The United Way of Chatham-Kent (UWOCK) is changing how operations are run in Wallaceburg, and will close its office there as of April 1.
Services will be delivered through an outreach model, meeting people and partners where they are located, according to United Way officials.
“As a Board of Directors, our commitment to our donors is to continuously look for ways to make sure the donations received are invested to provide the absolute best help and support we can for those in need,” Brad Langford, President of UWOCK’s Board of Directors, said in a release. “Over the past few years, we have witnessed a transition in how people want to connect with our services at our Wallaceburg outreach office with more and more folks reaching out via telephone and online versus physically walking through our doors. There are also new community programs available that were not available when we first opened our doors. Taking this information into account, this allowed us the opportunity to revisit how we were providing support through our Wallaceburg outreach office and to see if there was a better way to invest donor dollars to assist the residents of North Kent.”
Steve Pratt, CEO of UWOCK, agreed.
“When we first identified the need to maintain a year-round physical office space in Wallaceburg was decreasing due to how residents were wanting to access our services – but understanding that we still have individuals and families that are best supported face-to-face – we began to look for partners with whom we could simply share space with on an as-needed basis,” he said. “After careful consideration, we decided it would be best to focus on meeting people where they are at, when that is a good solution to do so, as transportation is often a barrier for those wanting to access in-person services … in other words, we will go to them. In cases where we still need a physical space to meet with someone, we have collaborated with the Wallaceburg Branch of the Chatham-Kent Public Library (CKPL), a pre-existing community hub and meeting place, to share their space to meet with those who require in-person support.”
The CKPL Wallaceburg Branch was selected, in part, due to a municipally funded Community Navigator Program – a program offered partnership between Employment and Social Services and the Chatham-Kent Public Library – being offered at all eleven library branches, including Wallaceburg.
The Community Navigator Program helps to provide some of the same supports offered by the Wallaceburg United Way office staff.
By not duplicating services, United Way officials said this change in service delivery will unlock approximately $6,500 per year that was invested in maintaining a year-round office space.
For individuals and families who are wishing to connect with the Community Navigator Program at the CKPL Wallaceburg Branch, Community Navigator Lori Dilliott said, “residents may call 519-627-5292 or stop by and ask at the front desk for an appointment with a Community Navigator. The library staff have access to our schedule and will be able to set them up with an appointment or let them know when they can drop in and see us.”
Community Navigators are in the CKPL Wallaceburg Branch on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The United Way also funds the 2-1-1 information and referral service in partnership with the Government of Ontario, a free helpline that connects people to community and social services in their area.
“In 2018-2019, United Way funded programs served 6,778 people in North Kent, and that number only continues to rise year-over-year,” Pratt said.