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'Brought the whole town to life': Assiniboia woman recognized for community outreach during COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced people all over the world to stay inside, it created some difficulties for many people whose line of work involves bringing people together. Among them was Stephanie VanDeSype.

“For a recreation manager who closed all my recreation facilities, what am I gonna do?” she told CTV News. “I had two little kids at home and it all started with a video that I recorded and sent out and said, 'Just checking in with everyone.'”

“If you’re not okay, call me.”

As the recreation and community wellness manager for the town of Assiniboia, VanDeSype was not about to let the fact that she was stuck inside stop her from going above and beyond.

“It was a tough time but I think thanks to the things Stephanie did for our community she really did keep us better together,” Assiniboia Mayor Sharon Schauenberg told CTV News.

“It was a depressing time so we wanted to just be a little highlight of someone’s day,” VanDeSype explained. “Then it grew and we had hundreds of viewers every day.”

And she didn’t take a break once restrictions were lifted.

“Once we were able to leave the house, we kept the momentum running. What can we do?” VanDeSype said. “Let’s do as many events as we can. Lets do a big Canada Day, lets find reasons to celebrate.”

According to residents, VanDeSype’s efforts brought some light to a very dark period in the town.

“Even if it was virtual, Stephanie was so upbeat and positive on all the projects that she was spearheading that people just got involved in the community,” resident Leila Elder said.

Stephanie VanDeSype at Assiniboia's Southland Co-op Centre. (Gareth Dillistone/CTV News)

With events from bingo in the park to pickleball – community engagement is higher than ever. With the latest successful event being a “swimming pool fiesta” which recorded 300 attendees.

“It was phenomenal to see the community that seemed so calm and quiet with not too much going on, it just brought the whole town to life,” Elder added.

As for future plans, the organizer doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

“Its been great seeing all of these faces in person and engaging our newcomers, people who have lived here for 50 years and I hear daily how much people are loving the activities and looking forward to the next thing," she said.

“I think the big thing is giving people something to look forward to.” Top Stories

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