Difference between revisions of "Weston King Neighbourhood Centre"

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(Founding WKNC: The Community Meal)
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In the 1990s recession, the riding of York South Weston, with the second-lowest family income levels in the province, found itself facing change. Manufacturing plants used computers and robots instead of people, older products gave way to new inventions and businesses moved out of the city for cheaper land.  
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In the 1990s recession, York South Weston's riding, with the second-lowest family income levels in the province, found itself facing change. Manufacturing plants now used computers and robots instead of people, and older products gave way to new inventions. Businesses moved out of cities for cheaper land.  
  
Central United Church Outreach Committee members grew concerned witnessing growing signs of poverty. People in their community struggled to cope with low wages barely covering necessities. Continuing unemployment and unstable housing situations added isolation and mental and physical challenges to living in poverty. On the main street young men were panhandling outside recently closed businesses.   
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Central United Church Outreach Committee members grew concerned, witnessing growing signs of poverty. People in their community struggled to cope with low wages, barely covering necessities. Continuing unemployment and unstable housing situations added isolation and mental and physical challenges to living in poverty. On the main street, young men were panhandling outside recently closed businesses.   
  
As Christians, Outreach Committee members felt a need to follow Jesus, who had a special affinity for the sick, poor and needy, and worked to bring social change. He called his followers to take risks and step out into the unknown. Looking at their options, committee members knew through the week their large, mainly unused building offered a fully-equipped kitchen and washrooms.  
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As Christians, Committee members felt a need to follow Jesus, who had a particular affinity for the sick, poor and needy and worked to bring social change. He called his followers to take risks and step out into the unknown. Looking at their options, Central's Committee members knew through the week their large, mainly unused building offered a fully-equipped kitchen and washrooms. Many congregational functions centre around sharing food, and people were familiar with catering. So, a bold step was taken, creating a welcoming place, one evening a week, where local people could enjoy food and friendship. Little did those pioneers know where that decision would lead.
  
Many congregational functions centre around sharing food and people were familiar with catering. So, the bold decision was made to create a welcoming place, one evening a week, where local people could enjoy food and friendship. Little did those pioneers know where that decision would lead.
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A free meal meant people could save money for other necessities, such as paying rent. Research suggests that experiencing positive social interaction and nutritious food improves health, and healthier people can cope better. Worrying if there is enough to eat quickly leads to depression. Alcohol and drug dependency dull the pain.  
  
A free meal meant money could be saved for other necessities, such as paying rent. Research suggests experiencing positive social interaction and nutritious food improves health, and healthier people can cope better. Worrying if there will be enough to eat easily leads to depression and alcohol and drug dependency to dull the pain.  
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The word "marginalized" came into use, describing those pushed to society's edges because of assumptions based on clothing, body language and behaviours — the sense of "other" created fear in seniors and perceived threats to local businesses. About two-thirds of people coming for meals were adult men, and very few were youth or children.
  
[[File:WKNC.jpg|left|thumb|400px|Participating in community events]]
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In 1993, posters invited everyone to a weekly community supper, timed 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. to include those coming from work.  The dining hall, located under the church sanctuary, was entered from the main street.  Churchgoers volunteered to prepare food - soup and sandwiches at the start - while others encouraged socialization by talking, playing card games, making art and so on. Disposable dishes and plastic cutlery lessened the dishwashing workload. Later, donated china filled the cupboards, making the group more ecologically responsible. Even later, a dish sanitizer ensured cleanliness.
  
The word “marginalized” came into use, describing those being pushed to the edges of society. Because of assumptions based on their clothing, body language and behaviours, they were thought of as “other,” a threat to local business people and frightening to seniors. About two-thirds of people coming for meals were adult men, while very few were youth or children.
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That first night a group of anxious volunteers waited for the response to their invitation – 12 people. Word of mouth soon expanded the numbers. In six years, the average was 45, and in 10, it was 80 – the maximum for comfort in the room. Numbers fluctuate weekly with social assistance cheques arriving cash is available for people to provide for themselves.  
  
In 1993, posters invited everyone to a weekly community supper, timed 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., to include those coming from work.  Located in a lower hall, under the church sanctuary, the dining room was entered from the main streetChurchgoers volunteered to prepare food—soup and sandwiches at the start—while others encouraged socialization by talking, playing card games, making art and so on. At first, disposable dishes and plastic cutlery lessen the dishwashing workload. Later to be replaced with donated dishes to be ecologically responsible. Even later, a dish sanitizer ensured cleanliness.
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The frequent question was, "Are people required to join in Christian activities like praying or Bible reading if they want to eat?" From the start, the decision was volunteers would demonstrate their faith through behaviour rather than proselytizingWhen the question of beliefs and church activities came up, people were encouraged to visit Sunday services.
  
