Manitoulin Family Resources holds annual meeting

MINDEMOYA—Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR) Executive Director Marnie Hall Brown and Board President Valerie O’Leary presented the organization’s annual report on June 26 in the agency’s boardroom.

Ms. O’Leary began the reading of the report by thanking board members Maggie Harding and Leanne Bently for their continued contribution, expressing appreciation to past vice president Kimberly Foyston, and welcoming new members Paul Darlaston and Leslie Fields.

“When people think of MFR,” Ms. O’Leary went on to say, “they tend to refer to one or two programs, generally in one sector, with which they are personally familiar or have knowledge. It may be the shelter or the food bank, or a child welfare centre. Few people tend to start off thinking of all three with fewer still realizing the integration and cross-sector benefits that occur within the agency. Indeed, the name of the agency itself came from the recognized need to be reflective of all that the agency did and could represent as it expanded from its original role of one of the province’s first ten bed shelters. By focusing on partnerships and collaborations, we work towards a shared vision of enhancing the quality of life of individuals and families in our region.”

Ms. O’Leary then expressed her thanks to the staff of MFR, with many of them in attendance. She continues with expressions of gratitude saying, “as we reflect on what we  have accomplished this year, we would like to express our appreciation to those who act ‘behind the scenes’ and create the setting to allow us to do our work. This involves anticipating what might come, preparing for what we do not expect, and having a team ready to work with us with short notice. This is a long list of contractors and individuals, but we would like to note the special efforts this past year of Dave King, Matt Gray, Ernie McDermid, Steve Hill, Stuart Yanke and Kelly Nelson. The dedicated approach of these individuals to the work completed at MFR is irreplaceable, as is each of them within the MFR family.”

“We would also like to express our appreciation,” Ms. O’Leary went on to say, “to the dedicated administrative team of Denise Leblanc, Barbara Breathat, Diana St. Pierre, Shara Nicks, Ned Martin and supervisors Amanda Roy, Lindsey Gagne and Deanna Lewis. The personal commitment and contribution that each offers is exemplary.”
MFR has had an especially busy year. Many policies were updated, including human resources and centre-based and home child care, following on the release of updated shelter policies from 2017. Training was increased in the areas of harassment and discrimination, and Bill 168, which is the Ontario Law on Workplace Violence and Harassment and WHMIS training was renewed. As well, sector specialized training regarding harm reduction and safety planning in Violence Against Women (VAW), and cultural competency in children’s services all continued. 

As well, the emergency residence/woman’s shelter housed 60 women and children in the past year, with the report emphasizing the need for affordable housing as the lack can  lead to longer stays or repeat admissions.

MRF also received funding for an expansion of the volunteer driving program to provide transportation for shelter women to attend medical, legal and therapeutic appointments, to name a few. Funding also provided upgrades to the shelter and a new roof for the building.

In the Outreach Counselling Program, 101 women were assisted by the two domestic violence counsellors, 32 individuals received ongoing therapeutic services for the sexual assault program, 16 individuals were actively enrolled in the addictions support program, and 84 women were assisted by the transitional housing and support program.

MRF was also active in addressing VAW in a larger scope through the Mnidoo Mnising Coalition Against Domestic Violence with presentations given in regional high schools, elementary schools and Kenjgewin Teg as well as presentations to all five of the Island’s local police services with a focus on human trafficking. This modern-day slavery is prevalent throughout the world and includes Canada. The International Organization for Migration (IOOM) lists recruitment such as false job offers and physical or psychological coercion as elements of this trafficking. Canada’s Bill C-268 sees that convicted traffickers serve a minimum of five years in prison.

The children’s services program has seen growth and has allowed MFR to increase access for families by decreasing rates in both centre-based and licensed home child care and increasing pay for licensed home care providers.

MFR also opened a new family grouping program in Mindemoya with access for children from infancy through school age. Also, the new outdoor learning environments at Little Current and Mindemoya child care programs were finalized with the construction of two nature-based environments for children to learn and explore. There was also a transformation from a best start hub to early on child and family centres with increased programming for families. A second family grouping program will open this year in Little Current.

The Help Centre core of MFR continues as the agency’s food bank and thrift store through, as Ms. O’Leary explained, “the goodwill of dedicated volunteers, community donations, and program support.” At Christmas time, 2017, baskets were provided to 832 households, the largest campaign to date. The agency also received funding for the infant support program and address the cost of formula and diapers for families using this facility.

MRF recognizes that one-third of food bank users are children under 18 and has participated in the Healthy Kids Community Challenge project through Noojmowin Teg and has thus provided $500 of fresh food for kids in monthly food baskets. MFR also received funding to provide fresh foods to local schools including Central Manitoulin Public School (CMPS), Little Current Public School (LCPS), Lakeview School and the Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) Living Well Locker.

Ms. O’Leary expressed the thanks of MFR to the Help Centre volunteers. “Funding,” she said, “along with private donations, in memoriam donations, fundraising efforts, thrift store sales, grant opportunities through the Ontario Association of Food Banks and the many community drives that are undertaken, allow our Help Centre to provide for those in need during difficult times. Without our amazing group of volunteers in the program, it simply could not exist. The board and staff of Manitoulin Family Resources would like to express their thanks to this dedicated group.”