The numbers are hard to argue. Meals served: 35,360. Trips made by 524 seniors in the 'Senior Link Limo': 13,058. Homeless obtaining identification: 4,513. Per cent of newcomers working, at school or volunteering, after attending New Knowledge, New Skills for Newcomers program: 81. Number of people living in affordable housing: 429. Number of hours donated by 707 volunteers: 20,224. Number of people served: 11, 356.
With numbers like that, the odds are you know someone who has been helped by Neighbourhood Link Support Services, if not yourself. Yet staff and volunteers at the 37-year-old East End institution still find themselves regularly explaining who they are, what they do, or that yes, the organization does much more than just help seniors (despite the fact it was formerly named 'Senior Link').
The organization is launching a new awareness campaign, called 'Wake Up The Neighbours', to help spread the word on what it does, where, and for whom. Beach accountant Bob Gore is the treasurer on the Neighbourhood Link volunteer Board of Directors, a position he's held for about six years. He takes a look at the financial numbers of the organization – work done by full time staff – and advises the board on the ongoing situation.
“The organization used to be known as Senior Link, and in the neighbourhood, including me, the only thing you're aware of that they did, or assumed they did, was various services for seniors in the area,” he said.
Although they still offer those services for seniors, there are also job training programs for newcomers, programs for at-risk youth, multiple subsidized rental buildings, community dinners, after school programs and more.
“It's really become quite a broad organization, and that kind of exposure of all the various activities and the reach of the organization was a real eye-opener for me,” Gore said.
While there is funding from all three levels of government, he said it's never quite enough, and Neighbourhood Link is always open to donations, of either money or time, which is equally valuable to an organization so dependent on the willingness to help of its volunteers.
After several years on the board, Gore realizes that awareness is as much an issue as funding. The point of the current campaign is “to make sure that people know that Neighbourhood Link's there, what the breadth of the services are, what we can help people with, and please appreciate that we're here in your community, and if you see somebody who looks like they need help, let them know that they can call Neighbourhood Link and they'll get pointed to the right person.”
To find out how you can help, or for more information on Neighbourhood Link, visit neighbourhoodlink.org.
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