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Fredericton charity founder wins national community hero prize

Click to play video: '12 Neighbours Community founder recognized'
12 Neighbours Community founder recognized
WATCH: One Fredericton philanthropist is being recognized as a community hero. The founder of the 12 Neighbours Community has won a national contest for his work. As Anna Mandin reports, he hopes it can be an example to others. – Dec 11, 2023

Marcel LeBrun said he founded the 12 Neighbours affordable housing community to help people experiencing homelessness come to live a full and independent life.

He began planning for it in 2015, and it now has about 75 community members.

“I’ve just so enjoyed getting to know everyone and learning everyone’s stories,” he said.

A few months ago, the employees from the local Kubota dealership told him he’d been nominated for the Kubota / CHL Community Hero contest. He was one of five finalists, and on Monday, he learned he was the grand prize winner.

“I think everyone sees what we’re doing, and they’re like, they want to have this in their city, and I think it’s a reflection of a collective yes,” he said.

LeBrun a ‘hero’

Chad Ming, the digital marketing manager for Kubota Canada, said LeBrun won because he’s a hero.

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“He was a fan favourite. We were tracking him from the very beginning. We said, ‘Wow, this guy’s got a great story, and a great community to support him,'” Ming said.

Allan Smith, known as “Mayor Al” in the community, was one of 12 Neighbours’ first residents.

“Marcel has the biggest influence on my life. He’s changed it a lot,” he said.

Smith used to experience homelessness, but since moving to the community with his fiancée he said he doesn’t have to worry about her experiencing homelessness.

He works under LeBrun as a brand ambassador, but he said Lebrun is also his friend.

“He’s such a great person. You don’t ask for anybody better than this guy, and he’s fair — with everybody — and he’s got a good heart, and he wants everybody to succeed here,” Smith said.

The grand prize includes $35,000 toward a charity of the winner’s choice. LeBrun said that money will be used for continuing 12 Neighbour’s mission — they’re in the process of building an onsite café, and they build a new small home every month.

He hopes the Fredericton charity’s work will go on to inspire others.

“Great things can happen in small places,” he said.

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