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Cancercare Manitoba Foundation Chair Steven Kroft – a leader in the boardroom – and in the field

Kroft family l-r: Steve, Nathan, Lisa & Alex

Steven Kroft is an individual who believes in leading by example.  Thus, the newly-anointed Chair of the Board of the Cancercare Manitoba Foundation (as of June) has for the past couple of weeks been furiously working the pedals on his Peloton exercise bike raising money for the Foundation as a participant in its 13th annual Challenge for Life event.


Halfway through the 20-day Challenge for Life – which in the past has been a one-day, 20km walk – Kroft reported that he had already added over 100 km to his Peloton mileage gauge.

And, among the top individual fundraisers, he was – as of August 11 – in seventh place – having almost doubled his initial pledge.

“The response of Manitobans to our Challenge for Life this year has been amazing considering the circumstances,” he says.  “We have about 100 teams participating – about the same as last year.  While we have fewer participants, many more communities throughout the province have become involved.”

Whereas in previous Challenge for Life walks, everyone had to come into Winnipeg to take part,  this year’s event has been spread over almost three weeks. Participants can choose their form of exercise and take their time doing that exercise wherever they happen to live.

“We have teams and individuals from over 60 communities involved,” Kroft reports.  “This is the first time that we have had such a broad range of people participating.”

He adds that half way through the Challenge, more than $600,000 had been raised.  Generally, the annual campaign raises about $1 million.
“The generosity of Manitobans at this time is a real shot in the arm for all of us at Cancercare Manitoba and the Cancercare Manitoba Foundation,” he notes.

The son of Senator Richard and Hillaine Kroft has a long history of volunteerism in both the Jewish and general community.  In that regard, he is following in the path of his parents and other family members.
“As time went on, I made sure I had the necessary leadership in the business world that would allow me to devote a meaningful amount of my time to community,” he points out.

That family business is the Conviron group of companies, of which Kroft is currently CEO and executive chairman.  The business – which specializes in the design and manufacture of plant growth chambers and rooms for use in agricultural biotechnology and other life-science disciplines – was founded by his father in 1964.  Steven, a lawyer by training, joined the family business in 1997.
“I took over running the company when my father was appointed to the Senate in 1998,” he notes. “We sell our products in over 90 countries worldwide.”

Steven Kroft was introduced to community work in the early 1990s when David Cohen, than the executive director of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, invited the young Kroft to become a member of the JFM’s Scholarship Committee.  Kroft had recently returned to Winnipeg after earning his law degree at UBC.
Kroft was a JFM board member for 15-16 years, culminating in a term as president.  “It was a time of tremendous growth for the Foundation,” he recalls.
He also joined the board of the Sharon Home (Simkin Centre) at the specific invitation of the late Sol Kanee.
And, he served for two years as Chair of our community’s annual Combined Jewish Appeal campaign (2017-18 and 2018-19).

In the general community Kroft has served on the boards of the True North Foundation, Manitoba Hydro and the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, as well as the University of Manitoba’s President’s Advisory Committee – in addition to the Cancercare Manitoba Foundation.  He was also Chair of the Board of the Business Council of Manitoba from 2016-2017.

It was current Manitoba Lieutenant-Governor Janice Filmon – then the Cancercare Manitoba Foundation’s board chair – who recruited Kroft to the board.  “My dad had just beaten prostate cancer and our interactions with Cancercare Manitoba had been very positive,” Steven recalls.  “I knew other board members.  It was the right time for me to become involved.”

He describes Cancercare Manitoba Foundation as a “tremendous organization” and expresses strong support for executive director Annita Stenning and her management team.  “I became even more enthusiastic when I began to learn about the research that the Foundation funds,” he adds.  “In terms of expertise, Manitoba punches above its weight.  We are among the leaders in research and treatment across Canada.
“I am excited to be part of it.”

Steven and Lisa Kroft are the proud parents of sons Nathan and Alex.  Steven reports that Nathan will be graduating from the Asper School of Business next spring and Alex is studying economics and entrepreneurship at Duke University.

Whether either one will someday go into the family business is still uncertain.  Their father says that he is not putting any pressure on them. He adds though that Alex is demonstrating his entrepreneurial bent this summer. He and a friend have gone into the 3D printing business making shields for businesses for protection against the coronavirus and have sold hundreds of them.      

