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Preserving an important community facility


With the COVID-19 pandemic, the Veterans Community Hall (VCH) hasn’t been seeing as much use as usual, but it continues to be a hub of the community, with multiple gathering spaces that have been used for decades and commercial kitchen that allows for professional caterers and food manufacturers to rent and benefit their businesses.
As a hub, it’s important that it remain relevant to the needs of the community, with updates and upgrades that either freshens up the space or provides new or different functions, making it an attractive facility that residents can be proud to use.
Those that haven’t been in the VCH in a while but have driven passed may have even noticed a brand new sign identifying the facility, complete with lighting to illuminate it after twilight. But, there has been plenty of work going on inside as well that some people may not have noticed or may not even have had opportunity to realize.
“When I first came on in 2014, we purchased tables and painted the building with the help of my former boss from Pizza Place, who donated her time to help me paint the main hall area,” said VCH Manager Lana Graham. “Thirty of the 60 tables were purchased with help from the community, and the other 30 by the Town.
“Over the years, we purchased 22 60-inch round tables that we use as rental revenue and it works really well. People really like that conversation flow of a round table option rather than a rectangular table.”
In the last year or so, the number of improvements that have been made to the facility have been extensive, with renovated bathrooms on both sides of the hall, new flooring and lighting in the stage area, a new island counter, cooler, lockable window shutters, and fountain drink machine in the bar, a new sound system and projector, and a new drop ceiling system in the Food Processing Centre (FPC). All of the improvements are to meet either modern building codes, modern design, or the present functional needs of the facility.
“The (Swan River Kinsmen Club) donated the funds to resurface the island with a whole new countertop,” said Graham. “They also donated the two-door bar cooler that they can put beverages in, which works really well because before that, people were using buckets with ice. So that cooler has been a great asset to us.”
Even though the VCH has been owned by the Town of Swan River after being handed over by the Royal Canadian Legion, municipal taxpayer dollars have had little to do with the majority of the upgrades, with Graham either applying for multiple grants or through generous donations from non-profit and charity organizations.
“The Valley Stage Players donated the funds for us to upgrade our sound system,” said Graham, noting how the modern equipment allows people to plug in their mobile devices to easily play music.
“Our old sound system was really dated and this new one works great for lots of different things. I know there were weddings where previously people couldn’t hear from the microphones and there is nothing worse than going to an event and not being able to hear what’s going on. You miss the experience.”
Graham noted that the Valley Stage Players also used the proceeds from their production to upgrade the lighting on stage as well, switching from hot flood lamps to LED lights.
Another notable donation was for the outdoor sign, in which the majority of the funds needed for that upgrade came from the Doc Walker concert which took place earlier this year, in which they gave the VCH a portion of ticket sales instead of just renting the facility.
“It turned out that we made way more money than we would have had if we just rented to them,” said Graham. “They said that this was something that they wanted to do on this tour in these small communities because they wanted to be able to give back and leave an impression wherever they went, hoping that the money would go to something in these venues.”
The Swan Valley Outdoors Association also left their mark by donating money towards a projector – something the facility lacked completely before.
“(Using that for) their live auction worked fantastic and they were really happy with how that went last year with their auction,” said Graham. “The Crown land auction came in here too for the first time this year. They loved it and they couldn’t believe that we had a facility that had that option for them. So, it’s exciting to see that we’re growing, meeting customers need, excelling in some ways and surprising them.”
The grants that have been available to improve the FPC have also helped in making the hidden gem of the VCH even more of a valuable resource to caterers and food manufacturers, including the small Smak Dab company that produces a line of gourmet mustard which still makes all of its product in Swan River despite owner Carly Minish-Wytinck residing in Winnipeg.
Graham explained that the original ceiling tiles that existed in that space were residential tiles, unsuitable for a commercial food preparation space.
“The tile that it was replaced with when it had to be food-grade was a drywall tile, which is extremely heavy, so over the course of time the (tracking) buckled, twisted and bent,” she said. “We were fortunate enough now to keep using the existing tiles, but we’re putting in all new track, reinforced with the right weight for the existing drywall tile.”
Graham continues to keep her eye on improvements that can be made to the VCH, always looking for funding sources and finding ways to stretch the dollars for the project in mind, in an effort to make the VCH the best community hall it can be.

Jeremy Bergen