North End pay-it-forward gardening growing

 

Students beautify school, give flowers to seniors centre after businessman’s exampleNiji Makhwa 1

By: Ashley Prest

Grade 5 student Ethan Pierra plants day lilies in garden in front of his school. (CELINE BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Niji Makwha 2Grade 5 student Caitlin Paul plants day lilies in garden in front of school. (CELINE BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Goodwill is in the air in the North End of Winnipeg — and it’s contagious.

Niji Mahkwa School grounds were under construction Thursday as Grade 5 and 6 students continued the good work that was started earlier this month by local property developer Michel Morin.

“It is contagious,” said Morin, who set up and carried out the landscaping project for Niji Mahkwa School with several partners. “It gets people thinking that if you do something positive and you don’t expect anything, sometimes other people will pick up on it and pay it forward by doing things for others.”

The students planted various types of vegetation on the newly landscaped frontage of their school just in time to be viewed by visitors at today’s third annual National Aboriginal Day Celebration on Powers Street at Selkirk Avenue.

“It is contagious. It gets people thinking that if you do something positive and you don’t expect anything, sometimes other people will pick up on it and pay it forward by doing things for others’

– Michel Morin, who set up and carried out the landscaping project for Niji Mahkwa School with several partners

Their plan for next week is to donate eight to 10 planters of flowers, which normally would have gone in front of their school, to the KeKiNan senior centre to spruce up that property.

“The pay-it-forward process is a wonderful concept,” said Rob Riel, Niji Mahkwa School principal. “There’s a lot of great messages here: respecting Mother Earth; the pride that people in the community (feel) about this school; and that they’ve made a difference for someone else.”

Morin, with partner Lacoste Garden Centre, had earlier this month landscaped the frontages of his property and two others free of charge to improve and bring a more positive image to the neighbourhood.

He was assisted by students from Champlain School who then received a donation of $2,000 from Morin for them to pay it forward. They shared the money between four charities.

After hearing about that project, Riel approached Morin at last week’s North End Community Renewal Corporation annual general meeting, and told Morin about the Niji Mahkwa’s pay-it-forward plan to beautify the seniors’ residence. Morin was on board.

Morin designed the Niji Mahkwa School landscaping plan and was joined by Regier Excavating and Bedrock Custom Landscaping, who donated their time to dig up the site and put in topsoil while Lacoste Garden Centre donated trees, shrubs and other plants. The work was done over two evenings.

“Michel and his partners really injected some life into the school and community by adding this greenery. It’s just amazing how adding just a little bit of love to something, how far it will go,” Riel said.

On Thursday afternoon, the 20 mostly Grade 6 students planted perennials to complete the project.

“We had seven guys last night (Wednesday), who came after they had worked all day, to help us get the big stuff done — just to help an inner-city school,” Morin said. “Someone who lives across the street walked over with water bottles for all of us. That’s great community spirit.”

Prior to the planting, Morin brought a professional gardener to the school to make a presentation to the students about soil, root structure and planting techniques.

“It’s just a positive, and (it) makes you feel good that day, when you hear people doing good things,” Morin said. “It’s like when someone buys the coffee for the person behind them, it has the same effect, just a different initiative.”