In 1985, several agencies serving children and families in London had been expressing interest in extending their services through an "outreach" approach in order to reach more difficult to serve, "high risk" populations. These agencies were Vanier Children's Services, the Children's Aid Society of London, Merrymount Children's Centre and the Memorial Boys and Girls Club.
With the availability of new funds through the Community and Neighbourhood Support Services Program (CNSSP), Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) staff saw an opportunity to bring together a mixture of services from each of these agencies through a decentralized model of service delivery. Ministry staff met with representatives of each agency and encouraged a collaborative proposal to be submitted under the CNSS Program.
In 1986, a needs assessment (Proposal for a Neighbourhood Resource Centre in Glen Cairn, East London, Carling Area) was conducted under the auspices of the partner agencies. The area was described as one within which social indicators suggested that a large proportion of the children and families were at risk of developing emotional, behavioural and physical problems. It was decided that the Glen Cairn area specifically, would be the most appropriate setting for the project.
In July of 1986, a proposal (Proposal and Service Plan for a Neighbourhood Resource Centre in the Glen Cairn Area) was submitted for finding to the MCSS under the umbrella of Madame Vanier Children's Services . This study included information from previous needs assessments of the area and revealed several areas of specific concern. These included a high incidence of economic disadvantage, a trend toward immigrant and refugee settlement, a significant number of lone parents, subsidized housing and a general lack of services.
This proposal was approved for funding by the Ministry and was supported by matching funds from the the United Way of London and Middlesex (initially as a Venture project). Financial contributions and services in kind were also provided by each of the partner agencies. The project was then placed under the financial and legal jurisdiction of Madame Vanier Children's Services (MVCS).
Partner agency services included a Family Support Program (MVCS), a Youth Support Program (Children's Aid Society), an After School Program (Memorial Boys and Girls Club) and a licensed Preschool Cooperative (Merrymount Children's Centre). These services were integrated under a matrix model of management so that partner agency staff were made accountable to the Resource Centre as well as to their own organizations.
By the end of 1987 the Resource Centre achieved incorporation and status as a registered charity. Its agency led Steering Committee gave way to the creation of an independent Board of Directors, primarily individuals living or working in the Glen Cairn/Pond Mills community. While this severed the Centre's legal and financial attachment to its partner agencies, each continued to provide staffing resources and to subscribe to the matrix model of management.
Over the years, there have been changes to the list of partner agencies involved with the Resource Centre. At the same time, the Centre has forged new funding relationships with the City, HRDC and several foundations. The Board plays an active role in fund-raising initiatives and takes pride in the way in which it has integrated the interests of these stakeholders as well as its many donors. In 2001/2002, the Centre offered more than 20 services to the residents of the community, involved 31 organizations in partnered service delivery activities and made user of more than 3,600 hours of volunteer time.
What has never changed, however, is the way in which the Centre works with others, including each of the families who make use of its services. All are distinguished as shareholders with a role to play in creating a safe and healthy community - each with unique strengths and capacities, and capable of helping themselves as well as one another. The Centre believes that people are best served through their natural settings and relationships, that services are most successful when they are located close to the community and that the consumer must play a commanding role in the design, delivery, ownership and evaluation of these services.