The Tolstoi Heritage Centre received $112,370 from the provincial funding announced earlier this week.  

Spokesperson and volunteer Jo-anne Drewniak says the announcement came with a mix of emotions.   

“Well, first there was a bit of a scream. It was a loud scream, and then it was, ‘Oh my,’ and then it was shock. It's such an exciting time. We've worked so hard the last ten years to build to this point. To actually be recognized that we’re something that’s viable and that is a great addition to the community and preserves a heritage building in the process. Even now, my heart just starts to race again when I realize it's been validated what we've been doing,” Drewniak says.  

The facility currently does not have washrooms or running water and never did. The funding they receive will be used to build an annex and improve the structure.   

“In order for us to provide a better venue, this annex that we plan to build, which will be attached to the building, will provide washrooms, it will provide water, it will provide a safe environment for the items we've collected or that we keep being given by people. It'll provide us what we need to keep our operation running,” she says, adding that they will also add a small kitchenette, meeting room and offices.  

As for the timeline of their plans, she says they hope to put their shovels in the ground next summer.   

“We're currently working with a company, a design firm, to start the design of the building and making sure it reflects the historic appearance of the current building, and we're hoping to have that all finalized by the end of the year,” she explains.  

An indoor view of the Tolstoi Heritage Centre An indoor view of the Tolstoi Heritage Centre (Tolstoi Heritage Centre Facebook)

Drewniak says the building is a former Roman Catholic Church constructed by early Polish settlers in the late 1920s. Nearly a century later in the early 2010s, the Diocese of St. Boniface closed the building. Then, a group stepped forward to take ownership as the building is a “big deal to the whole community.”   

“We really didn't want to see the building deteriorate and fall apart or dismantled and moved elsewhere. We thought it was important to recognize the contributions of past residents and the community. To those immigrants that came and contributed dollars and cents to build this beautiful building,” she says.  

Now, the building preserves history and is a destination for hosting concerts and events. Drewniak encourages community members and people outside Tolstoi to check out the historic site and learn all about it.   

With files from Carly Koop.