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WCSS makes changes to programming

More funding for counselling, school lunches beginning April 1

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The Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) is refocusing its resources for the upcoming fiscal year.

After a review of programming, the WCSS has decided to reduce or withdraw three programs — community kitchens cooking classes, acupuncture and Walking Wednesdays — while expanding five others.

WCSS executive director Cheryl Skribe said the changes are a result of consultation with stakeholders and other community groups.

"We collaborate all the time with different community groups whether it's the Resort Municipality of Whistler, our clients, (or) other social services like Howe Sound Women's Centre and Sea to Sky Community Services," Skribe said.

"We're constantly in touch with what's going on."

The counselling assistance, school-lunch fund, camp fund, speaker's series and seniors' outreach programs will be expanded to varying degrees starting April 1.

The changes represent the changing needs of the community, Skribe said.

"Mental health awareness and acceptance — in the sense that people are asking for help — has really exploded in the last year and a half," she said.

While the WCSS can't offer long-term counselling, it does offer a bridge to people in need while they wait for something permanent with Vancouver Coastal Health.

"The stigma of mental health is starting to come down, so people are more willing to ask for help," Skribe said.

"This is not a road or a journey that they have to take on their own."

Funding for counselling assistance will be increased by over 60 per cent.

The school-lunch fund, meanwhile, will be increased by a whopping 240 per cent and expanding into the high school.

"We're really excited about this one," Skribe said.

With the increase, WCSS will now provide two hot lunches per week to students who qualify in Grades 8 to 10.

Skribe estimated there are 25 elementary-aged students and soon to be 25 older students who are served by the program.

"People are surprised by a lot of the stats that we produce through WCSS, because we are an affluent town and there is a perception that that's across the board, but it's not," she said.

"We have a very vulnerable population that we need to identify, and then figure out solutions that are long term."

Thanks to its unique funding model — with The Re-Build-It Centre, Re-Use-It Centre and the bottle and electronic recycling program providing 85 per cent of program funding last year — the WCSS is able to quickly focus its attention where the community needs it most.

"Because our funding model is so flexible, we have the ability to change directions pretty quickly, and that's quite a lovely thing, because most charities don't have that ability," Skribe said.

"Just being able to identify challenges and problems in the community right away and then jump in with solutions, it's super exciting for all of us."

For a complete listing of WCSS programs visit www.mywcss.org.

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