That first night a group of anxious volunteers waited for the response to their invitation—12 people. Word of mouth soon expanded the numbers. In six years the average was 45, and in 10 years it was 80—the maximum for comfort in the room. Numbers fluctuate weekly with the arrival of social assistance cheques, dropping when cash was available for people to provide for themselves.  
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Gradually the meals grew more sophisticated, mostly when meat was donated, allowing the cooking of a full meal. Congregational funds, designated for the purpose, were used to purchase vegetables and staples like sugar, spices, tea and coffee, milk and juice powder, oil, tea towels, dish soap and other necessities such as a 100-cup coffee urn. Hairnets and aprons were purchased and worn to handle food in compliance with public health requirements. Gradually, newly purchased kitchen equipment replaced that borrowed from the church.
  
A frequent question was "Are people required to join in Christian activities like praying or Bible reading if they want to eat?" From the start, the decision was volunteers would demonstrate their faith through behaviour, rather than proselytizing and food could be blessed individually. When the question of beliefs and church activities was raised people were encouraged to visit Sunday services.  
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During this time, a new charitable model of consulting with service-users from the start, involving them in building and sustaining projects, replaced the top-down developmental models. Surveyed diners responded about their other needs. Answers pointed to establishing a daily community centre. Living on the street or in a rooming house makes it difficult for friends to hang out. In turn, people became lonely, impacting their well-being and adding societal costs as professional help is required.
  
Gradually the meals grew more sophisticated, especially when meat was donated, allowing a full dinner to be cooked. Congregational funds, designated for the purpose, were used to purchase vegetables, as well as staples like sugar, spices, tea and coffee, milk and juice powder, oil, tea towels, dish soap and other necessities—like a 100-cup coffee urn. Hairnets and aprons were worn to handle food in compliance with public health requirements. Gradually, newly purchased kitchen equipment replaced that borrowed from the church.
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== Creating a Community Drop-in Centre ==
  
During this time, top-down developmental models were replaced by a new charitable model of consulting with service-users from the start, involving them in building and sustaining projects. So the Tuesday population were surveyed about other needs, besides the weekly meal. Answers pointed to establishing a daily community centre. Living on the street or in a rooming house makes it difficult for friends to hang out. People become lonely, in turn impacting their well-being and adding to societal costs as help is required.
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At the end of the decade, a local non-profit agency – Syme Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre (SWNFC)  - contacted Central's Outreach Committee with a proposal to open satellite offices for housing and harm reduction programs in the church premises. They would open two days a week – Mondays and Fridays – and, if the church continued to provide Tuesday community meals, there would be social worker support three days a week. There was a policy of "Don't Ask. Don't Tell" towards illegal immigrants and others living under the radar but needing services.
  
== Creating a Community Drop-in Centre ==
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After discussion, church officials agreed. In 2001, a church sub-committee started by investigating insurance liabilities. One of the risks in such a venture is property damage occurring - regular wear and tear from constant use and vandalism. The sub-committee organized a no-cost rental agreement to use the space, providing janitorial and security services.
 
 
At the end of the decade, a local non-profit agency—Syme Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre (SWNFC)—contacted Central’s Outreach Committee with a proposal to open satellite offices for housing and harm reduction programs in the church premises. They would open two days a week—Mondays and Fridays—and, if the church continued to provide Tuesday community meals, people would be supported three days a week.
 
 
After discussion church officials agreed, and in 2001, a church sub-committee started by organizing a no-cost rental agreement for use of the space, providing for janitorial services and security, and investigating insurance liabilities. One of the risks in such a venture is the property damage occurring—regular wear and tear from constant use and vandalism—that increases property insurance rates. For all programs, there was a policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” towards illegal immigrants and others living under the radar, but needing services.
 
  
 
== Harm Reduction ==
 
== Harm Reduction ==
  
The plan was staff from the City of Toronto’s “The Works” would look after health and well-being through a “Harm Reduction” approach, aiming to reduce negative consequences of substance use—mostly drugs and alcohol—while still respecting peoples’ rights to continue their addictions.
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The plan was staff from the City of Toronto's "The Works" would look after health and well-being through a "Harm Reduction" approach, aiming to reduce negative consequences of substance use – mostly drugs and alcohol – while still respecting peoples' rights to continue their addictions.
 
