The following is the report Marion Clark, head of Client Services at Nanoose Community Services, shared at the Annual General Meeting in May.
NCS Client Services is considered an essential service, so the past year has continued to be one of modifications to the ever-changing demands to deal with COVID. We continue to mask, social distance, and practice necessary sanitizing to protect the health and welfare of our clients and volunteers. Throughout the year we have provided our clients with information on vaccinations and assisted them with securing and printing out vaccine passports.
The NCS partnership with Quality Foods continues with the purchase of gift cards that allows NCS clients to purchase food from any local Quality Food store according to their own preferences and needs. Each client receives $175 in gift cards once a month with every additional member of their household receiving an another $50. From May 2021 to April 2022, we distributed $128,350 in QF gift cards to 53 households with a total of 119 people receiving assistance though our food program. The incredible support of our donors has allowed us to provide an increased level of assistance.
Clients have a set appointment each month when they receive their cards and meet with one of our volunteers to discuss possible changes in their circumstances, a need for a referral, or sometimes it is nothing more than a chance to visit and connect. We currently have 16 dedicated Food Team volunteers.
If I were to sum up the past year in a few words, the words I would choose two: programs and partnerships. Again, due to the generous support of our donors and sponsors we have able to introduce several new programs.
The first is our FoodShare program. The FoodShare program is an exciting new program brought to life by Cait McDonald. Cait has a unique connection with local food producers and farmer’s markets. Late last summer the board agreed to fully fund a program that focused on providing fresh produce to clients along with recipes and information to educate clients on how to use the produce they received. The program started in September with a bag of fresh locally grown produce and a printout of recipes using that produce. The next month they received a Maison jar of squash soup prepared by a local chef. Included with his now famous recipe were the ingredients to make the soup. Sprouting jars were featured another month and Springford Farms has generously donated 40 dozen eggs each month for the past four months. In March and April we have received a grocery bag of produce from the Good Food Box program under the auspicious of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society, and we plan to do again in May. Through bulk buying and support of two local farms they are able to supply our clients with $20 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables at a cost to NCS of half that amount. We currently have 44 clients participating in this FoodShare program.
In the fall a committee was struck to address the need for Emergency Funding. Food scarcity is not the only issue our clients face. Limited resources often find clients unable to pay for some unforeseen event in their lives. An unexpected medical expense, some needed dental work, a transportation issue, heating, small home repairs, or clothing for an upcoming job interview can put a strain on a meagre budget. We began receiving requests for Emergency Funding in January. Clients can make a request for funds and our volunteers then bring that request to the committee for approval and funds are then disbursed accordingly.
The Pet Program continues to be supported by community members to provide a pet card for pet food from Bosley’s in Parksville every two months. Pets play an important part in the lives of many of our clients.
In October and November, we welcomed back the elves from the Elf program as they gathered the wishes, wants, and needs of our clients that they then used to prepare the gifts and hampers to be given during the holiday season. One of the highlights in January for our food team is to hear the stories of how grateful clients were to receive the gifts that made their Christmas special. We are inspired by the work Geraldine Taron and her team provides to the community.
NCS is certified by the Canadian Revenue Service as a Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) provider. This is the second year of operation for this very successful program. Lindy England and Ed Darte volunteered to complete an online training course to qualify as volunteers in the CVITP program. Those clients expressing an interest in assistance met in person with a tax volunteer on Food Days in January, February, and March. They could also be contacted remotely by telephone. Clients provided the necessary tax information and documentation to complete an electronic filing. Approximately 20 clients participated in the program this year. Our clients by filing their taxes become eligible for certain rebates and subsidies available to low income individuals.
We continued our partnership with Forward House this year. Forward House is an organization that provides support for adults that experience anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges, anyone looking for recovery services, or a community connection. Outreach staff from Forward House have been joining us on Food Days offering a bagged lunch and interacting with clients to assess if they might be interested in the programming Forward House has to offer. This has provided Forward
House with a much-needed point of contact for their drop-in program at Nanoose Place every Wednesday afternoon.
We partnered with Oceanside Building Learning Together (OBLT) last year to provide hampers to seniors and moms with under school age children. OBLT is a non-profit organization promoting life-long learning. We have a project in the works to partner with their tech team volunteers to assist clients with difficulties using their smartphones and electronic devices.
The Community Career Centre in Parksville is a non-profit organization supported by Work BC, their out-reach workers have agreed to attend several of our Food Days to inform any clients seeking employment about their programs and services.
In the meantime, we continue to encourage and refer our clients to other services within the community such as mental health services through ViHA, employment agencies, legal aid, and SOS in Parksville.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the very special group of volunteers who have served selflessly these past many months under ever changing and unusual circumstances. We have a group of tremendous volunteers! I would like to especially thank our team coordinators Kathy Lowe, Melba Nelson who have worked tirelessly to revise schedules and procedures and provide endless advice and support. Kerstin Fredriksson, Anne Milne and Jacqueline Moir are coming on board as our new team coordinators. I would also like to thank Ann Williams who maintains the records and balances the monthly books and Anne Larsen who manages our Zoom meetings. A special thank you to Cait McDonald who orchestrated a seamless transition from Dropbox to Google Drive.
NCS Client Services
May 2, 2022