Supporting families of all forms

Photo: Family Dynamics’ Keenleyside family resource centre, 2017.

Support for children, seniors and family agencies, along with health, was a main grant focus for much of The Foundation’s early years.

In the early 1900s, children whose parents had died, or otherwise could not look after them, were frequently put into institutions, often run by churches or agencies. Of The Foundation’s first six grants, three went to support the care of children in the welfare system: Knowles Home for Boys, Home of the Friendless, and Children’s Aid Society. In 1934, a Royal Commission on Child Welfare chaired by social activist Charlotte Whitton released its report. Rather than institutionalized care, it recommended community-based programs like foster homes, as well as the establishment of a family case working agency staffed by trained social workers. Acting on a suggestion from Foundation secretary Peter Lowe, in 1939 the Council of Social Agencies established a committee to look into placing children from the Jewish Orphanage and Children’s Aid Society into homes.

As government policy transitioned to supporting more of society’s basic needs, The Foundation pivoted its focus to supporting innovative and experimental work.53

For a time, The Foundation focused on the rate of marriage breakdown, and even went so far as to propose supporting “defensive marriage” and “defensive parenting” courses, similar to a defensive driving course. In 1977, Foundation Executive Director Alan Howison was quoted in the Tribune:

Tribune article from March 23, 1977 promoting marriage course
Media coverage, March 23, 1977. Credit: The Tribune. Source: Winnipeg Foundation scrapbook

“I am sure there would be all sorts of cries of invasion of privacy at such a suggestion. The same cries I am sure that there were when driving licenses were first brought out. The present rate of separation and divorce indicate that some radical steps must be taken.”54

Soon after The Foundation conceded that “in some cases the children may, in fact, be better off with a single parent, but we are now seeing a new trend of young unmarried mothers wanting to keep their babies.”55

As parents increasingly entered the workforce, the need for reliable daycare centres increased. Understanding this need, and the benefits of such environments, The Foundation has supported many daycares and early childhood education centres. In 1971, a $41,000 grant was issued for a brand-new building for Day Nursery Centre on Flora Avenue in the North End. In 1976, a grant of $22,658 was made to the Children’s Home of Winnipeg in support of a training program for paraprofessional child care workers, developed in conjunction with Red River Community College (now Red River College). And in 1980, The Foundation supported the purchase of a bus that was shared between three daycares: Action Centre, Freight House, and Brooklands. This allowed for “individual, unique and extensive” programs to be developed such as senior/child mentorship programs, swimming programs, and parent shopping nights. “The ability for agencies and daycare centres to have access to this bus has provided endless opportunities and programs for many inner city families,” Action Day Centre’s Director Brenda Paley wrote reflectively in 2006.

The Foundation has also supported many family resources centres throughout the years. In 1976, The Foundation made a $8,150 grant to Barber House, a new group home run in conjunction with Argyle School. That year The Foundation noted that Barber House, “was developed because Argyle School noted a lot of its students were dropping out of specialized programs because of a lack of a stable home and were often living alone.”56

In 1979, The Foundation made its first grant, valued at $20,000, to Rossbrook House. Established by Sister Geraldine MacNamara in 1976, Rossbrook’s guiding principle is that “no child who does not want to be alone, should ever have to be.” To this day, it is a pillar in its North End community.

In 2016, The Foundation approved a $1 million grant in support of United Way’s For Every Family Initiative, which aims to keep family resources centres open in communities throughout the city.

Children and youth with different needs and abilities often require a team of multi-disciplinary professionals able to serve and support the whole family. After more than 10 years of planning and fundraising, Specialized Services for Children and Youth (SSCY) opened in spring 2016 in the newly renovated Christies Biscuits warehouse. It’s a one-stop shop with more than 200 staff providing services for Manitoba children and youth with disabilities and special needs. SSCY is an alliance of government departments, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and various service provider agencies. The Winnipeg Foundation supported renovation of the space in 2012 with a $249,214.47 grant – one example The Foundation’s long standing support of those who are differently-abled.

The Foundation has also played a leading role in ensuring seniors are well supported. For example, in 1961, The Foundation issued a grant to assist in furnishing the new Middlechurch Home, which was under construction. It supported the establishment of what would grow to become A&O (read Supporting the expanding scope of healthy living) and Meals on Wheels, and has made many grants to develop seniors’ complexes. Support for seniors continues to be an important area for The Foundation. In late 2019, The Foundation held a Vital Conversation focused on how people can stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible, and how we can make communities more age-friendly. The event featured a keynote by Dr. Verena Menec, a Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. It was convened in partnership with the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres.

The Foundation’s support for community services such as Siloam Mission, Main Street Project and other organizations caring for those who are experiencing homelessness also falls into this category.

Two woman standing across a table from each other cutting vegetable
United Way’s For Every Family initiative supports 24 family resource centres across Winnipeg, including Family Dynamics’ Keenleyside location. Left: Participants in front of the centre. Below: Pictured left to right: Fran Reilly, Sharon Lagimodiere and Charlene Picard cook together in the kitchen at Family Dynamics’ Keenleyside family resource centre.

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