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Volunteer Centre programs will continue

Receiving no grant funding from the city in 2020, programs by Community Information and Volunteer Centre to be transferred
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The future of a long-standing pillar of volunteer services in St. Albert is uncertain, but high-profile programs run by the Community Information and Volunteer Centre (CIVC) will survive.

Next year, the 39-year-old non-profit will not receive funding from the city, and CIVC announced in a blog post this week programs such as Sidekicks Mentoring and its income tax program will instead be offered by other agencies. Those have yet to be determined.

“They are well-loved programs, and they’ll find a home. It’s just a matter of the best match,” said CIVC board chair Dawn McVittie. Sidekicks is a mentorship program for children similar to Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

On Monday, when city council approved 2020 grants allocations for its two major non-profit grant programs, CIVC was the only organization denied both of its requests, totalling $221,272.

The Community Services Advisory Committee, which makes grant recommendations to city council, recommended against giving CIVC funding next year due to duplication of services and declining usage.

A report to council on the recommendation not to fund CIVC noted the organization's statistics showed volunteer referral numbers dropped by 75 per cent between 2010 and 2018. Information and referral statistics dropped from 36,022 in 2010 to 1,548 in 2018.

McVittie said the funding request denial did not come as a complete surprise.

“We know – we’re working here, we can see that things have changed. People get their information differently now. We understand budgets are tight, provincial funding may be cut,” she said.

When CIVC first kicked off 39 years ago, it filled a gap in providing vital information and referral services. Today, residents can find that information online or by calling 211, McVittie said.

Coun. Ken MacKay said CIVC was doing a good job, but some of its programs “were just no longer viable.”

“It goes back to, times change. Needs in the community change. Agencies all have to adapt,” he said. “I believe that certainly the foundation of CIVC in its beginnings, it provided a valuable service.”

MacKay also said he believes the Community Services Advisory Committee did not take recommending against funding CIVC “lightly.”

“I know that they probably gave it a lot of deep thought, and I’m sure they didn’t do this lightly, that’s for sure,” MacKay said.

CIVC’s blog post said come the new year it will no longer occupy office space at 215 Carnegie Drive, but McVittie said the agency is not “entirely ready to turn up our toes.”

“We at the volunteer centre still believe that there is value in a volunteer centre,” she said.

McVittie said the city has indicated it is open to providing funding for some of the programs CIVC offers, “just in different forms.”

According to the CIVC blog post, all 2019 registered courses will continue uninterrupted, and the volunteer centre’s web service, along with events such as the Volunteer Fair, will continue into 2020. The Babysitting Safety Course will be offered through the St. Albert Family Resource Centre next year.

“We thank the St. Albert community for its support for the past 39 years and assure everyone that most of CIVC's valued programs and services will continue to be available, just in different form,” the post read.

Hannah Lawson

About the Author: Hannah Lawson

Hannah Lawson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2019 after working as editor of the Athabasca Advocate. She writes about city hall.
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