By Karen Martens (Village Senior and Local Project Coordinator)
On Thursday, November8 at 5:00 p.m. a group of 60 people came together at the Neubergthal Community Centre to enjoy a Mexican Mennonite Enchilada meal.
This meal was prepared by Sara Abrams, one of the seniors participating in the project. Sara immigrated to Canada from Mexico in the 1980’s and settled in Neubergthal with her husband Johann and family.
November 8 not only highlighted the diversity of ethnic Mennonite food, but also marked a very special time in the village life of Neubergthal. This was the last community meal to be served in this centre. The Neubergthal Community Centre was built in 1976 to accommodate a village centennial celebration.
Oral history tells us that our ancestors immigrated to Canada from Russia and settled in the Manitoba barren prairies and created what is now a one street village of Neubergthal. Earlier the village gathered in a church building or in the school.
Both the church and the school were closed and moved away in the late 1960’s so when the centennial celebration planning began, the need for a gathering place became important again and a community centre was constructed by village residents for the village.
Special People & Events
Over the past 40 years the Community centre has been the gathering place for many village events, such as Christmas programs and parties, village picnics, church services, soup and pie fundraisers, faspa for family funerals and other seasonal gatherings, workshops and meetings and hosting tour groups. My early personal memory includes opening our wedding gifts at the community centre in 1977.
Another reason to gather on Nov. 8 was to recognize the contribution Anne Friesen made to life in the village. Anne over the years has played many roles in the life of the village and in the last years the management of the community centre rested primarily on her shoulders. Her family and village volunteers helped her with this task. As a thank you, a cake was made in her honour. Ray Hamm, another dedicated community centre volunteer, presented Anne with a gift certificate attached
to a ribbon on a plunger. The gift certificate included a full body message from our local village Message Therapist, Julie Braun. The plunger was chosen to symbolize all the plumbing issues Anne had to deal over the years.
Many of us just use the centre and take for granted our water supply and heating etc., etc. Anne was the one to keep an eye on the thermostat and the heating bills.
This last year in the cold winter days the thermostat was turned off accidently and all the water pipes froze and created a lot of damage! In spring we were not sure if the centre would be available to us anymore.
Again, a village resident, Terry Mierau, agreed to tackle this huge plumbing repair task and we were able to use the centre this summer. This fall, Anne Friesen announced her retirement from this job.
The Neubergthal Community Centre will be available to the village until Dec. 31, 2018. The community centre building and yard now belongs to new owners. Arrangements have been made for the skating rink to be made at the same place this year but the management will now fall on other village residents.
A third reason to gather on Nov. 8 was to raise money to help fund the cost of making an outdoor skating rink this winter. Over $500 was raised that day to help cover the cost of water and electricity. A skating rink has been part of the village for many years.
A former villager, Johnny Kehler, with a passion and expertise created many wonderful outdoor skating rinks. Again, the village will need to reorganize, since Johnny passed away this spring.
So we gathered on Nov. 8 to enjoy an Enchilada Mexican meal, to say thank you to Anne Friesen, and to raise money to help fund the upcoming outdoor skating rink. There is a saying “it takes a village to raise a child.”
When church and school, two very formative institutions, were moved out of the village, Neubergthal Community Centre became the gathering place and in a unique way contributed to the social life of many villagers and played a role in raising their children.
For Anne Friesen, who strongly supported village life, it became easier for her to decide to retire from her role when she could clearly see that the Neubergthal Heritage Foundation was in the process of opening a newly renovated historical barn, in another location. The newly designated site called “Neubergthal Commons”will give opportunity for Neubergthal villagers to continue to have a meeting place (with upgraded plumbing!).
A big thank you goes out to Wonjae Song and Olivia Do who took an interest in Neubergthal last spring.
They encouraged me to pull together ethnic foods made by seniors in the neighborhood and suggested that in one of our events we organize a fundraiser. Nov 8. was that event plus a little more!