By Darren Lum
Published Aug. 4 2020
President Barb Fawcett is calling 2020 for SIRCH Community Services “a year of celebration.”
Although she recognized the challenges related to the pandemic while speaking at the virtual annual general meeting on Tuesday July 28 she said it was important to “focus this report on our current programs: the work done over the last fiscal year has been incredible and is worth celebrating.”
SIRCH offers programs for pregnant women and those with young children to help them build resilience; School’s Cool a kindergarten readiness program; Community Kitchen; the Apple Sauce Project; a free lunch program during the winter; the Share the Warmth clothing drive; and retail and food training programs.
SIRCH also offers social enterprises such as the Thrift Warehouses located in Haliburton and Bancroft where people can purchase a variety of goods for less than retail and benefit the environment by diverting items from the landfill.
Among the new offerings this past year were social enterprise examples Catering for a Cause a catering service for small and large groups offering customized menus and the International Bistro which is part of Catering for a Cause and involved a partnership with Fleming College. Catering had bookings lined up this summer and autumn but like everything COVID-19 ended these opportunities for needed funds. The bistro’s operation did not occur this year because of the Haliburton School of Art + Design’s 2020 season cancellation.
Also new was the series of Repair Cafes where an army of volunteer “fixers” were brought in to assist the public whether it was to repair broken household and textile items or to teach what was required to resolve the disrepair at a later time. The event which fostered connection between community fixers and the public but also resulted in establishing relations between repair cafe people in the Highlands and all over the province was held on separate dates in Haliburton and Minden. Due to COVID-19 the series was put on hold.
Another notable new program for SIRCH was Family Roots. This program provided training to seniors to perform online family research who were then matched with other seniors who were socially isolated or disconnected from family and friends.
From the annual report: “The opportunity to explore family roots with a volunteer fostered companionship and friendship decreased isolation and in some mental health was significantly improved. Some found long lost relatives. All found interesting insights into their family origin.”
SIRCH was incorporated in 1989 to address gaps in social and health services.
Although SIRCH was founded in and primarily focuses on Haliburton County it also sponsors programs in the City of Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland County and includes the Thrift Warehouse in Bancroft.
“Currently our programs and social enterprises reflect our vision: to have thriving communities where each person feels connected supported and encouraged” the SIRCH website reads. “Our focus is on creating resilience reducing poverty and encouraging connection. Read through Programs and Social Enterprises to see the wide range of initiatives SIRCH is involved in. We really do have ‘an unwavering belief in people and possibilities.’”
Fawcett credited the support SIRCH receives to make everything they do possible
“Enough can’t be said about the various funders organizations businesses local entrepreneurs and individuals who partner donate to volunteer with and support our programs and services. We are so thankful for their vision and cooperation” she said.
Also adopting a tone of accomplishment and gratitude for the supporters who make it possible executive director Gena Robertson said she appreciates the reflection that occurs with an annual general meeting.
“The thing I like about annual meetings is that although it’s a little extra work it’s nonetheless an opportunity to look back and see what was accomplished. And I think most of us at SIRCH are like knee deep in it and we are focused on what we’re doing and where we’re going and we forget or don’t take the opportunity always to [reflect on past achievements]” she said. “Last year was no exception to any other year. There was a lot that happened. A lot that was new. A lot that got accomplished.”
Robertson thanked Fawcett for her leadership as well as the board members for their efforts with COVID-19 protocols and marketing. She also thanked the community which includes service providers the businesses donors and supporters such as the media.
“Because it makes such a difference. It makes it so much easier to do your work when you have a whole big network of people that are supporting you and on the same page” she said. “And again I think sometimes we sort of take that for granted because you do.”
From the president’s report’s remarks this past Oct.17 celebration event marked a 30-year milestone for SIRCH celebrating three decades of its commitment to the community.
“So many proud moments occurred that evening but the ones that stood out the most to me were the words from participants of SIRCH’s programs who shared just how much their lives had been changed. It is with a great deal of gratitude that we look forward to the next decade (or three) of SIRCH’s dedication to the community. Thank you to each of the members of the board for your insight and commitment to our goals and aspirations” she said. “Together we really can make a difference.”