Thursday, March 4, 2021

United Way closing their Wallaceburg office

The United Way of Chatham-Kent is set to close their office in Wallaceburg by April 1.

United Way officials say they are improving ways to allocate donor dollars, avoiding program duplication and evaluating how people are connecting with their directly funded services.

Subsequently, United Way of Chatham-Kent officials say they are changing how operations are run in Wallaceburg.

As of April 1, 2020, the United Way of Chatham-Kent outreach office will be closing and services will be delivered through an outreach model, meeting people and partners where they are at, United Way officials say.

“As a Board of Directors, our commitment to our donors is to continuously look for ways to make sure the donations received are invested to provide the absolute best help and support we can for those in need,” stated Brad Langford, president of United Way of Chatham-Kent’s board of directors, in a press release.

“Over the past few years, we have witnessed a transition in how people want to connect with our services at our Wallaceburg outreach office with more and more folks reaching out via telephone and online versus physically walking through our doors. There are also new community programs available that were not available when we first opened our doors. Taking this information into account, this allowed us the opportunity to revisit how we were providing support through our Wallaceburg outreach office and to see if there was a better way to invest donor dollars to assist the residents of North Kent.”

Steve Pratt, Chief Executive Officer for the United Way of Chatham-Kent, said the response in Wallaceburg so far has been positive.

“When we first identified the need to maintain a year-round physical office space in Wallaceburg was decreasing due to how residents were wanting to access our services – but understanding that we still have individuals and families that are best supported face-to-face – we began to look for partners with whom we could simply share space with on an ‘as needed’ basis,” Pratt said in a press release.

“The response from the Wallaceburg community has been incredible in terms of the number of businesses and service providers that said ‘absolutely – you can use our space any time you need it to meet with an individual or family in need’.

Pratt added: “After careful consideration, we decided it would be best to focus on meeting people where they are at, when that is a good solution to do so, as transportation is often a barrier for those wanting to access in-person services… in other words, we will go to them. In cases where we still need a physical space to meet with someone, we have collaborated with the Wallaceburg Branch of the Chatham-Kent Public Library (CKPL), a pre-existing community hub and meeting place, to share their space to meet with those who require in-person support.”

United Way officials say the CKPL Wallaceburg Branch was selected, in part, due to a municipally funded Community Navigator Program – a program offered partnership between Employment and Social Services and the Chatham-Kent Public Library – being offered at all eleven library branches, including Wallaceburg.

Community Navigators can:

– Provide one-on-one instruction in accessing government, social and health services online.

– Assist with completing online forms and applications.

– Help with referrals to community agencies.

– Provide employment support and referrals to employment support agencies.

– And help to identify continuing learning opportunities based on your individual needs.

The Community Navigator Program helps to provide some of the same supports offered by the Wallaceburg United Way office staff, United Way officials say.

This has presented an opportunity for the United Way to work together to ensure they are not double spending both tax dollars and donated dollars by duplicating services and to reinvest their donated dollars to supporting the residents of North Kent in other ways, United Way officials say.

This change in service delivery will unlock approximately $6,500 per year that was invested in maintaining a year-round office space, officials say.

These funds now can be directed towards assisting residents in the North Kent area with #UNIGNORABLE issues, like poverty, mental health, homelessness, and addictions.

“And not only are dollars unlocked, but our team as well because this will allow us to become more flexible to meet with individuals and families in need in the community where and when it works best for them,” Pratt added in a press release.

For individuals and families who are wishing to connect with the Community Navigator Program at the CKPL Wallaceburg Branch, Community Navigator Lori Dilliott said residents may call 519-627-5292 or stop by and ask at the front desk for an appointment with a Community Navigator.

“The library staff have access to our schedule and will be able to set them up with an appointment or let them know when they can drop in and see us,” Dilliott said in a press release.

Currently, Community Navigators are in the CKPL Wallaceburg Branch on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We at the Chatham-Kent Public Library are proud to support our community in many ways – from offering free online tutoring services, to providing many free programs and events, to helping residents connect to our community’s human and social services,” stated Tania Sharpe, CEO and Chief Librarian of Chatham-Kent Public Library, in a media release.

“We are pleased to be able to work with United Way to ensure their team has a safe space to meet with local residents when needs arise.”

United Way also funds the 2-1-1 information and referral service in partnership with the Government of Ontario, a free helpline that connects people to community and social services in the area.

You can call 2-1-1 (similar to 9-1-1, but for non-emergency human, social, and government services) 24 hours a day, 365 days per year and the service is available in over 150 languages, United Way officials say.

When you call 2-1-1, you will always speak to a live person, not a recording.

People can also access this service online by visiting 211ontario.ca where they can look up local community programs and services, email a question to the 2-1-1 team, or use the confidential live chat feature.

“Often times when people are in a tough situation and needing to reach out for help, the question is often ‘where do I even begin?'” Pratt said.

“2-1-1 aims to answer that question and lives by the mantra ‘help starts here’.”

In 2019, there were over 560 calls to the free helpline, over 210,000 visits to the online service, and over 4500 connections made – primarily through phone, email, and social media contact – with a local United Way office in the Chatham-Kent area alone.

“These changes will increase the level of service we are able to provide to local residents in the Wallaceburg area,” Pratt said.

“In 2018-2019, United Way funded programs served 6,778 people in North Kent, and that number only continues to rise year-over-year.”

Brian Armitage, Director of Labour United and staff support for the Wallaceburg outreach office, says he looks forward to continuing to serve the community.

“On behalf of United Way, I would like to thank the Wallaceburg Chamber of Commerce for sharing an office space with us at 152 Duncan Street over the years,” Armitage said in a press release.

“I want to reassure the residents of Wallaceburg and area that I am still very much available to meet with them in-person, over the phone, or through email and I believe this change will better help us to serve those in need in our community. I look forward to continuing to serve my hometown community.”

Armitage can be reached by calling 519-354-0430 ex. 296 or by email at brian@uwock.ca.

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