   
 
   
Staff would try, through programs and one-on-one interactions, to address conditions leading to these addictions: such as childhood trauma, impoverished lives, lack of self-esteem, and isolation from support systems. Encouragement was given to solve the problems leading to substance use.
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Through programs and one-on-one interactions, staff would try to address conditions leading to these addictions, such as childhood trauma, impoverished lives, lack of self-esteem, and isolation from support systems. Staff encouraged people to solve their problems that led to substance use.
  
To do their jobs, harm reduction staff would exchange needles used for injecting drugs, distribute condoms and safe drug use kits (bags with crack use equipment, lip balm, chewing gum, condoms, and information on where to get help) and other aids for reducing the contraction of communicable diseases.
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Harm reduction staff exchange needles used for injecting drugs, distribute condoms and safe drug use kits (bags with crack use equipment, lip balm, chewing gum, condoms, and information on where to get help) and other aids for reducing the contraction of infectious diseases
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Peer workers – people from the community who were familiar with drug use, were hired on an hourly basis to visit local crack houses, bars and barber shops to leave materials and encourage people they met to come to the drop-in. Staff sat on street benches at regular hours to meet people unwilling to visit the office.  
  
Peer workers—people from the community who were familiar with drug use—were hired on an hourly basis to visit local crack houses, bars and barber shops to leave materials and encourage people they met to come to the drop-in. Staff sat on street benches at regular hours to be met by people unwilling to come to the office.
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Central United Church was called upon to accept the realities of substance use and sex work in the area. Unsafe sex and use of drug paraphernalia can potentially cause hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The potentially critical community would see drug users, alcoholics and sex workers regularly welcomed at the church building.  
 
Central United Church was called upon to accept the realities of substance use, and sex work in the area. Unsafe sex and use of drug paraphernalia can potentially cause hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The potentially critical community would see drug users, alcoholics and sex workers being regularly welcomed at the church building.  
 
  
In later years WKNC was funded by the City of Toronto with both HIV/AIDs Prevention and Drug Prevention Grants. This ended when management was provided by volunteer Board members, not deemed sufficient by the funders, and the numbers of HIV/AIDs positive program participants dropped. Harm Reduction then returned into the hands of partners.
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In later years WKNC was funded by the City of Toronto with both HIV/AIDs 
Prevention and Drug Prevention Grants. This funding ended when insufficiently trained volunteer Board members provided management, and the numbers of HIV/AIDs positive program participants dropped. Harm Reduction then returned into the hands of partners.
  
 
== Housing Support ==
 
== Housing Support ==
  
The Housing Worker’s job was to support the housed with discriminating landlords, eviction notices, and unhealthy environments such as mould and bed bugs. SSome were “couch surfing”, that is temporarily sleeping on a friend’s floor or couch, while others camping out in local parks in good weather or doorways and cardboard and scrap metal shelters. These people need stable housing instead of city-run shelters.
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The Housing Worker's job is to support the housed with discriminating landlords, eviction notices, and unhealthy environments with mould and bed bugs. The homeless, some "couch surfing" - temporarily sleeping on friends' floors or couches, others camping in local parks, doorways and cardboard and scrap metal shelters. These people need stable, affordable housing, and until that time, places in City-run shelters.  
 
 
A successful funding application added air-conditioning units to the drop-in lounge and kitchen offering a cool space during heat alerts. The agency Streets to Homes relocated clients from the downtown core into Weston with WKNC support. The Federation of Metro Tenants Association provided WKNC with quarterly workshops on tenants’ rights. Hospitalized homeless people cost taxpayers an average of $2,500 more than patients with stable homes, so there was a payback to society in keeping people housed and healthy.  
 
