Most people who attended the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) 40th anniversary will remember a celebration of culture.
The night was hosted Friday, Oct. 24 at the Stagecoach Saloon and featured entertainers from many different cultures that make up the area.
It was a breath of fresh air to see performances — many of who volunteered their time — from members of the Filipino community, a hoop dancer from Maskwacis, belly dancers from Ponoka, a Scottish piper and musical performances from Jamie Woodfin.
Executive director Shannon Boyce-Campbell said organizers wanted to celebrate the diversity of the area and she suggested it was also a way to celebrate and acknowledge United Nations Day. “Our population base is changing and we need to celebrate that.”
Ponoka’s program almost didn’t make it off the ground many years ago but dedication from a core group of volunteers helped ensure FCSS had a strong foundation. With the dedication of Margie Jones, some of the first volunteers say it would not have been possible without her leadership.
Helen Hagemann helped Jones get things going. “We had a meeting and we said we can’t do it…Margie said let’s give it one more month.”
Funding started to come in and the group earned some funds through newspaper recycling and they never looked back after that. Hagemann is pleased with changes since then. “It was a totally new concept,” she said.
Barb Noel was on the board for a short time and she was pleased to see such a large turnout. “It’s great to see the community come together like this.”
The celebration started with a performance from hoop dancer Jerry Saddleback Jr. with Kokimaw Nipawo Initiatives, who wowed attendees not only with his performance but also his recounting of how he learned the dance from his father.
FCSS always changing
Boyce-Campbell suggests the organization has been able to adapt to changing financial landscapes despite not seeing an increase in funding for some years. “What I think Ponoka FCSS has done is push forward and said ‘That’s great, but we’re going to do more,’” she explained.
While some offices in the province struggle, Ponoka’s agency has been able to take specific funding and bring grass-roots programs to the community.
“What I want to celebrate is the unsung heroes of Ponoka,” said Boyce-Campbell, referring to the first board of Ponoka FCSS.
Representing Ponoka County was Mark Matejka. He has been the county representative on the FCSS board of directors for the last year and says the biggest surprise for him was how much FCSS is involved in the community. “I didn’t know how much they were depended on by certain residents.”
Some of the programs offered such as home care assistance, lifeline, meals on wheels, cultural trips for youths, the community garden and a variety of others are something he feels have a positive impact on Ponoka.
Meals from around the world enhanced the celebration of cultures at the event.
FCSS also hosted its AGM before the celebration with the announcement that the board did see a deficit in 2014.
The board’s older bylaws from 40 years ago were repealed and a new set of bylaws was adopted. Boyce-Campbell said the main reason for the new bylaws was to stay up to date with existing laws. She says their biggest challenge is retaining volunteers who have the time to help.
Their involvement in Ponoka is relatively large with financial support to the Youth Centre and other agencies. If grant funds were reduced, support to those community projects would stop.
“A social program is only recognized when it’s needed,” she suggested.
For the individual who is helped however, the benefits are great. She feels they should evaluate programs on a regular basis to ensure the needs of the community are met.