Thursday, 28 April 2016

Breslau in Dialog

Breslau Community Centre, April 24, 2016 - Photo Credit: Sonya Willsher

Township of Woolwich Open House

This past Sunday (April 24) the Township of Woolwich held an open house at the Breslau Community Centre Gym. There were many representatives from the township present including most of Council, the Mayor and senior members of township staff.  I know that I had very good conversations about the parks, Menno Street, soccer, traffic and the potential of a Breslau library branch.  Most importantly, I was interested in how we as a community can work together with the township to improve where we all live.

If you did not have a chance to participate in these discussions the township has posted an online survey that you can use to respond: I would encourage you to take a few moments to share your thoughts with the township so they can be considered as we all move forward together.

Refugee Sponsorship Fundraising Concert

Deacons of Jazz Concert this Saturday, April 30 at 7:00 at Breslau Mennonite Church. A 6-member band, playing a mix of jazz and pop pieces with their own Deacons’ sound. This is a fundraiser for our Refugee Sponsorship. Freewill offering; receipts given for all donations over $20. Coffee, refreshments and great music!

Youth Fundraising Garage Sale

Breslau Mennonite Church youth fundraiser garage sale will be held on Saturday May 7, 8:00 am-1:00 pm. They will be hosting this sale at the church rain or shine on Saturday, May 7, 2016.  Last year there was lots of big items donated for this sale.  So kick off the garage sale season with this event.  You can help by donating gently used items, dropped off Thursday May 5, 7:00 - 9:00 pm or Friday, May 6 during office hours.  Items at the sale will include: new handcrafted items, baking, perennials as well as various household items. The biggest help you can provide is to come down to the sale and hunt for some bargains, dont forget to bring your neightbours with you.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Community Gardens, Community Open House, and Community Building

Community Garden

This past weekend you may have had a chance to run into a member of Breslau Mennonite Church handing out post cards like the image above.  In the fall of 2014, a group emerged from Breslau Mennonite Church expressing interest in exploring the possibility of a community garden. After doing some research, they decided to commence with a ‘test’ garden to see how the growing conditions were and to see if a community garden could in fact be something to strive for in the future.  The summer of 2015 proved to be a very bountiful one for the test garden and planning has persisted throughout the winter to prepare for an open community garden for the residents of Breslau to enjoy.

This group is now pursuing interest into the community for people to sign up for a plot.  I know that the number of prepared garden plots are limited but if there is interest there could always be an expansion.  I would encourage you to check out if you are interested in more details on this project. We can literally grow as a community with this project.

Breslau Community Open House

The Township of Woolwich wants to hear from you! They are hosting an open house to continue the dialog with the people of Breslau on how we want to grow and develop our community.  This is not a Riverland / Old Breslau / Hopewell event, this is a Breslau event.  I would encourage everyone to make your community a priority and reinforce our resolve to grow and develop into a vibrant neighbourhood.  

The contacts for this event are Mayor Shantz (, Councillor Martin (, Councillor Shantz (, and CAO Brenneman (

The township wants to support us as we grow and we need to partner with them for our own success.  Breslau's future can only be realized with an open and honest partnership with the township.  Please make an effort to drop by the community centre from 1:00-4:00 pm on Sunday, April 24th.

Community Splash Pad

We are entering into another spring (when nature realizes it is spring), and the Breslau Lions club are preparing to reinvigorate the splash pad project. This project has received many ups and downs but it has also received a lot of support from the community in the past.  Keep this project in mind as we plan for Breslau's future together. You can check out their facebook page or their website to keep updated on the project.  Jeff and Michelle Barnard along with Joanna Brunnenmeir would be your best bet to contact if you want to get involved.

I "borrowed" this from the Lions facebook page.

Breslau / Bloomindale Refugee Sponsorship Project

Just like any large project worth undertaking things always seem to move slower than you would emotionally like them to.  There are a variety of initiatives progressing with this project as we work to build a support network for the eventual family.  At this time we have raised the required $30 000 and members of both churches have been formed into several working groups focusing on education, employment support, family finances, healthcare, housing, life support, fundraising, community integration, etc.  The majority of the initial paperwork that is required by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), our sponsorship agreement holder, has been completed; after which we will be placed on a matching list for a family. MCC has indicated that the matching process has slowed down recently but they are receiving profiles on a bi-weekly basis, and currently have 34 groups waiting to be matched. They match based on profile availability and our group’s criteria. Our criteria is a family of 4-6 (ideally 5), and may include young children and/or teenagers. We are open to receiving a refugee family from other countries besides Syria.  Even though we have raised the minimum amount of money, we do not yet know the needs that our family will have or what other expenses we may incur.  In that light, a fundraising event is planned for April 30, 2015 with the Deacons of Jazz at Breslau Mennonite Church. Stay tuned for more updates.

Is there anything you want to add?

