UNFC holds appreciation barbecue for first responders

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

The United Native Friendship Centre (UNFC) held an appreciation barbecue for first responders and other partners.

The barbecue took place at the UNFC’s parking lot, with tables set up to follow physical distancing guidelines. About 200 meals were given to those who attended the event in-person. More meals, along with gifts of appreciation, were delivered to the hospital and Canada Border Service Agency workers.

Sheila McMahon, UNFC executive director, said this dinner has been in the works for a long time. McMahon added that the UNFC wants the community to know how hard their partners worked to keep the community safe and healthy.

“During the past 18 months through COVID, we relied on our first responders, police and all community helpers,” McMahon said. “They were with us when we were open and servicing the community through COVID-19. The Board of Directors wanted to thank them and show them that we do appreciate them as partners in our community. We just wanted to show them that we’re aware of their hard work.”

McMahon added that she went to every table and told attendees how much they are appreciated.

“I thanked them for coming. It was very well received,” McMahon said. “We had Treaty 3 Police and the Bear Clan because they do a lot of hard work. Everybody was thankful we did this for them. I just want the community to know that we appreciate the help and the UNGC is here to help and provide as much support to the community.”

Although this is not an annual event, the UNFC strives to maintain a good relationship with first responders, including the fire crew, the police and the Northwestern Health Unit.

The Health Access Centre opened up the doors and set up vaccination clinics where they were able to get their members and other community members vaccinated, McMahon added.

“We’ve been partners with the Health Access Centre since they opened,” McMahon said. “They help us provide services and a new partnership we’ve developed is with the Fort Frances Health Team. Now that we have the space at our new building, we’re beginning to bring in healthcare services into the UNFC itself with the Family Health Team and with the Health Access Centre.”

Concerning future events, the UNFC will likely cancel their Nov. 11 pow wow where they honour the veterans. McMahon said this is because the event will be indoors.

The United Native Friendship Centre held an Appreciation Barbecue for the region’s first responders last week. The event was a way for the organization to say thank you for all the support community helpers provide. – Merna Emara photo

However, the youth programs are up and running.

“We’ve started back with our cultural programs and the drumming,” McMahon said. “We have our groups that are starting with in-house programming. We have a yoga class on Wednesday afternoon where some women come in from the community and join.”

The UNFC is also in their fourth phase of renovations. They received funding from the provincial and federal governments to make the building more accessible.

“We’re going to be putting an elevator in the building,” McMahon said. “Our main floor is accessible, but to go to the other two floors, some of our community members would have a hard time. We’re still under construction.”

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