This group of CBC Future 40 winners is building a better Manitoba, whether by fundraising for important causes or by setting up organizations that fill gaps they’ve noticed in the province’s services.
“Really, it’s all about, you know, community involvement and all about us working together to … make things better,” said Arnel Alibin, general manager and co-owner of Max’s Restaurant.
That attitude is reflected in the stories of these Future 40 winners, many of them business people and all of them working to make our province’s communities stronger.
Alibin has spearheaded his family restaurant’s work to support health-care and other front-line workers in Manitoba, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alibin, 40, was 14 when his family came to Canada. While there were hardships, including back in the Philippines, he found it easy to adapt to life at junior high school in the Maples, where he met lots of other Filipino kids.
“Winnipeg being such a diverse city, you know, everyone just appreciates … everyone’s culture” and traditions, he said. “It was very welcoming, actually.”
The Alibin family was very close and as adults, the six siblings decided to start their own business. A Max’s Restaurant was a choice that felt close to home for them.
The Philippine-based restaurant chain offers “a taste of home,” he said.
His father worked in Saudi Arabia, and Max’s was where they celebrated when he came home, Alibin explained.
“It’s a family restaurant. It’s a house of celebration.”
When they opened in January 2019, he left his first career as a health-care aide at Concordia Hospital, where he worked for almost 20 years.
However, he didn’t forget the work, and when the family decided they needed to show their appreciation and give something back to the community, he went back to Concordia.
The restaurant started selling lunch bowls at the hospital, with 10 per cent of the proceeds going to the Concordia Hospital Foundation.
When the pandemic started, the restaurant had to transition to just doing takeout and delivery, but once the Canada emergency response benefit kicked in, people started to order food again, Alibin said.
“We immediately realized, you know what? We have to be thankful for the community and all the support that they’ve shown us, so we have to give back immediately,” he said.
“I contacted as many hospital foundations as I could and offered food donations.”
The family also delivered food to front-line workers in retail stores.
Running a business, especially a restaurant, is “about survival right now,” he said, but his family feels grateful.
“Our front-line workers especially, you know — very thankful for them. They have a lot of sacrifices they’re doing right now. I feel for them.”
Clayton Swanton heard people talk about leaving Dauphin, his hometown, all the time, but he was never interested in leaving — and now he hopes he’s helped turn that talk around.
Born and raised on a Dauphin cattle farm, Swanton decided to become a lawyer — but he was never interested in the high-powered life of a Bay Street mover and shaker.
“There’s just so much potential here for the community that it was kind of a no-brainer for me to come back home,” he said.
But it’s out in the community as a volunteer and a board member that Swanton has made his biggest impact.
The roots of what became a huge project are simple: He wanted to get more active, so signed up for a Tough Mudder obstacle race, and he told people about it at his next Rotary Club meeting.
In the end, nine of them did the race, which inspired them to start their own mud run in Dauphin as a fundraiser.
“I get emotional talking about this, because it changed everything,” Swanton told CBC’s Shannah-Lee Vidal about what’s now an annual event.
They expected it would take several years before the run started to turn a profit, but the local business community got on board and raised $20,000. The Manitoba Mud Run made money the first year.
Those profits have been poured back into the community, with the funding designated for active living projects, including money for a skate park, an indoor play structure and a new waterslide at the local pool.
When Dauphin was chosen to host the 2020 Manitoba Summer Games (now on hold until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic), most of the infrastructure was in place, but the community needed a mountain biking course.
“We as a community got together and put a plan together to create NorthGate — 26 kilometres of mountain bike trails,” he said, calling it “an insane legacy for the community” that will continue to draw visitors.
People are starting to see Dauphin as a destination and a great place to stay, Swanton said, which is how he’s always seen his hometown.
The fact the community has been on board for everything is the proof of what a great place it is, he said.
“I love the fact that this community, when you have a good idea and you share it, other people just say, “That’s fantastic. Count me in, and I own a business — do you need a sponsor?'”
Ben Maréga is a social justice champion, an artist and a business professional originally from Senegal who works to be part of the solution.
His story about the sacrifices his family made to help him come to Canada is part of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 collection.
