes, even a hedgehog. I’d skip that day but Jacqui assured me that kids who abhor these critters end up with at least respect for them. A new attraction planned for the near future will be paddle boards, funds permitting, and it seems they will.

Just as my talk with Jacqui was winding up, one of the counsellors, together with a camper, sought her out behind the privacy of the bushes. What transpired boosted even further my confidence in the competence of camp personnel. The student suffers from diabetes and that day could not regulate her system with the remedy she had with her. Jacqui immediately reached the mother on the ‘phone. The symptoms were described; the mother would bring insulin immediately after lunch. Should she eat her lunch, or any of her snacks? Yes, she could if she wanted. The smoothness with which all this was handled was impressive. Jacqui explained to me that as the camp’s intention was to include every child wishing to attend, the pre-opening training sessions readied the personnel for such eventualities. I asked her if she had had to scramble to find last minute counselors as enrollment soared. “No,” she replied, “we established a high ratio of staff to participants at the beginning and were always able to maintain that standard.”

Good job, people!

 

 

 

 

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Local News

Ida and the late Saul Alpern have donated 2 ambulances and a scooter to Magen David Adom in past 4 years

Saul z"l and Ida Alpern

By BERNIE BELLAN Saul Alpern passed away in 2022, but before he died he and his wife Ida had decided to make Magen David Adom a major recipient of their generosity.

As Myron Love noted in an October 2020 article the Alperns had been contributing small amounts to the Canadian Magen David Adom for some time, but it was in that year they decided to donate $160,000 for the purchase of a Mobile Intensive Care Unit for Israel’s Magen David Adom.

As Myron wrote in that 2020 article, an MICUA (which is larger than an ambulance, is staffed by paramedics, and responds only to the most medically serious cases) was donated “to the people of Israel in memory of Saul Alpern’s parents and siblings who perished in the Holocaust.

“It is an expression of my love for my family and my love of Israel,” Saul Alpern said at the time.

In early 2022 the Alperns donated yet another $170,000 for the purchase of a second MICU for Magen David Adom.

The scooter recently donated by Ida Alpern in memory of her late husband and parents/plaque imprinted on the front of the scooter carrier box

Saul Alpern passed away in November 2022, but Ida Alpern has now continued the legacy of giving to Canadian Magen David Adom that she and Saul had begun several years before. Just recently Ida contributed $39,000 toward the purchase of an emergency medical scooter. According to the CMDA website, “the scooter, which is driven by a paramedic, can get through traffic faster than the Standard Ambulance or MICU and provide pre-hospital care. It contains life-saving equipment, including a defibrillator, an oxygen tank, and other essential medical equipment.”

I asked Ida whether she wanted to say anything about the motivation for her and her late husband’s support for CMDA. She wrote, “Having survived the Holocaust, and being a Zionist, Saul felt that supporting Israel was of the utmost importance.”

On May 7, CMDA will be honouring Ida and Saul z”l Alpern at a dinner and show at the Centro Caboto Centre. Another highlight that evening will be the announcement of the purchase of an ambulance for CMDA by another Winnipegger, Ruth Ann Borenstein. That ambulance will be in honour of the late Yoram East (a.k.a. Yoram Hamizrachi), who was a well-known figure both in Israel and here in Winnipeg.

For more information about the May 7 event or to purchase tickets phone 587-435-5808 or email sfraiman@cmdai.org

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Local News

Simkin Centre looking for volunteers

A scene from last year's Simkin Stroll

We received the following email from Heather Blackman, Simkin Centre Director of Volunteers & Resident Experience:

Happy Spring Everyone! Hope you all are well. We have a number of upcoming volunteer opportunities that I wanted to share with you. Please take a look at what we have listed here and let me know if you are available for any of the following. I can be reached at heather.blackman@simkincentre.ca or 204-589-9008.
Save the date! The Simkin Stroll is on June 25th this year and we need tons of volunteers to assist. This is our annual fundraiser and there is something for everyone to help with from walking with Residents in the Stroll to manning booths and tables, event set up and take down and much more. Volunteers will be needed from 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on this day. Come and help for the full event or for any period within that timeframe that works for you.
Resident Store – This tuck shop style cart will be up for business shortly. Residents will be assisting to stock and run the store for 2 hours 2- 3 times per week in the afternoons. Volunteer support is needed to assist residents with restocking items and monetary transactions.
Passover Volunteers
Volunteers are needed to assist with plating Seder plates for Residents (date to be determined for plating)
Volunteers are needed to assist Residents to and from Passover Services and Come and Go Teas.
Times volunteers are needed for services/teas:
April 22cnd – First Seder 1:30-3:30 p.m.
April 23rd – Passover Service Day 1 – 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
April 23rd – Second Seder – 1:30-3:30 p.m.
April 24th – Passover Service – Day 2 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
April 29th – Passover Service – 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
April 29th- Passover Tea – 1:30-3:30 p.m.
April 30th – Passover Service – 9:30 -11:30 a.m.
April 30th – Passover Tea – 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Admin/Paperwork Volunteers – Volunteers are needed to assist with filing and other administrative duties. A monthly volunteering job is also available to input information on programming into Recreation activity calendars. Support would be provided for this.
Adult Day Program – A volunteer is needed to assist with the Mondays Adult Day Program Group. A regular ongoing weekly commitment on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Assist with Recreation programming and lunch supervision for our Adult Day Program participants that come in from the community for the day.
Biking Volunteers – Take our residents out for a spin on one of our specialty mobility bicycles. Training is provided and volunteers will be needed throughout the Spring, Summer and early Fall.

