Imagine a cold snowy Sylvan Lake winter’s day. Snow blankets the parking lot of the Community Centre parking lot and one lonely mother sits in the parking lot in her car – working up the courage she knows it will take to ask for help.
She exits her car. She unbuckles her four month old baby boy from his car seat, placing him a carrier. Next she helps her three year old daughter out of the car and just as she’s walking into the building, her unemployed soon to be ex-husband calls her. The already streaming tears begin cascading down her face.
She wonders to herself, ‘How will I support my children?’, ‘How do I live after this divorce or even parent during it?’, ‘Where will I live?’ and‘How will I make ends meet?’
Still in tears she takes the 20 steps from her car, heaving her baby in his carrier beside her all the while with a three year old on her hip, to the office of the information and referral specialist at the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) office. She’d heard from a friend there were people here who may be able to help her.
Thankfully for this young mum, her friend was right. She soon learns of the one-on-one parenting support offered, the parent resource centre, support groups for parents feeling alone, and she receives assistance in filling out supportive housing forms and other financial aid initiatives among many other things – all the while her three year old is happily playing with something from FCSS’ toy library.
While Sylvan Lake’s Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) has a long standing history in the town, many are still unaware of the broad spectrum of programs and services available to residents.
Jointly funded by Alberta Human Services, the Town of Sylvan Lake, and the Summer Villages of Sylvan Lake – FCSS works to create active social change in the community by acting as a gateway to social supports.
FCSS manager, Kelly Smith stated she believes the role of the organization is to help individuals and families in Sylvan Lake to address social development and service delivery issues in a focused, coordinated and productive manner.
FCSS offers programs to youth, seniors, families and individuals – the vast majority of which are available free of charge to residents ofSylvan Lake.
“Many people don’t know about us because they never felt like they had a need – the old saying of ‘you don’t go looking for what you don’t think you need’,” stated Smith. “But what many people don’t realize is that they may not need us, but we do have programs they could benefit from.”
An individuals journey with FCSS can be as simple as wanting to join a parenting program after hearing about it from a friend. It may also be as complex as coming in to see their Information and Referral Specialist as a last resort, much like the fore mentioned mother.
Whatever the person’s need, may it be big or small, Smith reinstates FCSS has programs for everyone.
“Because we provide preventative programming for all ages, I think we offer something for everyone and I think we really fill a social gap in our community,” said Smith. ‘For instance, with our Information and Referral Specialist, some one can come in and they can get help to manoeuvre the system. It’s here they figure out where they need to go to get the help they need and see what services they may need access too,
”Especially with the way the economy is, we are finding more and more people coming in with multiple needs and their needs are becoming more and more complex in nature.”
She explained FCSS is a place where people can go to help in deciphering their personal situations and gain access to programs and services that will help them better their lives – whether they be financial, social, or supportive needs.
“We’re the place to go to find out where you can get help,” said Smith.
In addition to their many parenting support programs, FCSS also operates a volunteer centre, the Flipside Youth Centre, seniors support programs to alleviate household chores and yard work as well as social programs for seniors.
***Over the coming weeks Sylvan Lake News will endeavour into a five part series detailing the many programs and support services available to Sylvan Lake residents through FCSS with this article being part 1 of 5. Future series topics will include: Seniors Support, YouthServices, Family and Individual Supports such as the Lakeview Parentlink Centre as well as the Volunteer Centre ***