If you would like to share anything with the Breslau community and you would like to use my blog to help make that happen please get in touch with me at  We are a diverse community and we can continue to find success together if we reach out to each other and grow together.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Refugee Sponsorship with Breslau Mennonite Church

Breslau has experienced rapid growth in the last 5-10 years and we are all learning about each other as we work to build our local community.  There are many in our community that are new and there are many who have been here for a very long time.  Breslau means something different for everyone, and we all have different expectations for our future.  Breslau Mennonite Church has been a part of Breslau for more than 100 years.  You have probably driven by and maybe you have even attended a service, dinner, wedding or funeral there.  Many things have changed in our community and in our world in that time.  I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about a response to recent global events bering undertaken by Breslau Mennonite Church and Bloomingdale Mennonite Church.  These two congregations have agreed to partner together on a private refugee sponsorship project for a refugee family of 4/5. The Canadian Government defines refugees as people who are outside their home country or the country where they normally live, and who are unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on: race; religion; political opinion; nationality; or membership in a particular social group, such as women or people of a particular sexual orientation.

You have been hearing about 25 000 refugees in the news lately and how the Canadian Government has pledged to settle this number in Canada by the end of February. The first thing that we need to differentiate is government sponsorship vs private sponsorship.

For government sponsored refugees the government at all levels and their various agencies are 100% responsible for the well-being of each family.  These are the refugees that usually end up housed in military bases or hotels until other accommodations are available.

For private sponsored refugees a sponsoring agency or group is responsible for the daily needs of the refugees.  The sponsoring group needs to raise a minimum of $30 000 and then commit to ensuring the matched refugee family's daily needs are met for their first year in Canada.  The idea behind a private sponsorship is a large support network of individuals (not necessarily government agencies) will do the work to get the refugees settled. This includes but not limited to: housing, education, the search for jobs, arranging health care, ensuring school age children have adequate supplies, food, assisting in social connections with the local communitym and seeking social supports with others sharing similar stories.  This doesn't mean that government resources cannot be used but it is up to the private group to apply for and make use of these resources.

This private sponsorship will be a part of Mennonite Central Commitee's (MCC) refugee program.  As such, it will have the strong suppot from MCC, giving this project a firm foundation.

Diversity isn't just sound social policy. Diversity is the engine of invention. It generates creativity that helps change the world. We know this in Canada.

-- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Davos
The Waterloo Region is well prepared to welcome refugees and a website has been developed (WR Welcomes Refugees) listing a large number of resources available. With this post, I am inviting anyone in the local Breslau community who is interesting in being a part of this initiative to please get in contact with me at or by contacting Breslau Mennonite Church at 519-648-2501 or

Sometimes we hear about stories in the news and we want to do something to help, this is your opportunity to help.  Breslau Mennonite Church just voted to approve this project this week.  This means that the project is in its infancy but we are preparing for a 1-4 month timeline to be matched with a refugee family and have that family arrive in the region.  Once we know more about the family and what their needs are we will again be making appeals to the community.

The poem to the left was written and performed by Shane Koyczan during the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremonies, it tells of a vision of Canada that is inspiring. We are a fortunate people in a fortunate country. We must do what we can to help those who have struggled in difficult circumstances.

Thank you for considering this opportunity.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Breslau Memorial Park will Not be Sold for Catholic School

Woolwich Council stated throughout this process that they wanted to solicit as much feedback as possible on the proposed partnership between the WCDSB and the Township.  As outlined in my previous post, we have spent the last year debating this project and soliciting feedback.  Council decided to hold a council meeting at the Breslau Community Centre on January 12, 2016 as the final debate on this proposal.  In total, approximately 60 delegations either spoke or included a written submission to this meeting.  Over 80% of those delegations spoke against the project.
The meeting was more than 3 hours long and it proceeded quite quickly with very few disruptions.  Once the delegations had finished, the tension in the room was thick and emotion got the better of some of the audience as the councillors made their statements. In the end, the council was split and 3 voted for selling the land (S. Shantz, M. Murray, S. Hahn) and 3 voted against selling the land (P. Merlihan, L. Shantz, M. Bauman).  A split vote means that the motion fails and the 4-acres of Breslau Memorial Park are not declared surplus and they cannot be sold.

Following the vote Mayor Shantz stated that she did not have any desire to bring this up again and council vowed to let this project die and instructed staff to communicate the results of the vote to the WCDSB. In response, the WCDSB sent out a letter to the families at St. Boniface, stating they were disappointed at this result.  The letter also included information on an alternative option for the new school in Breslau.

"The board currently has a school site reserved in Breslau and we will move forward with construction of the new school as soon as possible, subject to completion of an on-going municipal planning process.  We anticipate the planning process will be concluded in the next 12 months. Our hope, therefore, would be to have our new school built and open by September 2019."

I am happy to hear that the school board has other options and the delay caused by not going forward with the proposed partnership seems to be about 1 year.

This story in the news:

The question now becomes what next?

 Residents of Breslau were deeply divided on this project and at times, both sides of the debate crossed a few lines.  We are still neighbours and we still need to work to build community.  A small group of residents have started some preliminary discussions about how we can move forward.  At this time we do not have the answers, we probably don't even know all the questions.  We have reached out to the township for direction and we look forward to the ongoing discussions both with Councillors and staff, as well as all residents of Breslau.  There will be many opportunities for large numbers of people to get involved as we move forward.  For now, we have created a Facebook page to help start the conversations with our neighbours.  You can view that page at

Dialogue and involvement with the entire Breslau community is the only way to ensure success and I look forward to being a part of that success.