With summer coming there is also opportunity to assist with outings and other outdoor programming! Please let me know if you are interested!

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Local News

From Argentina to Winnipeg – creating opportunities in the IT sector for marginalized groups

By BERNIE BELLAN The following article about Pablo Listingart borrows heavily from articles written by Rebeca Kuropatwa in 2019 and 2021 for The Jewish Post & News. It is also based on a recent phone interview I conducted with Pablo, as well as material we received from a publicist.
Back in 2012, husband and wife, Pablo Listingart and Solange Flomin began seriously thinking about leaving Argentina.
This, explained Listingart, was “because of the political situation and other aspects [that] were degrading. We also wanted to have the experience of living in another country.”
So, the couple began traveling to explore other countries. They went to the U.S., but did not feel it was a good fit. Then, they went to several countries in Europe, but with a similar result.
Next up was Canada. “My wife had a cousin living in Vancouver and she spoke really highly about Canada,” said Listingart. “We started doing our research and sent emails to several Jewish communities. A couple answered, but communication with Winnipeg was more responsive.”
In October 2013 Listingart visited Winnipeg (while Flomin was pregnant with their first child). “After only two days, I fell in love with the city, the brown of the trees, how quiet it was,” said Listingart. “So, I called Sol and told her that this was the place.”
When Listingart returned to Argentina, he and Flomin started working on their application. The process took 10 months, as their son was born in the middle of the process.
The family made their move to Winnipeg in early March 2015.
Flomin and Listingart feel at home in Winnipeg. “We feel more Canadian than Argentinean, with cultures, values, and everything,” said Listingart. “That is the reason we are here, actually. We did not come for economic reasons. We didn’t feel that comfortable in terms of values and principles back there. Once I came here, I fell in love with the Canadian culture and values.”

Listingart had started up a charity in Argentina in 2011 that taught participants how to do software development. In Winnipeg, Flomin urged him to create the same kind of start up.
Today, Listingart’s charities, called Comunidad IT & ComIT, have operations in Latin America and Canada.
As an immigrant himself, Pablo explains that he started ComIT after immigrating from Argentina to Manitoba and seeing a gap in Canada’s education system. He noticed many individuals working survival jobs to help support their families, unable to get the training they wanted to better their positions.

In response, he developed a market-driven curriculum that he initially delivered to students by covering expenses himself. In 2016, Pablo Listingart became the founder and executive director of ComIT, a Canadian non-profit organization that offers free technology and professional skills training to unemployed and underemployed Canadians, with a focus on Indigenous, immigrants, visible minorities, and underserved communities. The charity aims to develop a community that links people struggling to overcome employment barriers with companies looking for skilled workers.
Women take up the majority of his enrolment. Many of them feel they can’t enter into a traditional program to enhance their educational skills due to barriers like limited access to funding, training locations, professional requirements, also family obligations, and lack of childcare. ComIT’s curriculum is designed to appeal to people who fall into that category by being free of charge, available online, and taught for only parts of the day.

Listingart and Flomin began running the charity together around raising their two kids.
“I had worked for several companies, like Microsoft, IBM, and others,” said Listingart. “Back in 2011, I thought about giving back to the community and society, and so I decided to start this charity. Those years back in Argentina were kind of busy and, with all the political issues over there, we decided to migrate here to Winnipeg.”
With the perpetually expanding operation of their growing charity, Listingart, as the charity’s executive director, was kept busy, and for the first few years of operating ComIT he even found time to build mobile applications and websites, but these days Listingart says that running ComIT takes up his full time.

