Summit Series 2: Family Supports in our City

What happens when your support system needs a support system?

Guest post by Olivia McFadzen
Summit Series

Episode 2 of United Way Winnipeg’s Summit Series centred on something near and dear to many people’s hearts: family. No matter what your definition of family is, whether it be biological or chosen, they are often a crucial support system. However, what happens when your support system needs a support system?

That’s where family resource centres come in.

As we learned in Episode 2, family resource centres are a network of safe and welcoming places where parents and youth can just be.

Family resource centres have a wide reach in our community: in the last year alone, 30,000 Winnipeggers accessed their essential programs and services—and that number is rising amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With the increasing need for help, it is evident family resource centres are crucial in our community.

Winnipeg’s 24 family resource centres are supported by the For Every Family initiative: a partnership between United Way Winnipeg, the Government of Manitoba, and the philanthropic and community sector. Ann Mahon, Chancellor of the University of Manitoba, and Rhonda Elias-Penner, Executive Director of Thrive Community Support Circle, told us more about the real-life impact of the centres.

Family resource centres serve many purposes—even ones you wouldn’t even think of. Rhonda told us how some of the programs run at Thrive and how their staff works tirelessly to ensure their doors are open to the community. I was so surprised to hear some people use family resource centres as an address if they do not have access to a permanent address. You don’t think about something like that unless you don’t have one.

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to adjust their way of operating. Family resource centres were no exception, and almost overnight organizations whose doors were always open were forced to shut.

However, in true Winnipeg fashion, these organizations pivoted and found a way to continue their efforts in spite of the pandemic.

One such example is Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, whose name means “we all work together to help one another.” Marion McKenzie and Tammy Christensen from Ma Mawi shared how their team rallied to create and deliver 20,000 emergency food kits to those most in need! How amazing is that? At the heart of that effort was the incredible community. It is truly a demonstration of how the collective can do such good for those in need.

Getting grounded

The next session was truly a gift in the middle of my workday. Jodie Pescitelli and Kim Barber from Family Dynamics shared some tips on coping with stress and staying connected. The guided grounding exercise was something I did not know I needed in my life until it was over! As a self-proclaimed extrovert who lives thousands of kilometres from any family, the pandemic has presented some challenges, and the tips Jodie and Kim shared really helped me.

It wouldn’t be a Summit Series without United Way Winnipeg’s “Some Good News” segment. This week, in addition to the great news we received from the community, we were treated to some personal good news by host Natalie Bell. Congrats again, Nat, on being upgraded to “Grandma” status!

Speaking of updates, Dave Angus, United Way Winnipeg’s 2020 Campaign Chair, came to share an update on this year’s campaign, with more than $12 million raised so far. Once again, Winnipeg showed we truly do know how to rally to recover!

Join us on Friday, November 20, 2020, for the next Summit Series episode: Job Readiness in our City.