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District learning centre focused at local level

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For longtime district resident Helen Parris, a commitment to building a better community is being realized virtually in her own back yard.

"Finland Woods"--the Parris/Nicks residence on Highway 71 near Little Pine Lake that recently was designated as a learning centre--will be the focus of future seminars and exhibitions devoted to community building from a people-centered, human-scale, and environmentally-sound perspective.

"Finland Woods" and its surrounding property--nearly 300 acres of it--will be open to individuals and groups, most specifically local residents who promote enrichment of the local culture through educational and/or economical means.

"That is the whole focus of our property . . . to encourage anything that has to do with promoting a self-reliant community as opposed to depersonalized learning," stressed Parris.

"There is so much of that today."

Parris called it a community-building and helping people work together place.

"It is [about] locals showing other locals of their talents and skills within the community . . . to help put the economy into the community instead of taking it out," she added.

So far, two such events have been held on the property--an art exhibit of burl bowls and ink drawings by Ted and Vicki Burgoyne, and a demonstration on "Preparing Your Garden for Winter" by the Rainy River Master Gardeners.

"It’s a great and beautiful facility," noted local master gardener Melanie Mathieson. "It can accommodate many different types of learning.

"There’s a lot of variability for both hands-on and lecture-type presentations," she added.

Parris did say that on occasion, keynote speakers from out of town will be invited to talk on various topics of great interest to area residents, such as forest protection issues.

The "Finland Woods" committee, of which Parris is the president, will be handling future events at the centre from two angles--ones which are activities arranged by the committee and those arranged by individuals or organizations themselves.

Parris, who came to the district with her husband, Joe, more than 40 years ago from the United States, said she fell in love with the "north" upon arriving here, and had always wanted to make a lasting and positive impact on her surroundings.

"I wanted to be a part of it and for the last 25 years, anyway, it has been more than that," she said. "We started to think about . . . when we die, what do we [leave behind] but to perpetuate the idea of community.

"[‘Finland Woods’] is flying and it will continue to do so with or without me," she reasoned.

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