Portage la Prairie's Wawokiya program has been blessed with a much-needed minivan for their transportation needs through a grant program 

Wawokiya coordinator Mari Lawrence and members of the local RCMP detachment, media liaison officer Larry Neufeld and officer in charge of Central Plains Paul Peddle were present at the Portage Community Revitalization Corporation Thursday to unveil the new addition.

"The Portage RCMP submitted an application for us to receive a vehicle to use for our program, and so far it's been extremely beneficial," explains Lawrence. "Transportation is an issue in our community, so we've been able to make necessary transportation for different clients out of community as well as within community. We've taken people to medical appointments in places like Winnipeg and Brandon. We've transported people to homeless shelters, since ours is no longer in operation, and we've been able to connect people to a lot of services that they otherwise wouldn't be able to access."

RCMP community media Liaison officer constable Larry Neufeld notes he submitted a request through the forfeiture grant to acquire a vehicle from the Wawokiya program in the spring of last year. 

"It took a little while, but in September of last year, we got notification that that grant was approved, and so we're here today to celebrate the fact that they're able to utilize the forfeiture of what we've taken off the streets," says Neufeld. "We're very happy about that. The funding grant is provided by the Justice Department of Manitoba. There's a grant process that people apply for through four different reasons -- everything from police equipment to something for the community that would, in an aspect, reduce the crime element of the community."

He adds the Wawokiya program reaches out to vulnerable people as those with a higher possibility of committing crimes.

"It's a way that we try and help them steer away from the crime aspect and get them to services like Mari commented on," adds Neufeld. "I sit on the Wawokiya board. So, in all of our discussions, there always seemed to be an element of being unable to get people to services or anything else like that. We found something that we could possibly gain access to through the forfeiture grant and we were lucky enough to get approved this year for a vehicle."

RCMP officer in charge of Central Plains Paul Peddle adds he's very proud of the work that Neufeld, Lawrence and the entire Wawokiya program does. 

"I've had the opportunity to sit on a few meetings with the group, and all I can say is that the work that they do is tremendous and we're glad to be here," says Peddle. "And we're glad to be able to contribute to the group in a big way today. So, it's a proud day for us and a proud day for the Wawokiya group as well. We're very pleased."