A former president of the Université de Saint-Boniface student association, he has become a permanent resident of Canada since his graduation. He now works as a senior program advisor for the provincial government after several years as a financial professional for various businesses.
He is the founder of Parents Against Racism, which petitioned for concrete actions against racism in school. The Division scolaire franco-manitobaine started an annual day against racism in its schools in response to the petition.
Dorota Blumczynska came to Canada as a refugee, and now leads the Immigrant Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, in addition to being president of the Canadian Council for Refugees.
As a refugee, she had to learn English while living in poverty and trying to find community in an unfamiliar place.
She started working at IRCOM as an English as an additional language instructor in 2008 and rose to head the organization.
She is on the boards of the Youth Agencies Alliance and the Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations, and is also on the United Way of Winnipeg campaign cabinet.
She’s also a public policy advisor who has contributed to provincial roundtables and and committees.
“She is highly motivated by her own lived experience, which instilled a deep sense of social justice and inclusion through empowerment,” Brendan Reimer said in her Future 40 nomination.
Holly Linski has devoted her life to creating a better future for young people.
Linski, who has a master’s of education degree in guidance and counselling, works at University College of the North as an instructor/chairperson for the Kenanow bachelor of education program. The focus of the program is training teachers for northern and remote Indigenous communities.
She’s also a businesswoman as owner of Featherstone Support Services, which does motivational workshops and training for young Indigenous people.
Linski, a mother of eight and a grandmother, has also penned a novel called The Tale of Tiger Lily, due out this month. She plans to donate a percentage of the profits to support Indigenous leadership initiatives.
Jackie Wild has taken experience working with non-profit and charitable organizations to her work at Telus Manitoba, where she is the senior community investment advisor.
Her volunteer work includes sitting on the board of the Manitoba Museum and serving as chair of the Manitoba 150 committee, and as vice-president of the Manitoba Filipino Business Council.
She’s also volunteered with the Winnipeg Art Gallery, United Way Winnipeg and the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba.
In her job, she supports local charities and works with local leaders in making decisions about grants to different projects.
Jessica Keus is an investment advisor who works to empower women and families with financial literacy education and tools.
Keus creates accessible content in a variety of media to teach and empower families, including creating an Investing 101 tool for children and a guide to help women engage in conversation about finances with their partners.
“I know first-hand the impact that financial literacy and stability has on our communities, and I could not be prouder of Jess for her amazing work for our community and clients,” nominator Lisa Fingard wrote.
Pablo Listingart is an information technology expert who saw a gap in Manitoba’s education system and has worked to fill it by creating ComIT.
ComIT is a charitable organization that helps train people who can’t afford post-secondary education for information technology jobs.
Listingart, who came from Argentina in 2015 and owns his own IT company in Winnipeg, saw people in Manitoba working survival jobs to help support their families, unable to get the training they wanted to better their positions. Meanwhile, he realized the province didn’t have enough IT professionals.
In response, he developed a market-driven curriculum that he initially delivered to students by covering expenses himself. He has since received support for ComIT from businesses such as SkipTheDishes, Google and the federal government.
ComIT now helps people in five provinces, and has helped 300 people locally since 2018.
Samantha Hampton runs Creative Community Promotions, which strives to build healthy communities through communication, particularly with its latest tool, Fuse.
Fuse is an app designed to help communities across the province connect and support one another.
As a communication hub, it serves as a business directory, classifieds, newspaper, blog centre and events guide for the Interlake.
Her company, based in Gimli, also runs training programs for youth, adults and seniors that teach communication skills.
Sean Sylvestre is the founder of Mobile Vision Care Clinic, which helps vulnerable Manitobans with their vision needs.
Sylvestre is a businessman whose experience working in his parents’ optical business led to his present work.
Mobile Vision Care Clinic goes to schools and other community organizations, focusing on the inner city, to provide eye exams to those who might not otherwise be able to access such care.
The clinic provides glasses to those who need them, regardless of whether they can pay, and has donated more than $300,000 in prescription eyewear to those in need.
“Many of the students who have had the opportunity to take advantage of the program have reported better attendance and reading levels,” nominator Chelsea Cole wrote.
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