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Transformed vacancy in downtown Wilkie now houses Prairie Branches

Wilkie residents are excited for the transition to downtown for the Prairie Branches headquarters

WILKIE — The curiosity has been satisfied and residents' questions as to what was taking place in a previously vacant building in downtown Wilkie are now answered. Prairie Branches headquarters in Wilkie will be in a new location.

After 10 years of leasing their former location, the organization knew they needed something that was more suited to their needs. As well, the current leased spaced was encountering some infrastructure problems.

Eunice Washkowsky, executive director of Prairie Branches, said, “For many years we wanted something designed specifically for our needs rather than trying to make the former school building work for our clients and staff. The opportunity to move to this downtown location came to us in late 2021 after three years of searching for a place in Wilkie large enough to accommodate us. “

Washkowsky said they formed a partnership with the building owner on the design and layout and the former grocery store building was renovated to suit their needs.

“This was an excellent opportunity to finally have a space that works for us. The owner is very accommodating and created the space based on our drawings and accessibility requirements. “

Prairie Branches headquarters will now be located at 206 - 2nd Ave. E. in the former Wilkie AG Foods building, across from Country Ford. Washkowsky says the location has been transformed into a beautiful corporate office and large programming space for their clients.

With the former AG Foods location vacant for many years, it certainly drew resident curiosity when work began at this location. Washkowsky said the building owner emptied the building and created a functional head office and day program centre. Prairie Branches worked closely with the owner in designing what the Prairie Branches team wanted in the 5,500 square-foot building.

The new headquarters will include seven offices, a large board room and training room, kitchen, three accessible washrooms, storage rooms, mechanical room, programming area and two sensory rooms. All new plumbing and electrical was installed in the building. The high ceilings make for a grand and inviting atmosphere. A large patio was also constructed near the parking lot and added a sea can to the property for extra storage.

New location offers many features

The move is set to be complete July 31 and the exterior renovations will be completed in late August. The next several weeks will include working on and organizing as well as adding signage and décor.

Washkowsky says, “Prairie Branches is very pleased to be back downtown where we can more easily access other services. It gives us more visibility in the community and is more inclusive for the clients that we serve. The entire building and property has been designed for our client and operational needs.”

“Some of the specific items for our client base include wheelchair accessibility, large programming space, proximity to downtown businesses and services, two beautiful sensory rooms and lots of natural light,” adds Washkowsky.

Prairie Branches have 130 staff in four communities serving 55 individuals. The organization serves close to 20 people in their Wilkie program, with approximately 60 staff. Seven of the 17 management and administration team work in the Wilkie head office including the executive director, executive assistant, finance manager, program coordinator, association director of human resources, associate director of operations and associate director of programming. Additionally, there are two to four day program and maintenance staff each day. The organization also has a nurse consultant in the building from time to time, with the remainder of the management team and day program centres in Biggar, Unity and Kerrobert.

Washkowsky reiterated that the fully wheelchair-accessible program was essential for maintaining quality of life for the Wilkie clientele, and that the large patio will offer a great space for staff and clients to enjoy the outdoors or host gatherings.

“For operations, we are excited to be downtown and part of the business community. Prairie Branches staff utilize the downtown businesses daily, so it is much more convenient to be close by. We have a beautiful new training/board room which incorporates our technological requirements. Storage rooms, the sea can and a large area for shipping/receiving will be an improvement for us. We receive shipments almost daily at our head office as we do all procurement from Wilkie for the four communities we serve,” says Washkowsky.

Mayor David Ziegler adds, "Anytime a building on Main Street can be filled or used, it's always a good day."

It took approximately three weeks from packing, to moving and setting up again. It was business as usual for the administration team within 48 hours of moving office equipment and furniture items. Wilkie office and maintenance staff did the remainder of the moving. Several months prior to the move, staff spent several months clearing out items no longer needed as well as papers for disposal.

“We are very fortunate to have such an amazing team in Wilkie who were willing to step up and do what they could to make the move as seamless as possible,” adds Washkowsky.

Prairie Branches are currently planning on a grand re-opening celebration in September and will be happy to give tours of the newly renovated location. Until then, staff and clients will spend the summer months getting settled and acquainted with their new space and location.

This is the second significant upgrade for Wilkie's Prairie Branches as in the fall of 2021 they opened a new group home location.