For their years of volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity Brandon, Arnold and Marilyn Grambo were the guests of honour at a special appreciation night Thursday.
Organized by former Habitat and ReStore volunteers, the couple were recognized at the Victoria Inn for their 16 years of dedicated work with the local affiliate.
“A bunch of us got together … and we just decided that he’s done a lot of work over the years and it’s time that we do some recognition,” said former volunteer Cheryl Tripp. “We figured we would put this on for him and Marilyn and let them move on … But if everything was still the same, they’d probably still be doing it.”
It was a labour of love for the Grambos. Arnold was part of the group that got the local affiliate established in 1995. For 16 years, Arnold was on the board, and for 14 of those years he was chair.
“With the office in our house, it’s been sort of 24/7,” Grambo said. “We always said that we would try to move this forward, it’s such a good idea, until it was too big to be stopped. Well, I think we’re there and we never dreamt that it would be eroded from within.”
Grambo said he was forced to resign last January. Habitat for Humanity Canada decided to close the Brandon operation in June after minimum operating standards were not being met.
In a previous interview with the Brandon Sun, a spokesperson for Habitat Canada said there were a number of issues behind the scenes, including governance, administration and how to support the families, that just weren’t up to par.
“There’s nothing unethical, there’s nothing (safety-related), it’s not fraud, but there are standards that we have to have in terms of the administration of the affiliate,” said Kate Marshall, national director of marketing and communications with Habitat for Humanity Canada.
Grambo admits they made some mistakes, but nothing major. Ever since the beginning, local lawyers and accountants have been involved to make sure the organization was legally and financially responsible. The goal was always to get affordable homes built for those who needed them.
Former volunteer Vern Gilbertson said it’s a shame that the Brandon affiliate was shut down.
“I’m disappointed our head office has taken such a drastic stand,” Gilbertson said. “I feel that if they felt there was a problem in Brandon, send out their representatives and help us work though it.”
Habitat Canada said they had been working with the Brandon office since 2010 to improve issues behind-the-scenes.
Projects in Brandon will now be run out of the Habitat Manitoba office, based in Winnipeg.
Since 1995, 22 homes were built in Brandon, plus 14 Habitat condos in Massey Manor. Those condos will no longer be used for Habitat families.