A number of Surrey non-profit groups are getting a helping hand from fellow community organizations in order to improve the quality of life for residents in the city.
The SurreyCares Foundation draws service agencies from all over Surrey to form a community of non-profit organizations and societies in order to “exchange ideas, support, energy and encouragement,” as well as collect donations to grant out to qualified agencies.
The agencies are chosen by community fundholders, which include Darts Hill Garden Park, the Arts Council of Surrey, Surrey Retired Teachers Association and Coast Capital Youth, among others.
Among the 10 Surrey agencies that received a financial boost from the SurreyCares foundation is Alexandra Neighbourhood House, Semiahmoo House, Surrey Crime Prevention and the Semiahmoo Animal League Inc.
Alex House received $500, which was used to fund a newcomer and refugee family camp held the first week of July.
The three-day event was a collaboration with the Options BC First Steps early child-care development program, which the families had been working with, and provided the group of government-assisted refugee families a beach vacation at Camp Alex.
Alex House’s director of youth and family programs Rhea Hubbard told Peace Arch News Thursday that the overnight camps helped introduce newcomers to Canadian culture and provide some much-needed reprieve from the obstacles they face.
“The children were part of the summer day camp component, while the parents were able to do some gardening, have a spa day, do some cooking with volunteers and they had an evening camp fire each night,” she said.
She noted that without the help of organizations like SurreyCares, it would be difficult to fund programs like the refugee and newcomer camp.
“It’s always a struggle. We look at every avenue we can to find funding to do programs like that, that would be of benefit to our community and sometimes to target people who are in need the most, but wouldn’t necessarily speak up for themselves,” Hubbard said. “It’s crucial to have funders who can help make that happen.”
The grants have also helped those with developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries at Semiahmoo House Society find a place in the workforce.
“A big issue that we have is employment, or lack of employment,” said executive director Doug Tennant. “People want to work but the community isn’t aware of the abilities that people have to work. So, our focus with our grants has been to help people get work.”
In the last two years, the society has received two grants, the first of which was used to support people to increase their entrepreneurial skills through an existing Semiahmoo House program that provided employment training and support.
Participants would create candles, fragrances and cards that they could sell, and through the grant, the society was able to go door-knocking and come to an agreement to sell the items at Small Ritual Coffee Society in White Rock and a vegan eatery in Maple Ridge.
The grants have also benefited specific people who receive support from Semiahmoo House, including Craig Muirhead, who found work as a DJ and, through the grant, was able to create a resumé and business cards and book gigs at dances. Tennant noted that Muirhead has also secured part-time work as a mascot with Aqua Blue Water & Filtration in Surrey.
“The ongoing training that is coming from that grant is training in workplace professionalism and assertiveness, you know, getting your foot into the door,” Tennant said. “We are really working with individual people on their own time and it’s huge. And to have an organization like SurreyCares to be supportive and spreading our word in the community.”
Tennant added that with a foundation like SurreyCares, the city can soon create a more supportive community, much like the Vancouver foundation, and help spread the reach of non-profits and where organizations help each other.
On Nov. 21, Tennant and other grant recipients had the chance to hear from each other on what the funding has helped them accomplish in the community at the annual SurreyCares gala, held at Semiahmoo House.
Tennant noted that hearing the different stories about what has been done with the funds was inspiring.
“The long-term benefit of non-profit organizations like ours is immense,” he said. “That’s the future of non-profit organizations. The way I look at it is, I never want people to look at it as a paradigm that we’re coming to people hat in hand. The paradigm to me is that it’s a relationship that we have with the rest of the community, where we’re helping make that community strong.
“And that’s not a charity situation, that’s a relationship situation.”