WINNIPEG - When James Favel re-started the Winnipeg Bear Clan Patrol in 2015 - he said he had no idea what it would become. Roughly four years later, the community watch group has expanded nation-wide with thousands of volunteers walking the streets helping the community. Now, the group has been recognized as an outstanding social enterprise.

On Friday evening, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce held its annual Manitoba Business Awards. The Bear Clan Patrol was named as an Outstanding Social Enterprise/Not-For-Profit -- an award recognizing and celebrating businesses “making a real difference for people, for the planet, or for a purpose” according to the Chambers of Commerce.

There have been a lot of things happening over the last few years, and this is another high mark for us,” said Bear Clan Patrol executive director James Favel. “It was a real honour to be recognized that way and I was just kind of taken back.”

The watch group was up against The Dream Factory and the Manitoba Technology Accelerator for the award.

“When we first started this, we had a budget of $900 and there was 12 volunteers, and I didn’t think it would come to much. I wanted to see it get off the ground,” Favel said. “I had no idea.”

Favel said the group has grown to have 1,600 Winnipeg-based volunteers who feed over 1,400 people on average each week. The idea has gone beyond the city, expanding into 55 different communities across Canada, Favel said.

“This work is worth doing. We are having such a positive impact on the community and I’ll never stop,” Favel said.

He said the Bear Clan Patrol has just recently been designated as a charitable organization, and he believes this award will help bring in donors to fund the group in the future.

Manitoba’s Minister of Indigenous and Northern Relations, Eileen Clarke took to Twitter to congratulate the organization.

“On behalf of Indigenous and Northern Relations, I would like to congratulate and thank you  to James Favel and the Bear Clan Patrol on receiving the Best in Manitoba Social Enterprise Award at the MB Chamber of Commerce Business Awards. We are Manitoba proud of all of you,” Clarke wrote.

“I’m the one who goes up to accept the award, but the reality is I don’t do this alone,” Favel said. “There are 1,600 Winnipeg-based volunteers and every one of those people share in this award.”