As published in the Erin Advocate
East Wellington Community Services is marking its 30th anniversary with a look back at its humble origins and a party to inspire renewed commitment to the future.
The public is invited to join current and past volunteers, board members and staff for refreshments at the Erin Legion on September 8, at 7 pm. Activities will include a Blasts from the Past slide show hosted by Children’s Services Manager Marlene MacNevin, who has been with the agency 28 years. RSVP to Tammy at 519-833-9696.
The guest speaker will be Joe Roberts, a former homeless skid row addict who turned his life around to become an author and the CEO of a successful Canadian company. He is a professional motivational speaker and an advocate for at-risk youth.
The idea of a local agency to provide services to rural and village residents in the Erin-Hillsburgh-Rockwood area started with a meeting of citizens in 1983 at the Legion Hall. In 1984 they opened the East Wellington Advisory Group (EWAG) Multi-Service Centre and Info Erin at All Saints Anglican Church.
“We felt that our community had fallen between the cracks of the service delivery system and that it needed something of its own,” said founding President Kasia Seydegart, in an article on the agency’s history. “The pivotal issue in our community was lack of resources for children and teens. EWAG had to bring the services to the people rather than bring the people to the services.”
Over the years, EWAG became part of the community fabric, recruiting an army of volunteers to share their talents, and earning broad support from residents, businesses, service clubs, governments and churches. It was built on the principles of easy access, coordination of various services, local management and opportunities for people to learn and contribute.
Here are just a few highlights of the agency’s initiatives and partnerships over the years: the Info Erin Directory, the Nearly New, Bookends, Again and New to You Stores, Panda’s Place, Erin Child Care Outreach (now Ontario Early Years), Employment Services, the Seniors Day Program, services for active seniors including recreational programs, the 109 Club and day trips, the Rural Women’s Shelter Program, a van and a lift-equipped bus, the Eramosa Seniors’ Resource Centre and the Toy Lending Library in Rockwood, free computer/internet access, United Way support, the Food Bank and Christmas Hamper programs and the launch of the East Wellington Family Health Team medical centre.
The registered charity changed its name in 2009 to East Wellington Community Services, with offices at 45 Main Street in Erin (where a series of partner agencies also provide services) and at 106 Church Street in Rockwood, and extensive information available at www.eastwellingtoncommunityservices.com.
With the recent loss of youth programs at Erin Hoops / Main Place, EWCS is conducting a survey of youth to find out what services they would like in the community and how the agency could help. It is available through the East Wellington CS Facebook page or at www.surveymonkey.com/s/Y8NN8F9.
Many of EWCS programs get government funding, but local contributions of time, money, food, equipment, clothing, skills and services form a major part of the agency’s support. Fundraising efforts range from the retailing of clothes and books to the annual Golf Tournament, the High Tea and High Heels event, the ongoing bottle drive, and even wine sales through The Little Grape That Could. Financial support can be raised through hosted events, given personally at the offices or online through the Canada Helps website.
“Donations are essential – they really keep the agency thriving,” said Erika Westcott, Manager of Marketing and Fund Development. “We have a real relationship with the community.”
So if you have never had any connection with Community Services, or if it’s been a while, please give it some thought. Sooner or later, you or someone you care about will benefit from this network of support.