Gabriolan families have a new resource to help them negotiate the transitions into parenthood, and seniors will have help wending their ways through the world of governmental bureaucracy.
All this is thanks to a new community resource centre initiated by People for a Healthy Community (PHC).
Speaking at its Sept. 22 official opening, PHC Executive Director Kathryn Molloy said the new centre is located on the ground floor of the Gabriola Professional Centre to be close to shops, medical care, and the credit union. She said inspiration to create the centre grew out of the response to a number of community surveys asking what the gaps in services are on Gabriola.
Among the suggestions they received, Molloy said, were some from Gabriola Midwife Tamara Cowan, who said that pre-natal classes, moms’ and dads’ groups, and a place for people to come to find out what government grants are available are needed.
Gabriolan Audrey Sumner also “came in with a group of people”, Molloy said, “and said ‘listen up, this is what we seniors need. We need a resource centre, and a hotline, and a place where we can come and find out about Vancouver Island Health Association resources, the Shelter Aid for Elderly Residents grant and Guaranteed Income Supplement’ ”.
Molloy said Resource Centre Coordinator Maggie Mooney will also offer up to 10 hours per week of “low-cost to no-cost” private counselling to seniors and families. She said the centre will be open 10 am to 2 pm from Tuesday to Saturday, and is accessible for people with mobility issues.
Asked to say a few words at the ceremony, Doug Routley, NDP MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, said the new centre, along with the recently completed urgent treatment rooms and medical offices at the Gabriola Community Health Centre on Church Street were good models for how primary care can be delivered to rural communities. He commended Gabriolans for finding ways to “deliver services to people that are community-based and community-directed”, and said that such initiatives deserve government support.
Molloy said that the funding for the centre is only for one year, “so our goal and our challenge, always, as a non-profit, is ongoing funding”. She said the funding for the resource centre and food bank that PHC also runs will come from separate pots and cannot be applied interchangeably. Agreeing with an earlier comment from Routley that PHC is doing work that government has let go, she said they will be looking for feedback and letters of support from Gabriolans and will be looking to Routley “to help access some of those provincial funds”.
Noting that Gabriolans live in “a wonderful community”, Regional Director Howard Houle said Routley and MP Jean Crowder recently hosted a seniors’ roundtable discussion at the WI Hall, and the new centre will address some of the issues that were raised at the meeting. “Issues of transportation, medical issues, housing issues were all discussed”, Houle said, and a key issue was how Gabriola seniors might access government services, as Gabriola did not have an on-island advocate.
He added that seniors using the resource centre would also be able to learn how to “talk to your grandchildren on computer – it opens up all new doors”.
Islands Trust Trustee Gisele Rudischer said that the centre was “such a wonderful asset that PHC has given this community”.
Trustee Sheila Malcolmson said that over the years PHC has “been the agency that fills the gaps in the system” on Gabriola. She said PHC works with the Official Community Plan, as an agency “delivering services in a way that’s in keeping with the community’s rural character, protecting the environment, and with the Islands Trust Act itself which says ‘carry out preservation and protection of the islands in cooperation with others’ ”.
“So many different levels of government have a huge impact on how we live our lives”, Malcolmson continued. She said that although the Province “is most responsible for caring for the bodies and minds … of islanders”, it has “fewer and fewer people” doing the work, and “fewer and fewer people available to actually answer the phone”. She appreciated that there would be an intermediary to help Gabriolans work through the maze to access “what services are available”.
Community needs are filled “again and again” by volunteers, Malcolmson added. She said it was “fantastic that PHC has invited them all under your roof to carry out the work”. She thanked “all the agencies that have cooperated in that, and the leadership of the board”.
Mooney said that she will have the help of volunteers in running the program and that there are many ways for volunteers to be involved with the centre. She added that she was grateful to the support of Circle of Care volunteers and the generosity of Gabriolan businesses for donating “virtually everything” in the centre.
She also listed and thanked a number of organisations for supporting the program financially.