The sounds of vehicles and telephones ringing have been replaced with traditional singing at the newly renovated and expanded Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre.

The centre, which used to be the Autopac collision claim centre at King Street and Jarvis Avenue, was officially opened on Thursday.

Mayor Sam Katz said the additional 8,828-square-feet of space will allow the centre to provide more support services to aboriginal children, youth, individuals and families that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

“With over 200 volunteers and staff, they provide so many programs that basically do what some of us could never do on our own,” said Katz, adding that he did visit the old Autopac building when he was involved in a fender bender many years ago.

“And they do it with dignity and they do it with class, and most importantly, they make sure that they’re always focusing on embracing their culture and their heritage.”

Sonja Eaglestick, who along with her 11-month-old daughter helped cut the ribbon, said Ma Mawi has been there for her since she was seven years old and those who work there are “like my family.”

“I love it, it’s awesome, they did an awesome job” with the renovations, said Eaglestick, adding she hopes more people will now be drawn to the centre.

“If they find themselves in a (bad) situation that they’ll come here and use their support system.”

MaryAnn Kempe, vice-president of community and corporate relations for Manitoba Public Insurance, said the decision to donate the Autopac building to Ma Mawi was a contribution to the Lord Selkirk community.

“And Ma Mawi does amazing things for the community, they are making a difference in people’s lives,” said Kempe, adding that MPI office moved to a bigger space further north on Main Street.

The renovations received $1,492,773 though the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which is funded by the City of Winnipeg and the federal government.

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