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Schmoozer’s now under management of Shaarey Zedek Catering

Jennifer Middleton of Shaarey Zedek Catering is the new manager of Schmoozer's

By BERNIE BELLAN Schmoozer’s restaurant at the Asper Campus is now under the management of the Shaarey Zedek catering department.
Apparently, according to Curtis Martin, Executive Director of the Asper Jewish Community Campus, the Shaarey Zedek has actually been operating Schmoozer’s since December 1, except for the time it was closed over the winter break.
The Shaarey Zedek officially took over Schmoozer’s as of Monday, January 8. Shaarey Zedek Catering has actually been located in the Schmoozer’s kitchen for some time now – since the Shaarey Zedek closed for renovations in the summer of 2022.
While Shaarey Zedek Executive Chef Joel Lafond is continuing to work at the Asper Campus location, the day to day management of Schmoozer’s is in the hands of Sous Chef Jennifer Middleton. Once the Shaarey Zedek’s renovations are complete, Lafond will move back there, while Middleton will remain at the campus. In addition to managing Schmoozer’s, Curtis Martin says that Middleton will also to continue to provide catering services for “on-site Campus agencies and events.”
One of the main differences now that Shaarey Zedek is operating Schmoozer’s is the expanded hours. Rather than opening at 10 am, which was when Schmoozer’s opened under its previous management, Schmoozer’s will now be open at 8 am, Monday – Friday. It will also be open until 6 pm Monday- Thursday, and until 3 pm on Fridays.
According to Joel Lafond, plans are to have Schmoozer’s open on Sundays as well, beginning in February.
As for the menu, it now features a number of breakfast items, such as bagels and breakfast platters, in addition to the usual lunch items, such as tuna salad, egg salad, grilled cheese, quinoa bowl, pizza, a variety of salads, soup, fries, pasta, and “Beyond Burgers.”
Lafond said that plans are also in the works to expand the menu. He mentioned falafel as an example of something new that will be available at Schmoozer’s in the not too distant future.

While it’s nice to see Schmoozer’s the fact that there have been so many different managers of that particular facility speaks to the difficulty inherent in trying to offer kosher food without running into huge financial problems.
I’m not privy to the financial exigencies that Schmoozer’s has faced over the years – ever since it first opened under the operation of Omnitsky’s – then run by Eppy Rappaport, in 1997. At first, just like everything else associated with the Campus in its early years, Schmoozer’s was teeming with customers. Eventually though, Eppy Rappaport moved to Vancouver. I don’t recall every single manager of Schmoozer’s since, but I know that Barb and Lisa Reiss managed it for quite some time, as did Maxine Shuster – for a very long time, until it was placed under the management of Beth Jacob in 2021.
I certainly wish Joel Lafond and Jennifer Middleton of Shaarey Zedek Catering well, but I’m sure they’re aware how difficult a challenge operating Schmoozer’s in the black presents.
At the same time we haven’t had a really good kosher restaurant in Winnipeg for years, not since the closing of Desserts Plus, maybe Bermax Caffé as well.
You can still eat kosher food at the Gwen Secter Centre, also the Garden Café in the Simkin Centre, but neither of them is the kind of place where you can simply drop in and enjoy a kosher meal (although the Garden Café is open for lunch Monday to Friday).

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Is the high cost of kosher food affecting the quality of food served at the Simkin Centre?

