‘Essential to our well-being.’

Neighbourhood Family Centres give hope, purpose, and opportunity to families.

A single mom can struggle to keep her family healthy.

Signe Knutson has lived it, and is grateful for the compassion and help of a community family resource centre.

“It makes it so having a low income isn’t so bad. You can make sure that your kids all eat well and have clean clothes and a good place to play.”

Signe and her kids go to their neighbourhood family centre, one of hundreds of United Way-supported programs, partnerships and services throughout the city.

Peter finishes off a snack with mom Signe in the Wolseley Family Place playroom.

Peter finishes off a snack with mom Signe in the Wolseley Family Place playroom.

“It’s essential to our well-being. I’m a single mom with three boys…it raises the quality of life.”

She has earned income working in the centre’s catering program while her kids were cared for in the playroom — a valuable support for parents and a healthy place for children to be.

“If the kids are having any issues, like behavioural issues or development issues, the staff in the playroom are really knowledgeable and help both the parents and the kids,” Signe said.

“And it has made it possible for me to do other things – I’ve completed a diploma by distance education.”

Signe says the programs here help all kinds of families in the community. Peer and community support workers assist with housing and advocacy, while cooking classes, a community garden, breakfast club and food bank distribution help keep families healthy.

Resources that many of us take for granted are also available.

Niko tries out an educational game in the playroom.

Niko tries out an educational game in the playroom.

“When you have a limited budget and you can have free laundry or use the internet if you can’t afford to have the internet at home.”

A clothing depot allows people to exchange or purchase clean, second-hand clothes at a low cost.

“Kids clothes are a major expense, especially around back-to-school time. When it’s time for winter boots, sometimes winter clothes come in here that are barely used at all,” Signe said.

There are programs for prenatal health, parenting skills, and conflict resolution. Signe has seen CFS-involved families get help building stability and skills so they can remain together and be healthy.

The centre is also an important social hub, Signe says, creating a space where families from different cultures come together to build friendships.

“It’s really unique and special, people from everywhere — immigrants from all around the world and every culture come here.”

Ultimately, Signe says, the neighbourhood family centre is about community. Families come together in friendship, learn each other’s stories, and recognize when someone needs a little extra help.

“Sometimes you need it more, and other times you can help more.”

If you would like to help, donate to United Way Winnipeg online at unitedwaywinnipeg.ca/help or by calling 204-477-UWAY (8929).