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Major donations put North Portal years ahead of the game

The North Portal Village council received a delightful surprise at their annual Party in the Park fundraiser on June 8.
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Participating in the cheque presentation were, from left, Lindsay Davis, village administrator, Dorothy Fuchs with Knox United Church, Coun. Chase Buchanan, Brenda Strong with Knox United Church, Gene Baniulis with Baniulis RDL Ventures Inc., Mayor Amy Armstrong and Councillors Callie Fair and Amy Belitski.

ESTEVAN — The Village of North Portal received an unexpected windfall during its annual Party in the Park fundraiser on June 8. With around 90 community members in attendance, there were audible gasps when Knox United Church of North Portal and Baniulis RDL Ventures Inc. each announced a $30,000 donation towards a new shelter in Maxwell Park.

The village has been actively fundraising to replace the old shelter, which was removed in the summer of 2020 due to age and safety concerns. The generous contributions, totalling $60,000, will significantly expedite the construction of a new shelter, the village said.

North Portal Mayor Amy Armstrong expressed her delight at the surprising announcements.

"I knew that week in advance that the church ... was giving a donation for the $30,000. But I wasn't aware of the second one. I found that one out when he [Gene Baniulis with Baniulis RDL Ventures Inc.] came up to donate the other one. It was quite a surprise," Armstrong shared.

The old structure had been a staple in the park, used for various community events including the annual Party in the Park.

The mayor noted the community's excitement over the donations.

"I think everybody was absolutely shocked. It was quite the topic of conversation for the rest of the night. That's a lot of money for a small centre to be able to have," Armstrong said​​.

Previously, the village had been raising funds through various community events.

"This Party in the Park ... we actually charged $5 for the food, and that was where the money was going. Then we had a donation box that people could put stuff in. In the winter, we did a Christmas party dance to fundraise for the park structure," Armstrong listed.

She said it would take them years to collect enough money to build a new structure. However, the generous donations have accelerated their timeline significantly.

"If we had to do it on our own, I would say between five and 10 years it would have taken us to be able to do this," Armstrong said​​.

With the unexpected financial boost, the village can now move forward with selecting and purchasing a ready-made structure for the park. Armstrong noted that they've looked at quite a few options and hope to have the new shelter project moving forward this summer.

The new shelter is expected to be a valuable addition to Maxwell Park, providing a permanent space for community events and gatherings. Armstrong is hopeful that the structure will be ready for next year's Party in the Park.