  
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The agency Streets to Homes relocated clients from the downtown core into Weston with WKNC's support. The Federation of Metro Tenants Association provided WKNC with quarterly workshops on tenant's rights. Hospitalized homeless people cost taxpayers an average of $2,500 more than patients with stable homes, so there was a payback to society in keeping people housed and healthy. Successful funding applications added air-conditioning units to the drop-in lounge and kitchen, offering a cool space used during heat alerts.
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== Incorporation of the Weston King Neighbourhood Centre ==  
 
== Incorporation of the Weston King Neighbourhood Centre ==  
  
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The next step, in 2001, saw the committee applying for federal funding. “Supporting Community Partnerships Initiatives” (SCPI) was set up to encourage local grassroots groups to support homelessness. The Committee’s application cited the need to build a lower level kitchen, eliminating the safety hazard of stairs, a ramp into the dining hall, turn former Sunday school rooms into offices and accessible laundry and shower rooms, buy foodservice equipment, and secure enough funding to hire a social worker trained coordinator with skills to plan drop-in programs and guide volunteers.  
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The next step, in 2001, saw the Committee applying for federal funding. "Supporting Community Partnerships Initiatives" (SCPI) was set up to encourage local grassroots groups to support homelessness. The application cited a need to build a lower-level kitchen. Cooked meals carried downstairs proved a safety hazard. Also, making a ramp into the dining hall allowed integration of those with mobility challenges. There were advantages to turning former Sunday school rooms into offices and accessible laundry and shower rooms.  Foodservice equipment was required, and enough funding to hire a social worker trained Coordinator to plan drop-in programs and guide volunteers.
  
The funding application was successful, the purchases made, renovations completed, and a program coordinator hired – the first full-time staff for the organization.
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The funding application was successful, the purchases made, renovations completed, and a program coordinator hired – the organization's first full-time staff.
  
Only when writing the cheque for $176,970 did administrators realize the church committee was not an incorporated non-profit as required. Being incorporated means elected Board members are a separate legal entity, responsible for the money and staff management – all final responsibility falls on the Board. It was also suggested that until the group was more financially viable, the City’s money should be managed by trustees.     
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Only when writing the cheque for $176,970, did administrators realize the church committee was not an incorporated non-profit as required. Being incorporated means elected Board members are a separate legal entity, responsible for the money and staff management – all final responsibility falls on the Board. Until the group was financially viable, trustees should manage the City's money.     
 
      
 
      
So, the next step was hiring a lawyer, picking a name for this growing enterprise and writing the formal Objectives and Bylaws. Incorporation was executed in accordance with the United Church of Canada guidelines. The Board of Directors required 50 percent plus one of elected Directors to be members of the United Church of Canada or members of an approved faith group to maintain the basic Christian principles on which the organization was being founded. The name chosen was for the location at the intersection of Weston Road and King Street.  
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The next step was hiring a lawyer, picking a name for this growing enterprise and writing the formal Objectives and Bylaws. The United Church of Canada guidelines gave direction to the incorporation of the drop-in. The Board of Directors required 50 percent plus one of elected Directors to be members of the United Church of Canada or members of an approved faith group to maintain the basic Christian principles, the organization's foundation. The name chosen was for the location at the intersection of Weston Road and King Street.  
  
On January 17, 2003, Weston King Neighbourhood Centre (WKNC) was officially incorporated as a non-profit agency. Those named on the four-page document became the first board members: James Edward Campbell, Thomas Lang Moffat, Charles Stephen White, Rebecca Denise Winder, and Barbara Anne Bisgrove. Their first official meeting had been roughly a year earlier. Since then, the Board has met monthly, with an Executive group meeting more frequently. All approved minutes and financial statements are forwarded to the United Church of Canada.
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On January 17, 2003, Weston King Neighbourhood Centre (WKNC) became officially incorporated as a non-profit agency. Those named on the four-page document became the first board members James Edward Campbell, Thomas Lang Moffat, Charles Stephen White, Rebecca Denise Winder and Barbara Anne Bisgrove. Their first official meeting had been roughly a year earlier. Since then, the Board has met monthly, with an Executive group meeting more frequently, forwarding all approved minutes and financial statements to the United Church of Canada.
  
Members of the Board provided a core group of volunteers to handle administrative work and finances. The Treasurer managed expenditures including payroll, receipt of income from fundraising and other sources, and reported monthly to the Board who approved financial statements and yearly to membership at the Annual General Meeting. The Toronto West Presbytery Corporation acted as trustees on behalf of the church to receive financial contributions. In 2005, York Community Services Centre (now known as Unison Health and Community Service) became the trustee for WKNC and finally by 2007 the books were audited and found to have enough funds that the City of Toronto no longer required an external trustee.
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Members of the Board provided a core group of volunteers to handle administrative work and finances. The Treasurer managed expenditures including payroll, receipt of income from fundraising and other sources, reporting monthly to the Board for approval, and yearly to the membership at the Annual General Meeting. The Toronto West Presbytery Corporation acted as trustees on behalf of the church to receive financial contributions. In 2005, York Community Services Centre (now known as Unison Health and Community Service) became the trustee for WKNC. Finally, by 2007, the books were audited and found with enough funds that the City no longer required an external trustee.
  
