Perseverance, commitment, unity, focus, respect. These are all words that current board members of Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area use to describe their experience in the amalgamation of Boys & Girls Clubs of Edmonton and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area on July 1st, 2011.
Officially, the amalgamation of these two well respected child serving organizations happened on July 1st, 2011 but the work began nearly two years before. What was really the focus? Kids. Every board member, both Executive Directors, Managers, Supervisors, Front Line Staff, Funders and Donors…all had the best interest of our community’s children and youth in mind when they made the important decision to merge.
What did we want to accomplish? The original vision was one of significant outcomes for kids and the best possible stewardship of the funds invested in those outcomes. All involved were incredibly devoted to making sure that kids have what they need to be successful. Resilience, a commitment to education, positive mental health, the ability to create and maintain meaningful relationships and the capacity to build bright futures. These were our goals and we knew that collectively, we could do it better.
There were 69 Boys & Girls Clubs Staff and 56 Big Brothers Big Sisters Staff. There were 32 board members. All had a common goal of forging a future where all children and youth could benefit from programs that made sure they would not be left behind. A child waiting for a mentor, when none could be found, now had the opportunity to be mentored and have great experiences in a Club environment. A child who needed more specific support than a Club could provide, was now able to access a one to one mentor. Lean management of volunteer recruitment, screening, training and program matching meant that more kids could be receiving support faster. Human Resources & Training, Finance, Fund Development and Marketing & Communications were all focused on one goal – making sure our Service Delivery received the support it needed – for our community’s kids.
Through experience and attention to outcome based service delivery, our team continuously evaluates and adjusts programming to make sure we’re doing our very best for kids. Throughout, we have had the utmost respect for our staff, our families, our volunteers, our alumni, our partners and our funders. We listen, we research, we plan, and we are prepared. Ego and pride are not in our vocabulary. That’s left at the door when we seek knowledge and relationships that can continue our mission of ensuring no child goes without the critical support that is proven to result in better futures for them and for our community.
What did we accomplish? While we know we can keep doing better and digging deeper, we’ve done some good work, with your support.
- We have increased the number of children served through our programs that build the capacity of our kids to succeed in school and in life in all of our Club sites across the community.
- We have reduced the cost of doing this work and shored up our resources in order that our financial focus in fully on supporting children and families.
- We have increased the number of important partnerships in delivering support to kids and have made significant gains in the impact these partnerships will produce.
- We have increased the number of caring adults in children’s lives and diversified the ways in which all volunteers can create meaningful experiences and friendships with kids who need that additional support.
- We have created an environment where intentional programming meets our five program areas of focus and are deliberate and reinforced for the benefit of the children and youth we are so honoured to serve.
Well first, thank you. Thank you to each staff person, leader, board member, funder, donor, family, volunteer and partner, for supporting us through this really unique amalgamation. And you’re forgiven for never getting our name right – lots of the time, we don’t either. We quickly realized whatever door you come through, you are welcomed.
Your continued support – whether financially or investments of time, whether providing advice or being a sounding board, weather through word of mouth endorsements, partnerships or friendships – means the world to us. You may never know or see the children and youth you are impacting, but please always know that they are out there, doing better, because of you. We will continue to report back on our progress.
Our next five years is filled with uncertainty as we face a changing (or changed) environment in Alberta. What we do know is that we won’t quit and we will continue to work hard to make sure all children have access to what they need. We are working on:
- Regionalization: The need for mentoring programs doesn’t stop at the borders of the Greater Edmonton Area. What about the small communities that can’t afford local support? Currently, we have active and developing programs outside the GEA in Lac La Biche, Vegreville and Cold Lake. Requests for additional management of “satellite” programs are regularly received. Can we effectively support more communities outside the GEA and what does that look like?
- Optimizing Use of Space: We have 10 Clubs around the city of Edmonton. How can we reach out to the community and offer additional support to other organizations or other programming that will further contribute to making our neighborhoods safer and more connected? We will look at additional ways to use our spaces and expertise to achieve even greater impact.
- Impact for Indigenous and Immigrant/Newcomer Families: Edmonton is forecast to hold the 2nd largest Indigenous population as well as a hub for newcomers over the next five years. What can we do to support these families and engage them in positive programming for their kids? We will work hard, learn more, reach out, create even more partnerships and really understand what the needs are and how we can help to meet them.
- Kids in Care: At any given time, there are 8,000 kids in care in Alberta. Statistically, they are the most likely to require government support on an ongoing basis past the age of independence. They are among our most vulnerable and we are committed to helping them build the skills and understand the tools they need to be successful. We will undertake ongoing preventative and situational work in order to address the needs of all marginalized youth.
- Mentoring & Monitoring: The average match duration in community based one to one mentoring is under two years. We will strive to understand why and whether the involvement of a Match Facilitator or BGCBigs is required to sustain matches past two or three years. We will work to determine the resources and pathways required to support matched no longer under the supervision of BGCBigs.
- Youth Leadership & Development: The ability for young people to enter the workforce in a meaningful and ambitious way is paramount to the growth of our economy. How can we, as an organization, encourage and build the skills and abilities of our community’s kids to be workforce ready? We will work to determine our role in creating the next generation of productive and committed employees.
Finally, we reiterate our thanks for the support and friendship of so many in ensuring our work as both Boys & Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters can continue. We are so grateful and every member of our team is committed to working hard to produce positive outcomes for kids and to create a brighter future where poverty, homelessness, underemployment, reliance on social assistance, criminal behaviour, ill mental health and domestic violence, are reduced from our society.
We sincerely thank each individual, corporation, funding body and government agency, for your faith and connection to our vision. We also thank every Mom, Dad, Grandparent, Custodial or Foster parent, for entrusting your children to us. We thank each and every board member and staff person for working hard with us to make sure we are doing our very best every day. We would also like to extend a special thanks to Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada for their unfailing support in the first formal amalgamation of our two organizations. Congratulations on being a part of a ground breaking amalgamation that continues to seek excellence in every day development of young people.
Happy 5th Anniversary.