Thursday August 28, 2014

New centre will focus on the family

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A new centre about to be opened in Yorkton will be focused completely on helping families.

Yorkton is one of three communities in Saskatchewan taking part in an 18-month, provincially-funded, pilot project to establish Family Resource Centres.

Lois Okrainec, Manager of the local KidsFirst chapter, one of the organizations behind the project locally, said the centre has a very simple focus.

"It's really about connecting families to the community," she said. "It's a one-stop-shop so families now have a place to go if they need something."

The new centre currently under renovation will be in the SIGN on Broadway building.

While the new centre will help families find whatever help they require, it is not solely a clearing house for other organizations either.

"This is not just about social programs," said Okrainec.

The centre is being designed as a hub which will be adaptive to meeting whatever programming needs families might be looking for.

While there will be help for families needing it, it is not a centre focused on a specific group of families.

"We're not for a specific target group," said Okrainec, adding all families regardless of income and other factors, can use a place to relax, to connect, to learn.

Kim Gelowitz, who will manage the new centre, said she is not going to provide direct answers to many questions when family issues do arise, but she said she will make sure a family is pointed to the right agency, or office, to find the support they need.

Okrainec said the centre is also looking to make itself something of a haven where families can simply come to get away from things for a while.

"It's a homey atmosphere for families to feel comfortable in," she said.

The centre will have a central relaxation area where adults can gather to read the newspaper, grab a coffee, or simply talk to one another.

Adjacent is a children's play area so youngsters can stay active while parents relax, or get some guidance on issues they are dealing with.

Okrainec said while they will be undertaking some planned programming, they are really looking to get ideas from families visiting the centre.

"We're going to be listening to the community, listening to families," she said.

The centre has an office which will be utilized by visiting professionals who can provide one-on-one help. Okrainec said she can see the office as an ideal location for the provincial rentals-man or ombudsman to use if visiting the city.

Since the centre is already focusing on family needs, Okrainec said she also sees the location as ideal for some immunization clinics.

Okrainec said having kitchen facilities within the centre means coffee will be on, but goes farther to. She said it creates opportunities to provide some limited food services for events, providing at least snacks.

But it can go farther too.

Okrainec said she would love to see the kitchen become utilized for cooking lessons. She said with Yorkton seeing an influx of new immigrants there is a real opportunity to build the community through learning ethnic cooking, and the centre would certainly be open to providing time and space for such an endeavour.

"I'd love to sign up for some ethnic cooking sessions," she said.

The inclusion of culture into the centre is a natural, said Okrainec. She noted the facility has a large meeting room, retaining its previous designation as the 'Tom Seeley Room', which will be available for both centre-initiated programming, and to the community to use. It is a room which could facilitate everything from a yoga class, to infant massage classes through to writing workshops, ethnic dance education, or community meetings.

"We want you to be able to sign up for something of interest to you and your children," said Gelowitz, reiterating "it will be focused at what the families want."

Okrainec added they also want the centre to connect families to business. She said family issues can sometimes impact work, and rather than an employer just telling some one to leave their family problems at home, that with the new centre an employer can refer employees for the support they need.

Okrainec explained the province, through the Ministry of Education, called for submissions to establish family resource centres from the nine KidsFirst organizations in the province. Yorkton, along with Regina and Sandy Beach were selected as pilot projects, which will undertake and extensive reporting and evaluation as part of the agreement.

Yorkton will receive $400,000 for facilities and staff over the 18-months.

The hope is that with good evaluations and successful family programming funding beyond the 18-month pilot period will be approved by the province.

"If we can make a difference, show we've made a difference, funding will be there," suggested Gelowitz.

In terms of the renovation work, Okrainec said they were under some "really tight time-lines" to meet the program requirements. She said they were fortunate contractor Owen Genaille "worked day and night with his crew," to get the work done.

The facility also received some major donations including flooring from Angus Whitman of Noveau Era, and installation of the flooring by Alex Stefanobic.

Cornerstone Credit Union stepped forward with several fixtures from their own renovations.

Photography by Mitch is supplying some 'family photography' for the walls.

While renovations to the space are funded and well under way, the community can still help out, said Gelowitz, and that is by letting them know what sort of programs and support families want. She said people can call with suggestions at 306-782-8171, or email

The centre will also soon launch a web page and will be on Facebook as well as a way of keeping the community appraised of programming.

The Centre is hoping to 'officially' open on Family Day Feb, 19.

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