Wins


FCSS boosts and backs volunteers who step up for newcomers. Each FCSS program is different. Here is one story that happened in one community.

What if you can't work?

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“It was almost winter, and there were only flipflops on the kids,” says Holly. “Two families and six kids were living in a one-bedroom apartment. Beans and a pound of wieners were doing them for a week at a time.”

Holly had started a women’s group that was meeting once a month for dinner. The group knew Mennonite families were moving to Alberta to find farm work. When it realized many families were hungry and cold, priorities quickly changed.

With help from Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), they formed the Mennonite Help Office.

More importantly, FCSS shared its extensive contact lists, so Holly and others could rally concerned and qualified citizens ready to give their time and knowledge.

Mobilizing volunteers is FCSS’s secret sauce. In a single year throughout Alberta, FCSS’s community programs engage volunteers who freely give more than two million hours of their time.

In the Mennonite Help Office, about 15 volunteers were on call, getting families to the food bank and helping with winter clothing, health care, work permits and documentation.

“We had a real mess for a while,” says Holly.

Language was a huge barrier. The Mennonites spoke a dialect of Low German and couldn’t read or understand enough English to complete government forms to acquire work permits and licences.

“Some were finding work, because they had lived in Ontario previously and were Canadian citizens. Others were coming on visitors’ permits and were not allowed to work, but had family relying on them back home.”

Holly estimates the Mennonite Help Office helped about 2,500 people who came to her part of Alberta. Many of those newcomers now work and own property in the area. With help from volunteers, who got a big boost and backup from FCSS, families managed to find a new start in Alberta.

FCSS is the navigator in your community. It provides local solutions to local need. But it needs steady funding. Ask your candidate to promise budget dollars for FCSS. Ask, “Do you support FCSS funding?”

For information about what is offered in your community contact your FCSS office.

No longer starving and out in the cold, he came back to FCSS to pay it forward. Each FCSS program is different. Here is one story that happened in one community.

Paying it forward at Christmas

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It was 4:30 p.m. on a cold Friday in mid-January. Key in hand, Linda was locking up for the weekend. Then a voice behind her spoke.

“Excuse me,” someone said.

Linda turned to find a shivering man, holding a small tattered suitcase.

She soon learned that he had been sleeping in a bank kiosk for several nights. Back in Ontario, he had sold everything to travel to Alberta for work. But the promised job didn’t materialize. There was no position waiting. Now, he was unable to buy even food. He had found his way to a church, where the minister directed him to Family and Community Support Services (FCSS). 

Linda called a hotel that had an agreement with a community partner that would assist with the cost of accommodation. It would provide a room for three nights. She called the local thrift store (another community partner) who provided warm clothes in the right size. The FCSS partnership with the local food bank ensured he received hotel-friendly food. At 7 p.m., the man was settled and safe.

The following Monday, FCSS went to into action and was able to direct the man to employment opportunities that suited his experience. As a result, he found work that included accommodation.  

The following December, volunteers were planning a Santa’s Toy Box in the FCSS office, when someone showed up to make a donation.

“What’s motivating you?” Linda asked, not immediately recognizing the man from last winter.

“A year ago, FCSS changed my life,” he said. “I had help finding a job. I’m a supervisor now, and I want to give back and make a difference in someone else’s life.”

FCSS is the navigator in your community. It provides local solutions to local need. But it needs steady funding. Ask your candidate to promise budget dollars for FCSS. Ask, “Do you support FCSS funding?”

For information about what is offered in your community contact your FCSS office.