North Rocky View Community Links has recently settled into its new location in Airdrie and staff members are excited to continue offering quality programs and services from the new site.
People of all ages, from newborns to seniors, can benefit from the agency’s programs and services, which were created to meet Community Links’ mission of strengthening individuals, families and communities.
The agency’s many children and youth programs are key in meeting this goal.
Barb Gross, manager of Family Resource Services at Community Links, says the agency – which is one of 55 Parent Link centres in Alberta – offers about 70 programs for parents and caregivers, including everything from group sessions for youngsters that focus on learning through play, to one-one-one parent coaching sessions.
“Parents have a critical role in preparing their kids for school and life, [yet] no one comes into this job with all the answers,” says Gross, noting Community Links offers about 22 early childhood development programs each week, both onsite and at locations such as Airdrie Public Library. “We are here to answer questions and help.”
Gross says the agency’s Family Child Care program is a key part of its offerings for children ages newborn to 12. Gross says child care providers involved in the program meet or exceed provincial regulations and work to enhance the emotional, mental and physical health of the children.
Another meaningful program is Roots of Empathy, now 10 years old. It brings a mom and her infant into a Grade 1 classroom for several months to nurture empathy within the school children.
Sue der Stepanian, coordinator of volunteer services at Community Links, explains that as students observe how the mom treats her infant and watch the baby develop, they gain empathy and are less likely to bully others.
der Stepanian also highlights children’s volunteer opportunities – such as helping fill backpacks with school supplies as part of the Supplies for Success program – as a way of instilling empathy and the values of giving and caring.
She notes volunteering “reminds kids of how lucky they are and creates the understanding that we need to help the community.”
der Stepanian also encourages caregivers to check out Community Links’ Toy and Resource Library as an economical way of offering new stimulation for kids as they progress through the developmental stages.
Another key area of focus for Community Links is bullying prevention.
Laurie Jacob-Toews, development services manager at Community Links, says the agency offers several programs for youth, such as Beyond the Hurt, Girls Circle and Boys Circle, and Healthy Youth Relationships.
These programs are designed to help kids gain self esteem, learn how to have healthy relationships and to deal with everyday issues.
Community Links staff work with children and youth on the issues of bullying, friendships, healthy relationships and self-esteem, both one-on-one and in group settings – a huge asset to the community. During the 2015-16 school year, 127 individuals were assisted, and more than 600 took part in various groups and presentations offered around the community.
The many programs assisting children and youth are possible in part because of Community Links’ community partners, such as FortisAlberta, which has donated more than $20,000 annually to the agency for the last five years.
Alana Antonelli, FortisAlberta’s communications manager, says the company believes it is their responsibility to give back to the community.
“We believe that only together can we build healthy, vibrant communities and as a business with strong ties to Airdrie and Rocky View County, we have a responsibility to do our part to support where we can,” says Antonelli.
“A community is only as strong as the families within it and Community Links is an organization that does a wonderful job of supporting families in ways that they need it most.”