The President of the Board was approved for a program led by the John McInich Foundation to help WKNC achieve charitable status. An application for Charitable Status was submitted in September 2006 and received approval in January 2007. This allowed income tax receipts to be issued for charitable donations towards the work of WKNC.
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The President of the Board attended a John McInich Foundation program to help WKNC achieve charitable status. An application for Charitable Status was submitted in September 2006 and received approval in January 2007, allowing charitable donation income tax receipts to be issued.
  
The President and Secretary set about establishing policies and protocols necessary for the smooth running of the organization. Best practices of other well-established drop-in centres were incorporated and one by one the first 66 policies were approved.  The second writing of policy and procedure conducted nine years later when the first Executive Director (ED) was hired gave the ED more decision making power and moved to Board to a governance role. Policies and procedures were reviewed again with the addition of the second site in 2013.
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The President and Secretary set about establishing policies and protocols, incorporating best practices of other well-established drop-in centres for the organizations smooth running. One by one, 66 policies were approved.  The second writing of policy and procedure was conducted nine years later with hiring the first Executive Director (ED).  They gave the ED decision-making power and moved the Board to a governance role. Staff reviewed them again with the addition of the second site in 2013.
  
Police checks were instigated for Board members as well as staff and relief workers because the population being served was a very vulnerable group. Before joining the Board or staff team, people were also required to sign confidentiality documents to ensure the information given to them by the service users or program participants remained confidential.  
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Police checks were instigated for Board members, staff and relief workers because the population served is a vulnerable group. Before joining the Board or staff team, people were required to sign confidentiality documents to ensure the information given to them by the service users or program participants remained confidential.  
  
The initial audit was conducted and approved at the first Annual General Meeting in 2005. Also, the City of Toronto Declaration of Non-Discrimination, and the Antiracism, Access and Equity Policy were approved. Since then Annual General Meetings have been held yearly to approve budgets and financial statements and elect Board members. Board members stand for re-election each year. There are no limits to the length of time spent on the Board providing one is re-elected. Elected members then vote for positions on the Board.
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The initial audit was conducted and approved at the first Annual General Meeting in 2005. Also, the City of Toronto Declaration of Non-Discrimination and the Antiracism, Access and Equity Policy were approved. Since then, Annual General Meetings are held yearly to approve budgets and financial statements and elect Board members. Board members stand for re-election each year. There are no limits to the length of time spent on the Board. Elected members vote for positions on the Board.
In 2005, the SCPI funding ended and WKNC was granted access to the City of Toronto Homeless Initiatives Fund. (HIF) This fund paid wages for drop-in staff and relief workers, allowing purchasing of office supplies and Toronto Transit Commission tokens issued to those attending court and medical appointments. During emergency weather warning tokens are issued to help people reach shelter.
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In 2005, the SCPI funding ended and WKNC granted access to the City of Toronto Homeless Initiatives Fund. (HIF). This fund paid wages for drop-in staff and relief workers, allowing the purchase of office supplies and Toronto Transit Commission tokens issued to those attending court and medical appointments. During emergency weather warnings, tickets help people reach shelter.
  
 
== Programs and Partners ==
 
== Programs and Partners ==
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A small organization like WKNC cannot afford daily running costs, so it works in partnership with larger agencies to offer as many services as possible. The municipal government, City of Toronto, on approving the yearly funding application and reporting, paid salaries for two WKNC full-time staff and program supplies. Toronto Employment and Social Services covered costs for temporary staffing by people training for re-entry into the workplace.  WKNC accepted students from George Brown, Humber, Seneca College, and York University. They experienced drop-in issues first-hand during staff training and provide programs in their specialty study areas. During the summer months, Summer Relief Workers were hired from a government program supporting post-secondary education students.
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A small organization like WKNC cannot afford daily running costs, so it collaborates with larger agencies to offer as many services as possible. After approving the yearly funding application and the reporting, the municipal government, the City of Toronto, paid salaries for two WKNC full-time staff and program supplies. Toronto Employment and Social Services covered costs for temporary staffing by people training for re-entry into the workplace.  WKNC accepted students from George Brown, Humber, Seneca colleges, and York University. The students experience drop-in issues first-hand during staff training and provide programs in their specialty study areas. During the summer months, Summer Relief Workers are hired from a government program supporting post-secondary education students.
  
