by Stephen Dafoe
Gibbons — The Sunflower Community Resource Program, located in Gibbons, is a one-stop provider of community resource information to those who need it. The program is a partnership between Sturgeon County, Bon Accord, Gibbons, Legal, Morinville, Redwater and the Sturgeon School Division, and is funded by Alberta Child and Family Services’ Early Intervention Initiatives (EII).
The resource centre held a joint open house with Sturgeon Family Literacy and Sturgeon Adult Learning Thursday, offering clients, residents, service providers and partners a look at the services each offers to the region. The open house was also an opportunity to unveil some new branding for the centre, all displayed in a new sign made possible through a grant from the Gibbons Branch of Servus Credit Union.
Under that sign is a wealth of information for residents of the region, including those at risk and those simply looking for information. “It’s a large geographical area and each of the municipalities in the Sturgeon area have their own programs and services running. We act as a hub for that information,” said Sunflower Community Resource Program Coordinator Ruthann Weeks, adding roughly 10 per cent of the 842 clients Sunflower served last year were Morinville clients. “Of those 10 per cent, 56 per cent were direct client contacts and 44 would have been agencies in Morinville seeking to support Morinville residents through their own agencies.”
Family violence on the rise
One area of service info Sunflower provides is to those affected by family violence, something Weeks said is on the rise. “We’ve seen an explosion in family violence statistics lately,” she said. “Our fiscal year runs Apr. 1 to Mar. 31 and [in] fiscal year 2012/2013 we served 33 domestic violence cases. In the six months of this fiscal year alone, we’ve served 35. We’ve seen that explode.”
Weeks said the program is managed by a team of representatives from each of the communities in the area, and that all have endorsed her being a board member on the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation.
Transportation another concern
Regardless of the resource and assistance provided, Weeks sees access to transportation as a concern to many agencies in the region. “Affordable transportation is our biggest regional barrier,” she said, adding the topic of affordable transportation has come up for as long as she has worked in social services. “We’ve been talking about the lack of affordable transportation in that time and probably before that. If people in low income situations do not have transportation, access to resources is very difficult because a lot of the times the resources we do have access to are in Fort Saskatchewan or St. Albert or Edmonton.”
Weeks said she sees volunteerism as a way forward. “I feel the solution is in volunteerism,” she said. “Different agencies have volunteer driver registries. Home Care does it with volunteer drivers. Canadian Cancer Society does it with volunteer drivers. So I’m actually in the process of doing a little bit of research, and [I’m] going to present it to my management team to see if that is something we can look at.”
Multiple information opportunities
Weeks is quick to point out not all of the services the resource centre provides is to those at risk. Sunflower can provide info on how to obtain help with a personal or family issue, provide someone to listen, suggesting what might be an effective first step towards a solution, connect people with a local agency or organization, and offer information through the many publications in Sunflower’s resource library.
“Call us. Think of us when you don’t know where to turn,” Weeks said. “We’re not just for people and populations at risk. We’re for everybody. We get calls from people looking for day homes in their area or professional services. We’re not the Chamber of Commerce. We don’t want to be the Chamber of Commerce. We don’t want to compete with them, but a lot of times seniors will call looking for a handyman service or snow removal.”
Sunflower Community Resource Centre can be reached online at www.sunflowerinfoline.ca or by phone at 780-923-2374. The office is located at 5015 – 50 Street in Gibbons. They are open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.