Airdrie community

Community Links

Community LinksNearing its 35th anniversary, North Rocky View Community Links is embarking on some big changes.

According to executive director Brenda Hume, the not-for-profit is kicking off its Journey to One fundraising campaign, which will bring Community Links’ staff and programming – now physically separated in two buildings on Main Street in Airdrie – under one roof.

Hume, who has worked at Community Links for 13 years, says the organization has acquired additional space in its south office, located on the second floor of 125 Main Street, and the entire north office will be relocating. She is excited about the upcoming changes.

“I’m ecstatic for this to come to realization,” says Hume. “For the clients, we are creating that one-stop feel, as well as a comfortable, safe place for them to enter.”

Hume says Community Links is looking to raise $928,000 in its Journey to One fundraising campaign, which will be used to renovate the space and move staff in by July 1.

This isn’t the first big change for Community Links.

The agency, which Hume says served 12,000 people from Airdrie and north Rocky View last year, is an amalgamation of two local not-for-profits: Airdrie Family Services and the Family Resource Centre.

According to Hume, Airdrie Family Services was founded in 1982 as a family day home program.

Over the years, the Family Resource Centre evolved into an organization that primarily provides information and referrals, crisis support and rural programming for parents.

The partnership between the two agencies began in 2004 when Hume and Penny Freeman, the then-executive director of Airdrie Family Services, jointly submitted a request to the Alberta Family Link Centre to become a member organization.

The outcome was the Airdrie and Area Parent Link Centre, which offered counseling, day home services and other family resources.

When Freeman retired in 2007, Hume was asked if she would be interested in amalgamating the partner agencies into one. She answered “yes” and the new organization was formed.

Hume hasn’t looked back.

“It was the best decision for the community and for the two agencies,” she says. “We created so much synergy … and we got a lot of kudos for it.”

Although the organizations were amalgamated, they are still separated physically, and Hume is thrilled that this situation is now changing.

“Individuals, families and children can come to just one location,” she says. “This is great for the community, for the people we serve and the agency.”

Community Links offers numerous supports, including various forms of counselling; school programming; accredited family day homes; a toy and resource library; information and referrals to numerous partner agencies; and support for new Canadians and seniors, as well as victims of family violence and bullying.

“We provide avenues to basic needs, (providing information on) everything from Airdrie Housing, to the Red Cross, to Alberta Works,” says Hume, noting Community Links partners with more than 150 organizations and initiatives. “It is meant to be the one-stop-shop for people to come and get connected with the right supports.”

On average, 63 per cent of the registered charitable organization’s budget comes from municipal and provincial funding and the United Way. Community Links is responsible for raising the remaining funds to stay afloat.

Hume says the organization offers vital services that can be life-changing for some local residents.

One of those individuals is Jacquie Smith (name has been changed to protect her privacy).

Smith, a single mom with a teenage daughter, tapped into Community Links’ services about a year ago after she left her nearly-25-year marriage to an abusive man.

Smith says she was encouraged to go for counselling at Community Links by a child protection officer, so she reluctantly went.

When she was first introduced to Cal Coleman, Smith was nervous.

“I didn’t want a man (counsellor),” she says. “I was skeptical and nervous.”

But Smith’s attitude soon changed as she spoke with Coleman, who gained her trust.

“He was so non-judgmental, and he let me talk about anything I wanted,” she says, explaining Coleman provided her with the critical information she needed.

He also treated her with respect and equipped her with the personal tools she needed to be successful.

“He showed complete patience, acceptance … and he treated me like I was intelligent. He let me know that what had happened to me and my daughter was wrong,” says Smith, explaining in many ways her self-worth had been destroyed over years of abuse.

After just a few counselling sessions and some homework assignments, including self-reflection and a list of suggested reading, Smith was able to move on.

But she still felt supported by her counsellor, who not only shared his number, telling her to call whenever she needed to, but also assured Smith of her worth and her ability to make it on her own.

Smith says Coleman’s belief in her buoyed her through many dark moments.

“Every time I wondered if I could do this, I would look at his card and say ‘this guy believed in me,’” explains Smith. “It is a long road, but I don’t think I could have asked for a better start on that road.”

Smith readily recommends Community Links services to her friends and family.

“They give you the tools … to help you cope, and I seriously don’t think I would be where I am now without that hand up.”

For more information about the Community Links fundraising campaign, or its services, visit nrvcl.ab.ca.

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