For more than two decades Invermere’s Family Resource Centre has provided social services to the Columbia Valley community.
This April, the centre will move into a new area of support, as it takes over employment services in the community in conjunction with Canadian Mental Health, the College of the Rockies, Ktunaxa Employment Services and other regional groups.
The changeover is part of a B.C. government restructuring of employment service centres across the province. Earlier this year, the province announced it had negotiated contracts for “one-stop” employment centres in every region.
In this region, the main employment office will be in Cranbrook, with satellite operations in Invermere and Golden.
“Staff at the satellite office will connect clients to services outside the community, ensuring all clients have access to all services,” explains Cindy MacDougall, a public affairs officer with the Ministry of Social Development.
While current service providers were given the opportunity to apply for contracts under the new model, Barbara O’Neil of Steele O’Neil and Associates (which runs the current employment centre in Invermere) told The Echo she decided not to enter a bid because she’s in the process of retiring.
Family Resource Centre executive director Pat Cope says stepping into the employment services role is natural for the locally-based non-profit.
“We have quite a diverse range of services we presently provide and this just will continue to add to the services that we already deliver, social services to the community,” she said.
“The Centre was very much interested in seeing that services for our community are delivered locally. We believe when they’re delivered locally we have the greatest ability as a community to provide input into how those are being delivered and whether it’s working for the community.”
The change in providers will begin this April, with Steele O’Neil winding down its operations and the new group of partners moving in. The new centre will operate out of the same space as before, on 7th Avenue in Invermere.
Cope says getting into employment services will also give the Family Resource Centre a chance to connect with a slice of the community it hasn’t been much involved with in past.
“As a non-profit we haven’t been as connected to the business community as we have to the non-profit world and I think from our agency’s perspective this opens a door for us to work with the business community, and I think that’s exciting,” she said.
Other service providers for the Cranbrook area include the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, Community Futures of the East Kootenays and the Golden Community Resources Society.