New warehouse serves thousands of clients with dignity and respect
Cathy Ireton, a volunteer at Centre Flavie Laurent, unpacks endless boxes of clothing, books, and household items, all of which will be provided free of charge to newcomers and people transitioning out of homelessness. “I get emotional sometimes when I see these people come in that have nothing,” Ireton says, “it just rips at my heartstrings.”
For more than 40 years, Centre Flavie Laurent has worked to provide dignity to Winnipeggers affected by poverty. Last year the organization served more than 10,000 clients, received 23,000+ donations, and distributed more than 60,000 free items, including clothing, household items, furniture, and beds.
Soaring levels of demand coupled with a rise in donations led the organization to move into a new, 13,000 square-foot building at 301 Archibald Street in September 2022. Ireton says the new location has more space for donations, volunteer workstations, and to display items, creating a better browsing experience for those looking for items.
When people arrive at the warehouse, they are issued a number and wait until it is their turn to browse. Clients have about one hour to look around and gather items they want. Those without a vehicle who are selecting larger items can arrange a low-cost delivery.
Centre Flavie Laurent’s Executive Director, Gilbert Vielfaure, explains “people have a lot to contend with already, and if we can create an environment that’s more conducive to them enjoying the experience… I think that’s something we should be striving for.” He says the primary goal is to respectfully meet clients, whose circumstances and life experiences vary broadly, where they are at. Vielfaure constantly reminds staff that “we might be the only good morning that person is going to get. So, let’s always be mindful of that.”
Vielfaure has worked in the philanthropic sector for more than 30 years, 18 of which have been with Centre Flavie. He says without volunteers and community partners, the organization’s important work would not be possible: “The strength of impact and the frequency and dependency on the impact received from The Winnipeg Foundation, has been immeasurable over the years. We wouldn’t be where we are now.”
Centre Flavie Laurent recently received a $250,000 grant from The Winnipeg Foundation for its new warehouse space. The organization is responsive to community need, filling a significant gap in the non-profit sector by helping vulnerable people acquire essentials needed to create a functional, comfortable home.
Centre Flavie also creates a sense of belonging and community among staff and volunteers. “I can honestly say I’ve never gotten up one morning where I said I don’t want to go to work,” Vielfaure says. Ireton turns 75 next month and has volunteered with the organization for almost three years. She echoes his sentiment, saying, “I started volunteering just twice a week, and now I’m told that I can come every day if I want. I