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WCSS takes on youth programs

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Mountain Community Health Alternatives now inactive

Three major youth programs run by Mountain Community Health Alternatives will formally come under the management of the Whistler Community Services Society starting July 1.

The WCSS formally adopted the young adult peer educator program, the Whistler Survival Guide publication and the youth outreach worker program at its annual general meeting June 20. Three of the seven MCHA board members also moved across to the WCSS board of directors. The decision follows months of discussions between the two non-profit societies.

Joan Deeks, the MCHA board of directors spokesperson and treasurer, describes the administrative reshuffle as "a very positive" move.

"There is a limited pool of volunteers in Whistler so it made sense to bring the organizations together to work on the same board, given that the programs fit in perfectly with the existing work of the WCSS," she explained. "There will be no disruption to services."

Deeks says MCHA will be inactive for the time being and will eventually be struck off if not re-registered every two years with the provincial government.

MCHA was first registered as a society in 1989 and has worked alongside registered charities such as the WCSS to help run its programs. It says its one attempt to gain charitable status several years ago was turned down because of its drug and alcohol education work. Deeks says board members chose to spend money on the community programs rather than channel the limited funds into costly application processes. However she says operating under the WCSS will yield far great fund-raising opportunities.

"At times money has been fairly tight, so it will be wonderful not to be operating on such a shoe-string budget," she says. "Both the WCSS and the municipality have been principal funders over the past year, so the money from those grants will automatically be transferred over to the WCSS."

Janet McDonald, WCSS executive director, says some consideration was given to merging the two societies into a new organization, but administratively it was easier to stick with one. She says the MCHA programs represent an exciting new opportunity for the society and the goal will be to expand them over the coming years.

"These programs started up because the needs of young adults in Whistler were not being met," she said. "We have the infrastructure and offices to give them a strong base and we gain two new staff in the process." It also brings new blood onto the WCSS board, she adds.

Under the new set-up, youth outreach worker Greg McDonnell and MCHA contract worker Belinda Keech will work under the WCSS umbrella. Keech says it’s a win-win situation all around.

"Greg and I are very excited about the new placement and confident about the future of the programs under Whistler Community Services," she said. "Joan has done an outstanding job on a voluntary basis and really enabled this all to happen."

Deeks has chosen not to become involved in the new expanded WCSS board, saying she is "pleased to be taking a break." Deeks and other MCHA board members have been rotating the role of chairman for approximately the past 18 months, since former chair Lynn Ledgerwood stepped down.

McDonald says taking on the MCHA portfolio will be costly, but there is money in the budget to cover it. She says the growing revenue from WCSS’s Re-Use-It centre in Function Junction will go a long way towards meeting the extra costs.

At the same AGM, Whistler Community Services also decided to extend the opening hours of its Re-Use-It Centre due to unprecedented demand. The charity store celebrated its first year anniversary on April 7, 2001, and staff say the level of business is well above expectations.

McDonald said: "It has been super-busy both from the recycling and donations side of the business, and a great service to members of the community who are short of cash."

She says all centre staff are now paid for their work. Starting this week, the centre will be open daily from 10 a.m. until 5.30 p.m., instead of its old hours of midday to 5 p.m.

The WCSS will be electing a new person to replace outgoing chairperson Bernie Lalor-Morton at its next meeting on July 26.

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