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Rivers and Area Community Foundation was formed in 2008 as a direct result of a large bequeath from Bernard Goekoop, who farmed near Rivers his entire life. His will stipulated that his money be left to the Rivers and Area Community Foundation. If that did not exist, then it was to go to the Brandon Area Community Foundation. There were four initial directors who saw the need to start the Rivers Foundation – Wayne Wareham, Al Morken, Donna Morken  and Brian Carlisle. From these four, the Rivers and Area Community Foundation became a reality with the addition of 8 more directors.

» Read “Foundation helps Rivers become ‘smart, caring community’” (Brandon Sun, November 28, 2013, PDF format)

Bernard Goekoop Biography

Bernard and Lola Goekoop photo

Bernard and Lola Goekoop

Bernard Adrian Goekoop was born March 8, 1910 on the family farm west of Rivers, Manitoba, to parents Lenard from Gooerderwee, Holland and Francis (nee Kennedy) from Daly municipality. Following the death of their mother, Bernard and his twin sister Anna Marie lived with their Kennedy grandparents, who farmed on the same section. They attended school in Rivers, traveling by school van from the Kennedy farm.

After the death of his father, Bernard took over ownership of the land  N1/2 34-12-21 where he farmed for many years. He advertised for a housekeeper and Anna Iola Ferris of Holland, Mb accompanied by her young son Wesley, answered his ad. Iola and Bernard were married on October 16, 1939. Wesley attended school in Rivers but unfortunately died from a sudden illness while still in his teens. There were no other children.

Bernard and Iola farmed on a small scale and lived a simple, frugal life. When the farm was sold in 1976, they moved to a small home in Rivers, and for many years Bernard was the cleaner and sweeper at McKenzie’s store. Bernard enjoyed the movie theatre in Rivers and often went to the train station to watch the trains and passengers.

He made some trips to Holland to visit family, the first time traveling by freighter because it was the most economical way to cross the ocean. Bernard who was predeceased by Iola, died on January 20, 2008 leaving his life savings to family in Holland and to the Rivers and Area Community Foundation.

The Leonard and Gladys Burt Family Fund

Leonard and Gladys Burt

Leonard and Gladys Burt

In June 2013, the National Conference of Community Foundations of Canada was held in Winnipeg, where 192 Community Foundations from across the Nation came together. The voices were loud and strong, passionate people about their communities and helping them develop. The Governor General of Canada, his Excellency David Johnston was a guest speaker and he encouraged communities across Canada to become “Smart & Caring Communities”. Great sessions were held and it was at one of those sessions “Shaping Our Worldview – The Power of Storytelling” – that I met Karen Guth from MacGregor. I stood up and told the story of the Rivers and Area Community Foundation bequeath by Leonard and Iola Goekoop. After I had finished, Karen Guth from the North Norfolk – MacGregor Foundation came over to me.

It is here that the next chapter of “our story” begins… Karen as I found out knew all about Rivers and had a connection here, “her grandparents” – “Leonard and Gladys Burt”.

Karen as it turns out spent a lot of her life in Rivers, visiting and staying with her grandparents, Leonard and Gladys Burt. Leonard and Gladys were very involved in events within the community, as well as working and participating on various committees. Karen decided that she wanted to start a family fund for her grandparents to honor their legacy and thus our next chapter begins.

We are very excited about announcing the “Leonard and Gladys Burt Family Fund”. This will carry both the Rivers and Area Community Foundation on towards a “Smart and Caring Community” but also the North Norfolk – MacGregor Community Foundation. It is here that Karen hopes to inspire others to do the same.

Karen has also chosen to donate money through the All Charities workplace campaign that enables employees to donate to the charity of their choice through the payroll deduction program or as a onetime gift by cash or cheque. The All Charities campaign is volunteer driven by employees of the Manitoba Government and its’ affiliates. This will now place Rivers and Area Community Foundation on the list of charities available to be donated to.

Thank you Karen, and to all the members of the Burt family.

The Society of Friends of Rivers Collegiate Institute

In 2006 the Society of Friends of RCI was formed during the 60’s reunion of former students. The sole purpose of the Society is to raise money to establish an annual scholarship for RCI graduates.

The scholarship is awarded to an RCI grad who will attend a post secondary institution (either a university, college or skills training centre) within two years of graduation. The parameters for selection rest heavily on the graduate’s service to the community or community leadership/innovative activity or exceptional performance in some area of endeavour. (examples may include athletics, music, art, drama or something like pilot training.)

The scholarship is $1,000 which is currently made up of interest from the trust fund.

The Bill and Helen Sibbald Legacy Fund

Bill and Helen Sibbald on their 65th Anniversary in 2012

William R. (Bill) Sibbald and Helen Ross began their lives together December 31, 1947, almost 70 years ago. Helen lived on the Ross family ranch and Bill, the handsome farmer from across the valley, kept “losing his horse” and eventually finding it on several occasions at the ranch. They shared a love of nature and animals, beginning their farming career together on the Sibbald farm NW 1-11- 22 which overlooks the Assiniboine River.

Over the almost 60 years spent farming in the district, Bill and Helen became very involved in the community, sitting on many boards and committees. Some included the board to establish Rivers Hospital, Tarbolton church board and UCW, founding member of Manitoba Amateur Radio Museum and Order of Foresters (Philanthropy and virtue featured prominently in the principles and rituals of this Society). They also shared a love of music and fine arts. Bill was a very good piano player and Helen learned to play cello in her 50’s. Helen played with the Rivers Orchestra for many years and later in the Brandon Community Orchestra. They were season ticket holders to WSO in Brandon for many years.

Although they were not blessed with children of their own, many children came to visit the farm over those 60 years and had their lives changed by that experience. Some were relatives but many were not. Some stayed for short periods of time and others became regulars coming back year after year. Many learned to bake, cook for a crew, drive a tractor, stack bales, round up cattle, birth calves, ride horses and cool off in the river after a hard day’s work. All who spent time at the Sibbald farm learned respect, fair play and the rewards of working together. Over the years Bill and Helen would keep helping these young people as they went off to university or started up new businesses. Giving is second nature to this couple.

Although Bill and Helen have moved off the farm and into a personal care home, they continue to care for and give to their community. The Bill and Helen Sibbald Legacy Fund directed towards agriculture, environment and fine arts will live on in perpetuity and continue their caring ways of helping others, to make our community a better place for all.



Community Foundations of Canada

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