February 10, 2022 0 comments
By Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative reporter
A small group of Dufferin County organizations will recognize the work of local nonprofits next week as part of a campaign for the first-ever Nonprofit Appreciation Week (February 14-February 20) .
In December 2021, the province passed Bill 9 to create Nonprofit Appreciation Week, a motion that received unanimous support from all parties. Beginning February 14 and continuing through February 20, the week is focused on recognizing those in the nonprofit sector whose work changes the lives of individuals, families, and communities.
Michele Fisher, executive director of the Dufferin Community Foundation, said the week of appreciation had been “a long time coming.”
“Most of the other helping professions are recognized for their impact. During the pandemic, for example, healthcare workers have been rightly praised for their efforts. But frontline workers in the nonprofit sector — many of whom were also deemed essential — have flown under the radar. That’s why we like to call them ‘invisible champions’,” Fisher said. “Nonprofit Appreciation Week is an opportunity for us as a community to say ‘Thank You.’ It makes visible all they do to help some of our most vulnerable and to strengthen our communities. I hope this will allow our nonprofit professionals to feel truly recognized for all that they do. »
In Dufferin County alone, there are over 150 non-profit organizations working within the community, ranging from social services, environmental/conservation organizations, arts and culture, recreation, health, mental health, community development, housing and homelessness, food security and much more. .
The Citizen spoke with some of the local nonprofits in Dufferin County ahead of Nonprofit Appreciation Week.
Alzheimer Society of Dufferin County
For people with dementia, a consistent routine can help them thrive. As a non-profit organization focused on support, programming and education, the Alzheimer Society of Dufferin County has taken on the challenge of maintaining this routine for more than two years.
“Over the past two years we have seen a significant drop in the availability of things like day programs, community support, personal support worker support. Basically anything that would allow a person with dementia and their family to maintain a consistent routine,” said Lindsay Gregory, Outreach and Education Coordinator. “Without this structure, we are seeing an increase in complex cases, an increase in behaviors and the burnout of caregivers.
To help address the lack of structure for clients brought about by the pandemic, the Alzheimer Society of Dufferin County has begun offering online training and education sessions as well as social programs, activities and social sessions. exercises.
One program, which Gregory points to as a proud moment in the face of the pandemic, is their Bring Back Box program.
The Bring Back Box program is a Montessori approach to dementia care where clients receive personalized activity kits based on their hobbies, interests, and memories that provide meaningful stimulation and engagement.
“We see a lot of people with dementia who are bored,” Gregory said. “It’s a really nice way to connect with people in an otherwise virtual world.”
The Alzheimer Society of Dufferin County has approximately 400 people on their active caseload and while their caseload has not increased since the pandemic, they have seen more admissions seeking access to education and support .
“We talk more often with people who are now at home with loved ones and who may be noticing this cognitive decline that they wouldn’t otherwise notice,” Gregory said.
Coming out of the pandemic, Gregory said after seeing how people have connected with them, the Alzheimer Society of Dufferin County will likely continue to use their virtual opportunities in a “hybrid model.”
Community Living Dufferin for over 60 years has been providing support to adults in Dufferin County who have developmental disabilities and when COVID-19 hit, rather than accepting a hiatus from all programs, Community Living Dufferin staff shows creativity.
“It could have been very easy for us to say ‘sorry, the building is closed and the programs are over, we’re just going to get by,’ but our staff didn’t,” Karen Murphy-Fitz explained, executive assistant. . “We changed our programs from those we operated in the main building to programs we offered in each of our homes.”
One of the ways they transformed, Murphy-Fitz added, was by distributing craft boxes in their homes, which contained games, science projects and art supplies.
“Residents had something different to fill their days,” Murphy-Fitz said.
Operating 14 homes that provide housing for more than 60 adults supported by the nonprofit, Community Living Dufferin was challenged early on by isolation as family visits were cut short.
Community Living Dufferin applied for and became the recipient of a number of grants allowing them to purchase smart TVs, iPads and Google Home units so they can continue to connect with families.
“It was huge for helping the people we support stay connected with their families, giving them the opportunity to see each other face to face,” Murphy-Fitz said.
Although Community Living Dufferin has learned, like many organizations, to balance the setbacks caused by the pandemic, it is the emotional impacts that continue to be felt.
While speaking with the Citizen, Murphy-Fitz held back tears as she spoke about their adaptation as hallways and rooms remain empty.
“It’s been hard not seeing people, and it’s going to be nice to have everyone together again.”
As the saying goes, the show must go on.
As a relatively young organization that began with seasonal programming, Streams Community Hub faced the challenge of bringing the arts, a naturally collaborative and in-person discipline, into the virtual space.
“We really spent several months, like anyone working in a space that deals with a lot of in-person programming, trying to figure out what to do,” explained Juli-Anne James, co-founder of Streams Hub. “It’s hard to put on a play without a stage.”
Although not fully equipped with the technology and staff to deliver virtual programs, Juli-Anne and Andrew James have found a way to bring the arts into children’s homes – through a stand-up competition.
The Word of Mouth Monologue competition launched in March 2021 and saw local young people aged 8-17 submit online performances of various monologues and compete in a live final.
“The monologue competition was a really great opportunity that we did after it turned out to be really awesome,” Andrew said. “It made us realize it’s a good outlet and now we need to keep doing it even when things get back to ‘normal’. We recognized the importance of helping young people have another way to express themselves .
Although restricted for a year to offering arts programs to young people, the James duo note that internal work was underway to deepen their roots in the community.
“We were able to see some of the needs in our community and see how we could better meet those needs,” Andrew said.
Streams Community Hub is preparing to open its first permanent location, tentatively scheduled for early March.
“We know the importance of connection, of being together in a space and that we can never escape that need or that want,” Andrew said. “Our show must go on, to move forward creating a bigger space not only for young people, but for the artist who also needs a place to express themselves in their art, while earning a living and teaching the next generation.”
Organizations that have worked to develop local activities in recognition of Nonprofit Appreciation Week include the Dufferin Community Foundation, United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin, Headwaters Communities in Action, DC MOVES, the Chamber of commerce of Dufferin and Dufferin County.