Unease has been swirling through the community as concern over whether Ponoka FCSS’s home care contract will be renewed next year if the right to deliver those services will be granted to a larger, for-profit organization.
If FCSS lost the contract, many other organizations within the community besides FCSS would be heavily impacted. Because of the money that comes with the contract, FCSS has been privileged with a surplus that it delights in giving back to the community.
St. Augustine’s Linkages program and the Ponoka Youth Centre (PYC)/Big Brother Big Sisters are two programs that would be negatively impacted if they no longer received funds from FCSS.
Linkages is a Grade 8 program that strives to bridge generation gaps and teach empathy to the students via two of the community’s senior lodges, Rimoka and Sunrise Village.
“In the past FCSS has helped pay for busing for the Linkages program,” said program organizer Tara Newton.
This year, because of the school’s small Grade 8 population, they didn’t need the transportation funds and a school bus was sufficient. However, Newton says those small numbers and that option is rare; next year a larger number of students will be moving into Grade 8.
“That (transportation fund) will impact whether or not we do Linkages next year,” said Newton.
“I wouldn’t even know where to look for funding because the mandate of the program works beautifully with the mandate of FCSS . . . To work with the community, both seniors and youth,” she added.
Newton says if the program loses it funding in a year, it cannot be fully self-sufficient and the opportunity to teach the students empathy will be missed.
The students and the seniors involved will also miss the program. “This is one of the best programs I’ve ever seen. To see those students interact with those seniors,” said Sylvia Brendel, the program’s accompanying teacher.
When Brendel learned of Alberta Health Service’s decision to possibly reward the contract elsewhere, her reaction was visible, she was shocked. “I’m going to write them myself because that’s disgusting.”
Along with teaching students empathy at a critical time in their lives, a time Brendel feels “they need to get outside themselves”, it also provides simple social interaction for both groups. “Lots of kids don’t have their grandparents close by so it’s that connection to another generation.”
Ponoka Youth Centre
PYC and Big Brother Big Sister, which are run under the same umbrella, would be out of 20 per cent of their individual budgets if they were to lose the FCSS funding. “We know that 20 per cent would have to be made up in the community and that’s not feasible to even hope for,” said PYC executive director Beth Reitz.
The PYC receives $40,000 and Big Brother Big Sisters is given $25,000 from FCSS.
Reitz says with the loss of sustainable funding programs, staff positions would have to be cut. She also feels FCSS and their generosity is largely responsible for the success of both programs.
The funds from FCSS is important to the programs because it’s one of few monetary resources that can be used for administration costs, and because it goes to administration, losing it would have an effect on the 18 programs offered by PYC and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“It’s funding that’s very hard for us to find anywhere else,” said Reitz.
The versatile money is able to go to capital expenses, training expanses for staff; involving behavioral management and mental health for youth, volunteer development, summer programming, and administration costs related to out of school programming.
A concerned Reitz says a fund development committee has been established to look at alternative funding sources.
Reitz also feels this situation has been a wake-up call for the organization. “We’ve realized we have to diversify some of our income. We have to think bigger.”
“But we’re in no means hopeless. It’ll all work out in the end,” she added.