Paying it Forward in the North End

Paying it Forward in the North End

As a business owner in the North End, Michel Morin knows seeing is believing.

So when he planned to do something to improve his neighbourhood, Morin decided to make it visual and interactive.

In the next few weeks, he will lead two community projects under the pay-it-forward concept.

Five Main Street buildings will have their frontages landscaped at no charge and 20 Grade 6 children from Champlain School will help build a butterfly garden and receive a $2,000 donation from Morin to pay for another community project.

“This is just about doing something good in the neighbourhood. We look at this as a great opportunity to showcase the North End,” said Morin, a native of St. Pierre-Jolys, whose North Winds property development company is run from his 1261 Main St. building.

‘This is just about doing something good in the neighbourhood. We look at this¬† as a great opportunity to showcase the North End’¬† — North End business owner Michel MorinMichel Morin and Pay Forward

“Through the North End, there’s 40,000 commuters going through there. They will see there is positive stuff going on.

“The North End has a lot of potential, and sometimes that gets left out or not noticed. I want people to see there’s a community behind the concrete.”

Morin said he will cover the cost to landscape the frontage of his building and two nearby properties. Lacoste Garden Centre, his supplier, has teamed up with him and will provide landscaping for two other frontages.

Morin and the students from Champlain School, a neighbourhood nursery-to-Grade 6 school, will join forces to plant butterfly-friendly vegetation and create a community seating area on his North Winds property.

“The students are going to come and we’re going to create a little butterfly garden area.

“We’ll plant around it and put a couple of seats there and put a plaque on the wall thanking them for helping us,” he said, adding the landscaping and butterfly garden will be completed by mid-June.

“It will be in a place where the kids and families are walking and can come and enjoy it.”

Morin said he will provide a professional gardener to give direction and speak to the students about root structure, soil types, ecosystems and the importance of plants to the environment.

Champlain School principal Maxine Geller said Morin’s garden project fits with the school’s philanthropy program, called Opportunities, for grades 5 and 6 students.

The students volunteer and offer community services such as visiting and interacting with residents of the Holy Family Nursing Home twice a month.

“We’ve put some gardens in here on our school property, so this (Morin’s initiative) really ties in with how we’re helping to make a better community and help the kids learn that it’s OK to give back,” Geller said. “The students take pride in what they see and what they’re doing.”

As for the $2,000 donation, Morin said the students and their teacher will direct the money to their own community initiative.

“Instead of receiving it, they will be giving it, so it’s a learning experience for the kids to help their community and pass something on to someone else. It will be fun,” Morin said.

“They can split it up and give it to four (projects) — it’s up to them.”

Morin said the newly landscaped buildings will be in a “cluster” in the same vicinity.

“You’ll have both sides of the street with a punch of colour and vegetation,” he said. “Seeing that just makes you feel good.”

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2013 B3