Where would Ponoka be without FCSS?
Thankfully, the answer to that question is one that residents don’t have to experience.
In one form or another, Ponoka and district residents have been touched by the helping hand of Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) for 35 years. On July 9, FCSS staff, board members, clients and community agencies celebrated their anniversary with a barbecue lunch, entertainment for children and a magician.
FCSS director Joanne Comeau said the afternoon’s festivities were an opportunity “to come together as a community to celebrate … the services that we provide to the community”
The program began in 1974 as Ponoka Community Home Help Services, simply offering in home visits, personal care and respite care. Today the program is a shared service funded 80 per cent by the province with the remaining 20 per cent shared by the Town of Ponoka and Ponoka County. A volunteer board of directors oversees operations.
“Initially it started as a home support program out of the health unit and they were just assisting seniors with a bit of cleaning and allowing them to remain in their own homes,” Comeau explained.
The department now has a budget of $428,00 and offers a variety of programs such as: Home Support, Meals on Wheels, Lifeline, Seniors Coffee Hour, Seniors Resource Centre, Tools for Schools, blood donor clinics, volunteer drivers, family counselling and a corps of volunteers to assist seniors and medical patients,
FCSS also has a contract with Alberta Health Services to provide home support aides and home care aides to about 250 clients. Comeau said they provide personal care for mental health clients living in the community.
FCSS also oversees several funds in the community for MS, cancer, breast cancer and an emergency fund. Money is earmarked to help people who might need occasional community welfare, such as paying a volunteer driver to take a client to medical appointments in the city.
“We never give out cash, we never pay rent or utilities,” Comeau explained. “It’s for when special needs arise in the community and there’s no other resources.”
FCSS also helps to sponsor the Ponoka Youth Centre, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Ponoka Victim services advocate training and provides support for the Parent Link Centre.
“Where there’s a need or a request we try to fill that need,” Comeau said. Community groups and agencies must apply for a piece of the funding pie.
As FCSS keeps changing to meet community needs, Comeau sees the department continuing to provide strong support for seniors and families in crisis.
“The cost of living is rising but seniors’ income has remained the same; and the dynamics of families is changing,” Comeau said. “There is a lot of family breakdown so they need a lot of support and resources.”