SUNDRE — With the objective of increasing office hours and expanding upon a breadth of community services and programs, the Greenwood Neighbourhood Place Society has launched an ambitious fundraising campaign called Sundre Strong.
“When the GNP board made the very difficult decision two years ago to go from four days a week to three days a week, we became acutely aware that we needed to look at new funding models,” Dolores Dercach, the society’s chair, recently told town council.
Some brainstorming that involved thinking out of the box eventually led the society to develop the new campaign, Dercach said.
“With COVID thrown in there and everything else, there was some delay in us moving forward,” she said, pleased to finally be able to officially announce the campaign.
The objective, she explained, is straightforward.
“The aim was so that we could become more sustainable, while at the same time increasing the amount of programs and services we offer,” she said.
Citing the new Sundre Youth Centre called The Den as well as a new rural mental health initiative, she said the society strives to be a community leader at not only identifying but also addressing needs as well as wherever possible expanding upon existing services.
However, securing adequate levels of funding is the main hurdle hampering the society’s ability to do even more during a challenging time when many people might be turning to an organization such as GNP to lean on for support.
“The volatility of the Alberta economy has had the most adverse effect on those people who live in the margins,” said Dercach. “There is ample evidence that in times of financial uncertainty, vulnerable members of our society become more vulnerable.”
Throughout the pandemic, she said the society has endeavoured to adapt to meet the dramatic changes in provincial government mandates as well as increased needs in the community.
“The significant decrease in funding has been extremely challenging,” she said. “It’s more and more difficult all the time to secure grants.”
Some grant programs look great on the surface, but upon further investigation turn out to be far more cumbersome.
“The amount of hoops that you have to sometimes jump through, it doesn’t even make it worthwhile to move forward,” she said.
Even so, she added the society is always keeping an eye out for potential federal or provincial grant funds.
As a result of the reduced operational hours at GNP’s office, many residents have not been able to access information, support and programs at times when they might need it the most, she said.
Recognizing that of course not everyone who sets foot at GNP is experiencing a crisis, she said those who are have a narrow window of opportunity to drop by the office.
“Sometimes, people find themselves in crisis and that, we find, is a very long wait,” she said, referring to the office being closed Friday to Monday and open only Tuesday to Thursday.
“Crisis and struggle do not wait for office hours.”
So, she said the society concluded now is the time to pursue the fundraising campaign during a period when the world seems to just keep growing more complicated.
“When we drafted this, the war in Ukraine had not even started,” she said. “So you look at how that even increases stress and strain on people in our country.”
Such societal shifts can leave vulnerable people in even greater peril, she said.
“We — the collective we — need to change this,” she said. “We can change this.”
Presenting the society’s plan to council, Dercach outlined their objectives in more detail.
“The projected cost of our vision for Sundre Strong will be $150,000 per year over and above what we get and how we operate now, which is just over $300,000 a year. So, that’s pretty big,” she said.
The additional funding, she elaborated, will help ensure the society can: increase office hours for access Monday to Friday; administer community programming and services that reflect the community’s changing needs; provide outreach to those who might not know about available resources and services and how to access them; and to take the lead, as GNP endeavours to do, to help improve the lives of residents in the area.
Additionally, she said GNP’s staff go above and beyond but have no benefit plan, no sick leave, no additional health-care coverage, and limited time off for paid holiday breaks.
“I would really like to see some of that money, if we were to raise this goal, (benefit) our staff who work over and above the hours that they are paid,” she said.
Dercach challenged members of council to read over the document prepared by the society to promote the campaign and asked them to consider how they might further contribute to GNP.
Recognizing that many people in the community already support the society, she said the non-profit is encouraging individuals, organizations, and businesses to see if they can come up with other ways to contribute more.
Having first started with a presentation to council, Dercach said the society will next be approaching other service clubs in the community.
“We’re just going to really try to get out there, raise this money, keep this going,” she said.
Looking at GNP’s budget from a pyramid perspective for illustrative purposes, she said the base is founded largely upon government funding, moving upward to major donors who annually contribute thousands of dollars, all the way up to the tip of the pyramid that includes minor contributions from people pitching in for example $10.
“Our goal is to invert that triangle so that our base is people like myself, people like you, and trying to build that base so that we do not have to be quite as dependent on those other areas,” she said.
Praising Dercach for bringing the presentation to life, Coun. Jaime Marr said the campaign “seems quite ambitious.”
Also expressing gratitude, Coun. Paul Isaac said he believes in the work the society is doing along with an interest in helping out on the side if he can.
“This kind of a program can be very effective and it can be long term,” said Isaac. “But it is a lot of work.”
Coun. Todd Dalke was confident the campaign will succeed.
“I know those fundraising goals will be attained,” said Dalke. “With 300 people or businesses donating $500 each, you’ll reach your goal. I will be certainly one of those to help and donate.”
Mayor Richard Warnock expressed on behalf of council gratitude for the work the society does.
“I would say that the entire community appreciates GNP and the work that is done there,” said Warnock, adding he regularly points to GNP when people ask where to find resources and information.
Council proceeded to unanimously approve a motion accepting the report for information.
Visit the society’s website for more information.