Our guest speaker this month was Betty-Lou Souter, the CEO of Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold, mentioning a few of the many awards, including an honourary law degree from Brock University, that she has received for her service to the community. Betty-Lou said that in 1919 Mrs. Charles Taylor used a horse and buggy to deliver a pot of soup to returning soldiers at the end of World War I and other citizens turned out to contribute used clothing. With that start, the St. Catharines Community Care believes that it is the longest continuous serving care organization in Canada. Community Care, which expanded to Thorold in 1984, now has 28 full-time staff along with approximately 200 volunteers each week. Community Care oversees 18 programs that deal with approximately 1600 clients per month. Betty-Lou detailed some of the services offered by her organization. Housing is a critical need for many clients and the Niagara Housing Authority merged with Community Care in the early 2000’s to help provide help with various needs related to housing.
She pointed out that an ID clinic assists with applications for new and replacement birth certificates and provides support with health cards, SIN cards and other identification essential for people attempting to seek employment. Community Care also provides income tax clinics, helping clients retrieve money to which they are entitled. They also assist with budgets, helping clients wisely spend their limited incomes. Dental care can also be arranged. As Souter pointed out, a pleasing smile is important for someone seeking employment. These services are on top of the most commonly thought of things such as food and clothing. While there are a number of happy success stories, perhaps the most frustrating part for the people involved at Community Care, is that the need goes on and on. Betty-Lou said that their clients include singles, single parents, grandparents forced to raise grandchildren, the working poor and refugees. She pointed out that this year client registrations have increased 20 per cent over the previous year. During a question and answer period, Souter said that only nine per cent of Community Care’s funding is provided by government.
Our speaker at our January, 2016 meeting will be Jennie Shikluna who will be addressing us on the topic of the Niagara Region Outreach Service.