By BERNIE BELLAN From time to time I lead a discussion group at the Simkin Centre with residents there. It was when I was doing that recently that I was told something by one of the residents that quite shocked me. We were talking about the food at the Simkin Centre and I asked the residents how they liked it?
I asked residents how often they get served chicken and I was told “We get chicken, but only dark meat.” According to that resident all that the Simkin Centre serves residents are thighs and drumsticks.
I asked Simkin Centre CEO Laurie Cerqueti about that and she said she’d have to get back to me after checking with the food services manager. I also asked Laurie what the daily allowance is on a per capita basis for all meals? (By way of comparison, when I did a story about kosher food in 2018 I reported that daily allowance for Simkin Centre residents – for 3 meals, snacks, and special dietary needs, was only $8.75 per day per resident.)
Here’s what Laurie wrote back to me, in response to my question: : “The last official number I have for food is from the 21/22 fiscal year and it was $9.64 per day. I know for this year as of the end of October we are over budget on food by $150,000. We must continue to fund any costs on food from our existing annual budget or through fundraised dollars. We have not had any increases from government for any operational expenses in 15 years.”
Insofar as the issue of residents being served only dark meat from chickens was concerned, in a subsequent email I received from Laurie she wrote that white chicken meat is used in chicken schnitzel served to residents.
I know I’m beating my head against the wall when I suggest that the Simkin Centre ought to allow nonkosher food to be served. When I last checked with Laurie Cerqueti, 60% of the residents at Simkin weren’t even Jewish. As for the Jewish residents, for those who would want kosher food, it could be brought in from the Gwen Secter Centre. (By the way, that idea isn’t mine. It comes from a former CEO of the Simkin Centre who also thought it was ridiculous enforcing kashrut rules at Simkin when it mattered to only a tiny fraction of its total residents.)
For that matter, residents are already allowed to bring nonkosher food into the facility, but it has to be eaten either in their rooms or in the family visiting room, so the precedent is there – it’s only a matter of taking it to the next logical level.
But I know: Kashrut is a sacrosanct element of the Simkin Centre, isn’t it? So, even if the Simkin Centre is running a huge budget deficit on food –and that money must be taken out of other operations, it’s absolutely fundamental to the Simkin Centre that it continue to serve only kosher food – even if that means residents only get white chicken meat when it’s served in schnitzel.

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Winnipegger Shayna Wiwierski building up large following as beauty and lifestyle influencer

By MYRON LOVE “Growing up [in River Heights], I was always a girlie girl,” recalls social influencer Shayna Wiwierski. “I loved dressing up and doing my hair, and reading lifestyle and glamour magazines.”
In my experience, childhood interests are a good indicator of adult careers. In Wiwierski’s case, she has parlayed that passion for style and beauty into a position as a social influencer through her online blog, “A Pop of Colour.”
The daughter of Susan Engel-Wiwierski and the late David Wiwierski established A Pop of Colour in 201. Currently she has approximately 30,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram, and another 4,000 on TikTok.
Scrolling through Wiwierski’s Instagram, you will find photos and videos from her most recent vacations, her bridal shower (she is getting married in the summer of 2024), and regular daily leisure activities accompanied by beautiful photography and partnerships with various companies.
“When I started my blog, I was only offering beauty tips,” she recalls. “I have since added content focusing on lifestyle, travel, and fitness.”

In an interview she did with CTV five years ago, Wiwierski noted that, in the beginning, the costs for the beauty products that she promoted through her blog she paid for herself. Over the years though, she, as with sister social influencers, have established working relationships with companies which send her products to promote on her various social accounts.
Wiwierski points out that to be a successful social influencer requires a lot of time for setting up photo shoots, editing and posting of content, as well as monitoring the likes, comments, and overall feedback on the posts.

“I know a lot of people think social media is a super easy job to do, but it really does take a lot of time,” says Wiwierski. “From creating the content, planning the posts, and then seeing what does well and what doesn’t, there is a lot of time and effort involved if you want to be successful at it.”
Content creation isn’t Wiwierski’s full-time job. She says it’s her “5 to 9 after her 9 to 5”, as she is also the editorial director at DEL Communications Inc., a Winnipeg-based trade publication company. The company is a publisher of mostly annual industry and association magazines covering topics in a variety of niche industries.
“Although in high school [Grant Park High School], I originally wanted to be on TV, after I graduated from university in 2010, I had the opportunity to join DEL and I’ve been there ever since,” she says, adding that she has a Bachelor of Communications and Rhetoric from the University of Winnipeg and a diploma in Creative Communications from Red River Polytechnic (formerly Red River College).

For the past few years, Wiwierski has been dividing her time between Winnipeg and Montreal. She met her fiancée – who is originally from Ontario – when he was doing his residency in Winnipeg.
“Montreal is a great city,” she says. “People always ask me which one I love living in more, but I really do love both; they’re so different.”

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