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Avis's Place anniversary brings joy, tears

The Brandon Sun - 7/22/2019

Avis Bootsman never got to see her dream of a safe and welcoming place for those in the community with intellectual disabilities come to fruition.

Bootsman, a community services worker, died of cancer in 2009, just four months before Avis’s Place on Sixth Street in downtown Brandon opened its doors.

On Saturday, Bootsman’s family joined in celebrating the drop-in centre’s 10th year with a block party and cake-cutting.

“This was her dream,” said Bootsman’s husband, Bill, choking back tears as he struggled to speak to a reporter. “She would be proud.”

Kady Sinclair, Bootsman’s daughter, said her mother spent years working toward her goal.

“She worked with people with disabilities, and she was a very big advocate for them,” Sinclair said, as drop-in members and other visitors enjoyed the festivities.

“Before this place opened up, she wanted a place for people with disabilities to come. There’s nothing like this in Brandon,” she said, wiping away a tear. “She just wanted somewhere they could come to hang out and be a part of the community.”

Operating under the umbrella of Career Connections Inc., which assists individuals with intellectual disabilities gain employment, Avis’s Place is unique in Manitoba, said Career Connections executive director Tracy Williams.

Williams was part of a committee that spent four or five years working toward opening the centre.

“We needed a specific location that had enough space and was accessible,” she said. The building on Sixth Street fit the bill.

In addition to serving as a drop-in centre, the non-profit organization offers various programming and subsidizes some of the cost of special outings for its members, such as Whiskey Jacks games and winter and summer fairs.

Dependent on provincial funding, donations and renting out the centre, Avis’s Place charges $1 for a lifetime membership.

The only requirement is that individuals with intellectual disabilities are eligible for support through Community Living Disability Services.

Williams said the block party was a way to celebrate not only being around for 10 years, but to let people know it exists “and to help the community understand that people with intellectual disabilities have great abilities. They are contributing members of the community.”

Murray White said he spends as much time as he can at the drop-in centre.

“It’s awesome,” he said after performing a traditional Indigenous men’s dance for the audience in full regalia.

» brobertson@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @BudRobertson4

 
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