The Community Connections (Revelstoke) Society threw open their doors for a May 31 open house. It was a chance to find out more about some of the many programs they offer, and more importantly the dedicated people who make it happen. While I didn’t get a chance to speak with everyone about all their programs, I did catch up with quite a few. Here’s what they had to say.
Outreach Services manager Patti Larson oversees a range of programs, including the Community Connections Food Bank, the Kids Snack Pack program, Baby Bundles, the Community Kitchen and the Feed the Future.
The May 31 open house was timed to coincide with Canada’s Hunger Awareness Day. It raises awareness of the solvable problem of hunger in Canada. Their website (http://hungerawarenessday.ca/make_a_change) provides a broad range of educational, awareness and practical resources to help you make a difference.
Currently, Larson is promoting their Feed the Future program designed to make a difference in the lives of children in Revelstoke who are facing hunger.
More than 40 children access the food bank for help each week — that means that 40 per cent of food bank recipients are children. And the numbers are increasing.
During a recent count in March, 69 children accessed the food bank.
Child hunger leads to delayed development, increased susceptibility to disease.
The Feed the Future campaign encourages community members to commit $25 monthly, which will be dedicated to Revelstoke children. You can donate in person, by mail or online (www.community-connections.ca).
Funds will be used to support programs like the Kids Snack Program that provides children and teenagers with healthy lunch supplies.
Larson encourages everyone to help in their own way, even if a $25 commitment isn’t doable. “If everybody helps a little bit, it will make a difference in someone’s life,” Larson says. “And I am hoping with this Feed the Future campaign that it will bring awareness because we do have a number of hungry children in Revelstoke. When we talk about 40 per cent of people accessing food banks are children, that’s Revelstoke too.”
You can make a contribution by volunteering at the food bank, leading a drive at your office, making a food or cash donation at Cooper’s, or participating in one of their coupon programs at Cooper’s.
Kristal Bradshaw is program coordinator for Community Living Services for Children. They offer several programs including summer day-camps for children, infant development programs, supported childcare, the Jumping Jacks pre-school and parent support groups — and more.
It sounds like a lot, but when you look into each of the programs, there’s so much more going on. Bradshaw talked to me about their Kidsport program, which helps families pay for sports program fees. “It’s really about reducing barriers,” Bradshaw tells me.
She pointed out a display for a program that provides backpacks and school supplies for students. Staff at the Revelstoke Credit Union are behind the program; they delivered just under 50 backpacks to the program this year. They’ve contributed 370 since the program began in 2002.
Bradshaw talked about other programs, like the Jumping Jacks pre-school: “It’s really about stimulating growth across the domains.”
She showed models of car seats that are provided through the ICBC car seat program that provides age-appropriate equipment for children.
Bradshaw is also responsible for programs that support children with a broad spectrum of special needs. For example, she noted programs she runs had recently welcomed four new children with autism. They provide about 15 hours per week of instruction each.
What’s her key message about the special needs programs? “Even though they have a disability, they’re more than their disability,” Bradshaw said.
Also on hand at the Community Living Services for Children room was Nick Potocki and Meighan Phelps, who were getting ready for the Adventurer’s Summer Day Camp for kids 6-10 years old. Starting in July, they’ll be leading campers on theme-weeks that include “Wet and Wild Water Week,” “Nature Week,” “Exploration and Discovery Week,” and more.
Bradshaw says it’s “fabulous staff” like Potocki and Phelps that make it all work
Next door, Lyndsay Legebokoff and Karley Trauzzi of the Clinical Services team talked about the many services they offer, including counselling services, child and youth services and educational consulting services.
They provide free counselling services to people of all ages, and have many youth and young-adult clients. “It’s free of charge,” Trauzzi says. “And they don’t need a referral.”
Clients seek out counselling for a variety of challenges they’re facing. They include: anxiety, depression, addictions, stress, loss, grief, divorce, separation, relationships, violence, sexuality, ADHD, parent/child conflict and sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
They also offer family and group counselling services.
I had to ask why there was a tent in the middle of Trauzzi’s office. Trauzzi and Legebokoff told me a bit about their Adventure-Based Therapeutic Groups. They lead groups on adventures into nature where they provide group counselling services.
If you’re interested in any of these services, call Community Connections at 250-837-2920.
The open house had such an “open” feel that it took me a minute to figure out that Executive Manager of Finance & Administration Diana Kiedrowski’s wasn’t actually on display. I had just wandered into her office while she was working.
Nevertheless, my brief visit in her office was illuminating. She’s in charge of book-keeping for Community Connections programs, juggling budgets and many funding sources for the many programs operated through the society.
Community Connections isn’t a government organization; they rely on a spectrum of funding sources. They’re also exposed to the whims of the economy and had been impacted by harder economic times lately.
Kiedrowski used to work in the private, for-profit centre as a financial administrator. She likes the change: “The bottom line isn’t about the corporation, it’s about the people,” she said.
Housing Outreach worker Melissa Jameson helps those who are homeless or at a high risk of homelessness. She operates a drop-in service for existing or potential clients from 1–4 p.m. from Monday through Thursday.
One message Jameson wants to get across to the public is that homelessness does exist in Revelstoke, despite a perception that it is a big city problem.
“It’s a different experience for everybody,” Jameson explains. Not everybody is literally out on the streets. Some are forced to live with friends or family, while others are forced into temporary homelessness situations through crisis.
Rental costs are a factor. One recent trend, notes Jameson, is an increase in summer rental housing prices. Advertised rates used to fall after seasonal skiers and boarders left town, but that trend is waning. Prices are now staying high all year round.
Erica Maltby wasn’t going to let me walk by her office without getting in a plug for her upcoming Pre-Teen Camps. The always enthusiastic camp co-ordinator is back for her third year while on summer break from college.
“I absolutely love my job,” Maltby says. “I go to camp each summer with the kids. How can I not love it?”
This season they’ve got a varied line-up.
Outdoor Adrenaline week, Express Yourself with Art week, Cultures of the World Exploration week, water week, sports and games week and a camping trip.
Maltby says the campers (aged 9 to 12) are at a critical stage in their development, when their identity transitions from children to youth. The camp seeks to get them outside with others, enjoying the natural world.
In addition to healthy outdoor experiences, they also focus on healthy personal development, promoting inclusive activities and enforcing ‘no-gossip’ zones.
Community Connections (Revelstoke) Society is located at 314 Second St. East. 250-837-2920. They also have a helpful website describing their programs: www.community-connections.ca.