It’s a tall, unassuming, 18 story apartment building on Portage Avenue where countless commuters drive by it daily. It’s not far from the downtown core, and to most Winnipeggers the building labelled “Lions Place”, looks like any other 55+ residence.
Lions Place, under the Lions Housing Centres umbrella, has a unique and truly one-of-a-kind feature in their building, and you’ll find it tucked away in the back on the main floor, The Greenhouse, a little touch of nature that is also attached to a backyard garden for the resident’s enjoyment.
On any given day, if you wander through the space that boasts tall ceilings and plenty of natural light, there’s a very good chance you’ll find long-time resident Dorothy Wilk. Wilk moved into the building back in 2007, and it was because of this very amenity that she decided to call it home.
“Yes, the Greenhouse is what brought me here,” she laughs. “My son accidentally found this building, and thought yes, my mom would enjoy it here.”
Now, she’s not just enjoying it, Wilk has made it her “baby”.
She heads up a small group of volunteers and has taken it upon herself to make sure the space is attractive, clean, and of course full of foliage. Wilk oversees the buying of the plants, soil, fertilizers, and any supplies needed – all reimbursed, of course, by Lions Housing Centres.
After a new organizational structure was put in place in 2020, Lions Place has seen many improvements throughout the building – but the one Wilk is most happy about is the Greenhouse restoration project, where the renovations are now almost fully complete. A project that began this past summer now sees new cabinetry, flooring, lighting, and paint – the choice of colour an honour bestowed upon Wilk and a few other volunteers. It’s now given the space a new life after years of being overlooked by previous management.
“I was delighted because nothing had been done since I have been involved, which is approximately 15 years,” she muses, “other than what the volunteers had finished on their own.”
While she is never short of volunteers for the greenhouse, it’s the outside garden in the backyard that is a bit more work to recruit help. This area -slated for improvements of its’ own in the summer of 2022 – gets TLC from Lions Place maintenance staff who look after the outside plots, shrubbery, and weeds, all of course under a watchful eye from Wilk who has high standards. Nestled in amongst the shrubs is the Memory Garden, started by the residents in 2012. It’s a space devoted to friends who have passed away at Lions Place. Roses and lilies adorn the area, all courtesy of residents who provided the plants or the funds to honour them.
For Wilk, who turns 92 in February, there is nowhere else she’d rather be, and loves nothing more than taking the time to talk to residents and tour them around the greenhouse. She wouldn’t trade her work in the space for anything.
“It just makes me feel valued as a member of society, that I’m useful,” she smiles. “Doesn’t matter the age you are, you can always be useful.”
If you would like to donate to the Greenhouse restoration project, or the upcoming garden improvements please visit their website at www.lhc.ca.
– Michelle Lissel