Reflecting on 35 years of evolving with the community

By Allison Seymour

The MPCC is celebrating its 35-year anniversary since it was incorporated!

Looking through past annual reports and Manor Park Chronicle articles, this beloved community asset has a rich history. It began as a council to run the public school board’s ‘Lighthouse’ programs, i.e. extracurricular, continuing education, etc. (Board Chair: Kathy Southee 1986-87) , and since then has grown and matured into the organization it is today.

The MPCC has had the benefit of strong community support, volunteerism and management. There have been over a dozen chairs through the years including Jennifer Thiessen and Erin Yoshida who share their reflections below.

It was also interesting to see the evolution of programming at the MPCC, though at its core it has always been focused on providing the highest quality of recreational programs as well as many other classes and camps to meet the needs of Manor Park residents. In the past, programming has included everything from highland dancing and drama classes to workshops on investing in the stock market.

The dedication and creativity of past leadership set a solid foundation for growth over the years and the organization has risen up to capture many opportunities always with a goal of enhancing and strengthening community support, connection and engagement.

Lana Burpee, executive director since 2005, noted, We undergo an organizational restructuring about every five years. We run approximately the same programs with a few name changes or trials popping in and out, and have always been committed to meeting community needs, fiscal stability, and extending our reach.”

This is a sign of a healthy organization and visionary leadership, understanding that renewal is vital while remaining true to the organizations core values. Related to this, the Board with senior leadership has just kicked off the renewal of the MPCC strategic plan to guide our evolution over the next three to five years.

Here are some other milestones of significance over the past 35 years:

  • 1987: the first meeting of the newly incorporated entity occurs on June 3; construction of Fieldhouse (community centre) begins; Mile Circle announced as possible site for new American Embassy
  • 1993: Kettle Island Bridge fight begins
  • 1996: “Lighthouse” programs in jeopardy as Ottawa-Carelton District School Board (OCDSB) cuts funding
  • 1997: Threats of operations continue as city reduces rink grant by 12 percent and sustaining grant by 10 percent with further cuts anticipated; OCDSB eliminates funding to Lighthouse programs while city steps up with funding for “recreation and community services”; Kettle Island Bridge fight begins again
  • 2001: MPCC defrauded by employee; rebuilding of organization begins with new hire Lana Burpee
  • 2002: Manor Park Playschool launched
  • 2005: First Chili Champ, Rick Eisert; organizational restructuring
  • 2006: First annual report published; new programs included Rally Cap (baseball), basketball, volleyball, Movie Nights
  • 2007: Prime Minister Stephen Harper drops puck at Manor Park Skating Party
  • 2008: Celebration events – 20th Anniversary of Fieldhouse / 60th Anniversary of Community; started Ottawa Marathon Hydration Station; new programs included floorball, flag rugby
  • 2009: Rock the Block launched; $30,000 given to build new play structure; economic uncertainty; new programs included zumba, floorball league
  • 2010: John Deere tractor purchased to clear rinks
  • 2011: Record levels of participation; begin building financial reserves for community centre (fieldhouse) renovations; financial contribution to Manor Park School gym and sound system renovations
  • 2012: Full-day kindergarten launched; “Before- and After-School in Manor Park’ program becomes licensed child care; new programs included Nordic Walking, Totally Toned, partnership with Bytown Blues RC
  • 2014: Online registration system launched; new programs included cricket, cross training
  • 2015: Double digit growth in before- and after-school program; move to cloud computing; new programs included Nutrition Break Arts, MakeIt!
  • 2017: Ribbon-cutting for refurbished tennis courts; community centre (fieldhouse) renovations begin; organizational restructuring; community gardens established
  • 2018: Ribbon-cutting opening for renovated Manor Park Community Centre
  • 2019: First Pints in the Park; Opportunity Fund launched 2020: COVID-19 pandemic begins March 17; Ottawa Cares launched
  • 2021: Pandemic continues; Manor Park Playschool licensed as child care; 1805 Gaspé offered to MPCC for community use by Aggarwal family; launch of “the Backyard”
  • 2022: Expansion to Gaspé as lead for community program begins; in person programming starts back up; host Sunset Soiree; and more to come . . .

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the community and all those who have volunteered over the years to support MPCC so it can keep providing exceptional programming and services to meet the evolving needs of the community.

Reflections from past MPCC chairs

Erin Yoshida

I served as chair/co-chair of the MPCC from 2009 to 2013. Like a child who grows and acquires new interests and abilities, the MPCC has matured and added to its core strengths. It had always been the go-to organization for children’s programming, but in recent years has added more adult-oriented activities and social events, utilized new programming spaces (e.g., St. Columba Church and the Backyard), and developed a savvy Internet and social media presence.

One success I am particularly proud of is the licensing of the After School Program. Although it was burdensome to establish, it enabled the program to expand to a size where most neighborhood families had the opportunity to benefit from it, and families from all economic backgrounds could now be supported.

Even as the organization has evolved, I feel it has stayed true to its mission of building community spirit and fostering inclusiveness. At the next “Pints in the Park”, let’s raise a glass to the 35th anniversary of the Manor Park Community Council.

Jennifer Thiessen

Reflecting on my time volunteering with the Manor Park Community Council brings to mind positive memories, a sense of satisfaction, as well as a feeling of hope for the future of the MPCC. During my time as co-chair, we participated in long-term planning, discussed how to recruit more volunteers, and began the community centre renovation. Despite, or because of, COVID-19, the MPCC has continued to innovate and creatively plan for the future. I was excited to learn of new possibilities for programming at the Gaspé location, as well as the licensing of the child-care program.

One of the things I am most proud of from my time with the MPCC is the commitment to caring for members of the community. From the Opportunity Fund to surveys, to hiring practices, the MPCC was always striving to meet the needs of its community members. Congrats to 35 years MPCC and here’s to many, many more!

Marianne van der Jagt

To help me with writing this piece I looked at old editions of the Chronicle, specifically the one from September 1996.

It was fun to be reminded of the fact that the council used to organize a large July 1 party, complete with face-painting, food and fireworks and about 400 people in attendance. That same year, the Manor Park Home & School received a directive from the OCDSB to change its name to the Manor Park School Council. In order to avoid confusion with that group, the Manor Park Community School Council became the Manor Park Community Council (MPCC).

Another interesting note is that 1996 was also the year that the city started planning to replace the former wading pool with a water-play facility beside the field house. So many years later MPCC has seen many more changes but continues to be a major resource for the
Manor Park community.