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Looking through a social justice lens

Ensuring equal access and opportunities for all community members

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“Seventy-five per cent comes from the Re-Use-It Centre,” McDonald says with pride. “We get a lot of volume flowing in and out of that place. We’re really busy.”

McDonnell appreciates the sustainability factor of the Re-Use-It Centre as the WCSS’s chief source of funding. “It’s environmentally friendly, a huge cross section of the community uses the place, and it is a creative way to fundraise,” he says.

Not only does WCSS run Whistler’s Food Bank, Interim Housing, Emergency Financial Assistance, and other acute needs programs, it is very supportive of social justice programs for lower income and at-risk members of the community. The organization runs a wide variety of programs in Whistler and Pemberton that impact a large number of community members of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds. Such programs include Youth Outreach, Whistler Welcome Week (for seasonal workers arriving in the fall), the Whistler Employment Resource Centre, the Community Greenhouse Project, Parent-Infant Drop-In, the Whistler Survival Guide brochure, and SNOW (Support Network of Whistler), among many more.

“We want to enable at-risk people to stand on their own two feet in the long term,” says McDonald of the SNOW program.

The Food Buying Club and SNOW, which is aimed at frequent users of the food bank, provides mainly single-parent families with financial difficulties access to a food-at-cost program through Whistler’s Grocery Store. Participants are also required to attend weekly workshops on a range of topics, including budgeting, healthy meal preparation on a shoestring, and resume and career planning.

The CFOW contributed $1,000 to this program in 2006 through the Jill Ackhurst Community Action Fund. Chalmers, an advocate of the program says: “our goal is to direct our CFOW funding in a way that supports social justice initiatives such as this one, which gets to the root of a problem and empowers people.”

Last year, SNOW members decided stress management was an issue they wanted some help with, and yoga classes were suggested.

“We held some sessions and they loved it,” says Chalmers. “If we can empower people to deal with their difficulties in creative ways, we want to support that if we can. This is not a top down group.”

CFOW has directed funding to six projects in 2007 that uphold social justice principles. Grants were awarded to the Whistler Adaptive Ski Program’s Adaptive Alpine Race Development Program, which supports disabled youth in “club level” ski race training and competition; a unique math teacher-training program at Mount Currie Community school; the Rotary Club of Whistler, to provide educational software and playground equipment for Head of the Lakes School at Skatin Nation; The Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation to implement a depression awareness and screening program for Whistler Secondary School; Whistler Writer’s Group to support the First Nations Writer-in-Residence Program; and finally, Project Heartsong at Signal Hill Elementary School in Pemberton.