SUNDRE — Greenwood Neighbourhood Place Society plans to scale back operations starting April 1, with uncertainty looming over the group’s long-term sustainability.
“The future of GNP is unknown,” states a recently issued press release.
“It saddens me to think that GNP could just vanish, and that the community could lose many valuable services which are needed more than ever in these very difficult times,” Sari Werezak, executive director, wrote in response to an email inquiry.
The society cites funding constraints as the main reason for an uncertain future. It is a non-profit charitable organization that relies on grants and community support to continue providing programs and services that meet the needs of Sundre as well as Mountain View County residents.
Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) is under the umbrella of Greenwood Neighbourhood Place Society, and they work collaboratively. The society has lost in excess of $43,000 in provincial funding, which will impact the community resource centre’s programs and services, the release reads.
Additionally, grants to ensure longer-term sustainability are becoming more and more difficult to attain.
“The Community Building Initiative funding has been eliminated and came from the ministry of Children’s Services. We are one of 450 organizations impacted by non-renewal of these contracts effective March 31,” said Werezak.
“Due to the restructuring and ‘new framework’ within this ministry, the Family Resilience Division total provincial grant allocation has been reduced; therefore, there will be fewer grant dollars to distribute,” she said.
New grants, if they are even awarded in the first place, will not replace or make up for any shortfalls, she said.
“We provided office space and are fiscal agents for other groups that are also affected by the cuts, which in turn will result in more lost revenue. With uncertainty of annual donations, loss of provincial funding and completion of current project grants, total deficits would be in excess of $75,000.”
As a result, the board of directors recently made the difficult call to cut back office hours to three days a week from four, affecting public access to information, referrals and many community supports.
“A lot of thought went into this decision,” Werezak said.
“Taking staff into consideration, the board determined going to three days a week was the best scenario for this fiscal year. GNP employees do not receive benefits, and there will be no cost of living increase.”
Furthermore, in the following year, the loss of another operating grant worth about $27,000 will represent further cuts.
“Since fundraising efforts alone will not sustain the society, GNP must continue to seek funding from various sources, including the municipalities,” says the press release.
Werezak said the society continually applies for grants, which are great but generally geared specifically towards project-based initiatives.
“Very few are solely supporting operational and administration costs,” she said.
The development unfolds just ahead of the society’s plans to celebrate 20 years of service to the community this June. Through the strength of community support, funders, volunteers, and the board of directors, the organization has to date been able to keep its doors open, providing as much as possible with limited resources, reads the press release.
While FCSS funding is allocated to the society, that amount does not cover all of the operations at GNP’s office.
“We make sure the ratio of funding that goes into FCSS administration is reasonable. The majority of funding goes into the direct costs of FCSS programs themselves,” Werezak said.
There are certain programs FCSS is not allowed to fund, such as the Sundre Santas hamper program and employment services, she added.
“Many joint programs and services such as Sundre on the Go, senior events and summer youth programs, are jointly funded by GNP and FCSS, and could be in jeopardy."
Moving ahead, she said challenges to overcome will be not only maintaining existing programs, but also attempting to take on new initiatives with limited resources.
“We will be reviewing all programs as staffing hours will be reduced. Hours of public access to the community resource centre, for those requiring assistance, will unfortunately be affected. Without new funding, further cuts will be made in programs, services and staffing next year.”
The society serves as a primary access for resources and supports in the community, and is not a government agency, despite a common misconception. Being more isolated than other communities in the county, accessing services in Sundre can be more difficult, she said.
“GNP is vital to maintaining a connected, thriving and engaged community.”
Since fundraising efforts alone will not be sufficient to sustain the society, the board will continue to seek funding from various sources, including municipalities. Acting proactively, the society presented its case in 2018 to both the Town of Sundre and Mountain View County councils, requesting sustainable annual funding of $30,000 from both. However, she said the society “was unfortunately unsuccessful.”
The board plans to keep a close eye on the society’s budget. Looking ahead to the 2021-22 fiscal year, she said further decisions on cutbacks are anticipated as the Community Initiatives Program operating grant ends in March 2021.
“The society’s reserved dollars from fundraising efforts and past surpluses will only carry operations for a very short time,” she said.
Werezak added GNP is not isolated and that similar organizations provincewide have been impacted by cuts, which she said had begun during the former NDP government’s time in office.
Chris Albert, Sundre’s director of corporate services, said last week the municipality provides some funding to FCSS.
“In 2019, the amount was $32,770. This amount is based on a formula from the province, which basically stipulates that the municipality must contribute a specific percentage of the overall funding for Family and Community Support Services,” he responded following an email inquiry.
The split between the provincial government and the municipality, he said, is 80-20, respectively. Mountain View County also provides some funding, he added.