written by Ingrid Anakeu-Kaké
Raymond Simard greets me in his cozy office with a smile on his face. As I settle into my chair, he tells me, “When I wrapped up my political life, I said ‘I’ll work as an independent contractor for six months, maybe a year, and we’ll see how things go.’ Then Daniel Lussier, the CEO of the Compassion Network, called me and said ‘I want you to work on some projects for the Network because you’re well connected, you understand politics, and you understand construction.’ Twelve years later, I’m still here, and it’s been just great.”
Although he’s an independent contractor who owns and operates Boulevard Consultants Inc., Simard is so involved with the Compassion Network that he’s become a member of our family. Part of the services he provides is finding space for the 14 organizations that make up the Network. This includes space for daycare, training purposes, office work, refugee housing, and more. Simard uses his forty years of construction, property development and project management experience to help organizations find the perfect space to meet their needs.
This year, Simard helped Flavie-Laurent Centre find a property for their new location, slated to open at 301 Archibald Street. It began with a need: Flavie-Laurent was looking to expand. A surge of people have been coming to them in need of donated home supplies, and in order to keep up with demand they need a large volunteer-base which their current location can’t accommodate.
“Ray worked with us through the whole process of looking for a building; the offer-to-purchase process; being the link between the owners, our lawyers, ourselves and the Compassion Network; he even went to the City of Winnipeg to ask questions about zoning,” says Julie Turenne-Maynard, Chair of Flavie-Laurent Centre’s Board of Directors.
The building Simard found on Archibald for Flavie-Laurent wasn’t listed for sale. “Because Ray knew the owner, we were very fortunate to make an offer to purchase and have it go through,” says Turenne-Maynard. “If not for Ray, we wouldn’t have known to approach the owner and we’d have never closed the sale.”
In order to get the amount of space required, Flavie-Laurent needed the building on Archibald as well as the small lot behind it. “It belonged to a man who lived in Mexico,” Simard explains. “It wasn’t for sale either but I tracked him down and we bought the property. Now Flavie-Laurent has a beautiful land assembly and we’ve applied a rezoning on the property.”
Since he specializes in finding space for non-profits, Simard understands the challenges faced when looking for property. “There’s a huge dependence on government and sometimes we can identify a really perfect spot but we just don’t have the money,” he says. He suggests that the organizations partner up to help minimize renting and construction costs.
Co-sharing has successfully happened in the Network in the past. In 2011, when Sara Riel needed a home, Raymond found them their current building at 66 Moore Avenue. Since they only needed a portion of the space, Raymond suggested they approach St.Amant, who was also looking for office space. As a result, Sara Riel rented the rest of the building to St.Amant and other small non-profits. The location and the cost-sharing were a benefit to everyone.
Raymond’s knowledge in construction and passion for the non-profit sector distinguish him from other project managers. “It’s nice to have someone who supports the organization and has the expertise to go along with it,” says Flavie-Laurent’s Executive Director, Gilbert Vielfaure. “It’s just a great mix.”
Considering himself lucky to be working with the Compassion Network, Simard smiles as he says, “It’s double the reward. I’m not only finding a building, I’m finding a building that’s going to help people.”
To contact Raymond for help finding space, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.