In 1957, a group of local Boissevain area citizens and parents of children with intellectual disabilities, identified the need to create a support program for children and citizens in Southwestern Manitoba, living with intellectual disabilities. This initial effort resulted in the creation of the Sunnyside School.
In 1968, the purchase of a large home on Cook Street in Boissevain, saw the beginning of the Residential Program in Boissevain. For years, up to 12 people lived in the residence on Cook Street, having 2-3 people sharing bedrooms. In the early 80’s another home on Aikman Street was purchased, and another 4 people were accommodated there.
In 1988, a new building was built to house a woodworking program, activity centre, and offices. This development in the agency’s day services became known as The Hand Crafter. Manufacturing to create job opportunities, and additional revenues to shore-up funding shortfalls, became the focus.
In the 1990’s homes rented, partnership with the United Church , hiring of first Executive Director board changed to policy from operations. Arlene Gibson, Don Engbrecht, Jason Lee Dyck.
Eventually, the push for more community-based employment and programming saw the need to rethink The Hand Crafter, and by 2007, an agency-wide restructuring was taken on.
Currently, the Residential Program has grown, currently comprising of 7 homes and Supported Independent Living suites, and accommodating over 20 people, each person with their own rooms, and having an increased voice in their living arrangements.
In 2008,in celebration of this community-based agency’s 50th anniversary, and a desire to re-envision its mandate and place in the community, the Boissevain Association for the Handicapped, as it was now known, re-named itself Prairie Partners Incorporated, after a naming committee comprised of supported citizens, employees, and board members decided that a new name should emphasize the agency’s commitment to the entire community, and the name ended up focusing on community “partnerships” in providing supports for those of us living with various disabilities. From this grew the slogan, that in the end we were just “people supporting people”, and the new era of community-based supports, programs and partnering began once again.
In 2009, Prairie Partners Inc. received province-wide recognition for its efforts and vision for community relevance and efforts to be relevant, sustainable, and proactive in its social and business ventures. The Manitoba Chamber of Commerce identified Prairie Partners as a not-for-profit business that was addressing the challenge to be a relevant and integral part of the business community, and the Province of Manitoba. Prairie Partners was recognized as one of only 3 finalists in the province that year for Manitoba’s Lieutenant Governor’s Award for “Business: Outstanding contribution to the community and to the lives of Manitobans.”
2010 saw the next development in the imagining of the organization with the grand opening of the “Sawmill Tea & Coffee Co.”, which created an opportunity for the community at large to become more involved in the work and people of Prairie Partners Inc.
The Sawmill’s Facebook page says “The Sawmill is a not-for-profit community cafe! It is a place to build community connections, and a comfortable setting where everyone can come and relax, no purchase necessary! Enjoy fresh brewed coffees and teas, and delicious desserts!”
Awards & Recognition
2009 – Business of the Year (New) – Prairie Partners Inc. (Boissevain and District Chamber of Commerce)
2009 – Finalist – Manitoba’s Lieutenant Governor’s Business Award – Prairie Partners Inc. (Manitoba Chamber of Commerce) Recognizing “outstanding contribution to the community and to the lives of Manitobans.”
2011 – Business of the Year (New) – Sawmill Tea & Coffee Co. (Boissevain and District Chamber of Commerce) “In recognition of valuable contributions to our community”