ComIT in Canada began by running pilot programs in Winnipeg and in Kitchener-Waterloo. In Winnipeg, Listingart ran the classes with the support of ICTAM (now TechMB), and, in Kitchener-Waterloo, two of the main Canadian sponsors were Communitech and Google.
“That went really well, in terms of people getting jobs, so I kept doing it,” said Listingart. ComIT jumped from offering two courses to 22 courses per year – covering all the Canadian territory.
By 2023 Comunidad IT and ComIT had helped 4500 people find jobs (1200 in Canada). “Unfortunately,” Listingart explained, “people drop out for different reasons through the process, so we are not able to help everyone who joins the courses.” During our phone interview Listingart said that his charities have now trained over 6,500 students altogether.
“About 70 percent get jobs within six months of the training,” said Listingart. “We follow up with them, help them with their resumés…We have a free platform companies can access and see the resumés.”
Training is conducted in classrooms and online. “The impact is always bigger in person”, said Listingart. “We started developing content to be delivered online prior to the pandemic, mostly for Latin America, as a way to reach people we couldn’t physically reach, not having the funds to go to 15 countries, and then during the pandemic we developed even more content to continue running our training.”
While Listingart would love to be able to operate everywhere around the world, financially, that is not yet viable, but he was able to expand what he offers to all of Latin America and across Canada.

Listingart is no longer teaching in the program, due to a lack of time, though he does visit the classes when he is able. While only two years ago, ComIT was training 300 people a year in its courses in Canada, it has now grown to the point where 600 people a year are taking courses from ComIT.
As Listingart told me, “We actually doubled the number of students we had when I talked to Rebecca (in 2021). What happened, he explained, was “we were in the middle of the pandemic and we moved all the training online due to COVID. We are still running courses online, and that has allowed us to reach out to more people.”
“So nowadays we have students from Prince Edward Island to the Yukon,” Listingart added.
I asked Listingart where the funding for ComIT comes from?
He answered that most of it comes from the private sector, but a portion comes from a federal government agency known as PrairiesCan.
So, how exactly does ComIT conduct classes? I wondered.
Training is conducted by instructors in classrooms or online, where they reach their students via Zoom.
At ComIT, all training is provided free of charge. Trainees can hold a full-time job, while training in the evenings or mornings for only a couple of hours a day for three months.
While right now ComIT is conducting eight different classes, Listingart explained,\ – “with eight different instructors,” because “we run different topics along the year, it’s usually between 12 to 15 people that get involved in teaching courses.”
And what do students learn in those courses?
The program consists of three months of intensive instruction in various fields related to software programming.
“Most of the people that we train go on to be programmers,” Listingart said, adding that the majority of our graduates become software developers or website designers,” adding that “some are working in cybersecurity or other hardware related fields.”
The minimum age to register for a ComIT program is only 18 and there is no prerequisite level of education required.
While a good many of ComIT students are immigrants who may lack the kind of English language skills necessary to be hired by many employers, ComIT also has many Indigenous students as well as non-indigenous Canadians who are struggling.
Still, as Listingart says, students in the program have to be able to communicate. They “don’t need perfect English,” he adds, “they don’t even need a mid-level English,” but they do need “some basic communication skills.”
But it’s not simply a matter of someone applying to take ComIT courses and being automatically accepted, Listingart explained.
“We ask them (prospective students) a lot of questions,” he said. “We ask them what their goals are, like, if they are pursuing a career in IT or if they are interested in that… many things to gauge their interest. Those conversations help us understand whether these people can communicate with others.”
When it comes to finding jobs for graduates of the ComIT program, Listingart says that he and other members of his team meet with local employers who are looking for IT talent and discuss their exact needs within the industry.”
“We train them in what companies need right now,” said Listingart. “So, let’s say I go to Saskatoon and I talk to 10 or 15 companies over there…about 70 percent get jobs within six months of the training,” he noted. “We follow up with them, help them with their resumés…We have a free platform companies can access and see the resumés.”
Skip the Dishes, for instance, was on the fence for a very short time. They hired five out of seven ComIT trainees almost on the spot after they were interviewed – and soon after, the company became one of the charity’s local sponsors. To date, Skip the Dishes has hired 55 ComIT-trained students.
“My goal, so to speak…is to give opportunity to people who can’t afford other types of training and give them a first chance,” said Listingart. “We mention this at the beginning of every course. They only have one chance with us. We don’t give second chances. If they drop out for any reason, regret it, and want to come back, they can’t. I have hundreds of people on the waiting list to take courses. For me, this is a way to teach the value of work and, while doing it, you have the chance to work a job that pays well, that you can grow and learn…And, it’s not just for nerds, it’s creative work.
“My goal also has been to make the biggest impact that I can and …I’m happy with the results.”
If you are an employer interested in finding out more about ComIT or you know someone who might benefit by taking the program, visit

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