Jeff Gaye

St. Paul Champions for Change held its annual general meeting March 16. The community organization  reflected on its accomplishments over the past year and looked ahead to new initiatives and ongoing projects.

President Penny Fox said the organization had a bit of a quieter year, but two highlights stood out: the installation of the “We All Dance” sculpture downtown, and the dedication of the new “21 Strands” monument in Lagasse Park.

Fox complimented Herman Poulin and community volunteers for the We All Dance piece.

“From the design of the characters, the cutting of the metal, the cement/stone base, and the many that provided elbow grease for the more than 1,000 screws and bolts, this is truly a St. Paul project,” she said.

“This has changed the face of our downtown to become a showpiece, and we are anxious to show the nation this work as we highlight the park in the Communities In Bloom national competition in 2020.”

She said the 21 Strands site, which commemorates the internment of Eastern European Canadians during and after the First World War, is one of the best places in the country to study that history.

Champions for Change led or participated in a dozen projects over the course of the year, including downtown events (Rock the Block, Shiverfest) and cultural initiatives.

The organization’s “Thrive On Wellness” committee completed its Food Benchmarking Project report, and was inspired to follow it up with more data. The project will get a sense of young residents’ food choices and eating habits so it will be able to measure any changes over time.

That committee also continued its “Incredible Edibles” plant barrels. Despite some weather setbacks, they were able to grow plants that were both decorative and edible.

The Downtown Revitalization Committee reported that its 2019 goals were completed on time and on budget. Their 2020 plan is to install a covered stage in the downtown park and organize weekly downtown activities.

Fox said Champions for Change is grateful to everyone who helped out over the past year.

“This is the time for us to say a big thank-you for the continued commitment by our volunteers and partners,” she said. “Without that continued interest, excitement, and hard work, none of this would have been achieved.

“I believe everyone in this room can be proud of what we have done together this year.”

“21 Strands” is a stark reminder of stolen liberty.  JEFF GAYE