2024 marks a special year for Epic/ Smile of St. Malo. And board member Denis Bourgeois says they will celebrate the milestone.

Epic/Smile is a non-profit organization working with people with intellectual disabilities. Not only do they offer employment to participants from southeastern Manitoba, but they also provide a place to live. 

Bourgeois says 2024 is their 50th year in operation.

"You cannot be 50 years old and not celebrate it, whether it be a person, or a company or an organization," explains Bourgeois. "And so, we're no different. And so, we are planning a day of celebration."

That celebration will take place on June 14th and will provide a fundraising component. Bourgeois says Epic/ Smile is a government-sponsored organization that receives per diems for its participants. He notes one of the areas where they could use some extra help now is through the purchase of a new van.

Bourgeois says each day they pick up participants for work from across the southeast, in places like Vita, Stuartburn, and Grunthal. He notes their vans put on a lot of miles and some of them have over 300,000 kilometres. 

Bourgeois notes historically it has been their practice to purchase older vans. And, though they might be cheaper, Bourgeois says they also tend to need more repairs. 

"We're at the point where we are getting tired of paying repair bills," he says. "It's not only expensive, it's time consuming."

For that reason, he says they would like to purchase a new van that could hold about 14 passengers. The expectation is that it will cost them approximately $70,000 to buy a reliable, decent van. Bourgeois says he is hoping that they can raise enough money through their June 14th event, to put a dent into such a purchase. 

Having said that, Bourgeois notes the main goal of their June event is to celebrate 50 years of the organization. He notes the day will include a BBQ lunch that is free to the public, carnival games in the afternoon for their Epic/ Smile participants, and then an evening dinner. 

According to Bourgeois, Epic/ Smile has 58 participants. The organization is able to offer work through a number of different contracts including recycling services and painting stakes for Manitoba Hydro. With an annual payroll budget of nearly $2.5 million, Bourgeois says Epic/ Smile employs between 70 and 75 people.