Some partners, such as Partners for Access and Identification (PAID), Toronto Community Care Access Centre (St. Elizabeth), Elizabeth Fry Work Safe Program, John Howard Society and Albion Neighbourhood Services see their clients on-site for a few hours, while others had onsite satellite offices. WKNC received supplies regularly, either free or at cost. This involved organizations such as Daily Bread Food Bank, Second Harvest and Windfall Clothing Service.  
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Some partners, such as Partners for Access and Identification (PAID), Toronto Community Care Access Centre (St. Elizabeth), Elizabeth Fry Work Safe Program, John Howard Society and Albion Neighbourhood Services, see their clients on WKNC's site for a few hours, while others use satellite offices. WKNC received supplies regularly, either free or at cost. This involved organizations such as Daily Bread Food Bank, Second Harvest and Windfall Clothing Service.  
  
Central United Church went from no-cost when WKNC started with one room, to suggesting a cost-recovery amount as WKNC grew to use the whole lower floor and consume greater amounts of hydro and water. Toronto West Presbytery Community Ministry Funding and other United Church of Canada grant programs went from the initial three-year funding for community development to various other supportive grants.
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Central United Church went from no-cost when WKNC started with one room to charging a small but increasing portion of the rent as WKNC grew to use the whole lower floor and consume more significant amounts of hydro and water. This generous gift is valued at $76,000 a year. Toronto West Presbytery Community Ministry Funding and other United Church of Canada grant programs went from the initial three-year funding for community development to various other supportive grants.
  
As daily meals increased, a Food Coordinator was hired to run the kitchen program, planning meals, keeping inventory and training and supervising volunteers. It was felt that a level of professionalism was needed, and at WKNC’s request Toronto Public Health inspects the premises twice yearly as if it were a restaurant. Volunteers and staff are certified at the City of Toronto Food Handling courses, St. John Ambulance and other such upgrading classes. This helps maintain a high standard of hygiene and safety in the Centre and is useful when creating resumes.
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A Food Coordinator was hired to run the kitchen program as the number of daily meals increased. The Coordinator planned meals, kept inventory, conducted training and supervised volunteers. At WKNC's request, Toronto Public Health inspects the premises twice yearly as if it were a restaurant. Volunteers and staff are certified at the City of Toronto Food Handling courses, St. John Ambulance and other such upgrading classes. The high standard of hygiene and safety expected in the Centre provides an experience useful on resumes.
  
In 2006, Thursdays were set aside for women without men being allowed in. This gave time to safely relax. Women’s Day has continued with regular programming on sexual health, nutrition, mental health and so on. Several women were local sex trade workers and an Elizabeth Fry Society worker came in at days end giving a chance to speak freely and share information. The Bad Date Coalition newsletter was distributed listing descriptions of people and cars to be avoided.  
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In 2006, Thursdays were set aside for women without men being allowed in. The women had time to relax safely. Women's day has continued with regular programming on sexual health, nutrition, mental health and so on. Several women attending were local sex trade workers and an Elizabeth Fry Society worker came in at day's end giving a chance to speak freely and share information. The distributed Bad Date Coalition newsletter listed descriptions of people and cars to be avoided.  
  
As time went on the female population changed to mostly newcomers and women with young children. WKNC applied for funding to run a program for refugees and immigrants: however, it was felt WKNC would be stretching itself too far. There was also a time when a strong supportive group of Indigenous people used WKNC’s services. More recently, with Indigenous programmers using the space, drumming and talking circles have started up.
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With time the female population changed to mostly newcomers and women with young children. WKNC applied for funding to run a program for refugees and immigrants: however, the government felt WKNC would be stretching itself too far. There was also a time when a strong supportive group of Indigenous people used WKNC's services. More recently, with Indigenous programmers sharing the space, drumming and talking circles have started up.
  
As was to be expected men lobbied for their day without women, and it was decided that seniors would benefit from their own time and programs too. For a while, a youth cooking class was held in the evenings, but otherwise, youth tend to gravitate to programs designed for them with a strong recreational component.  
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As was to be expected, men lobbied for their day without women, and staff decided that seniors would benefit from their own time and programs. For a while, an evening youth cooking class ran, but otherwise, youth tend to gravitate to programs designed for them with a robust recreational component.  
  
WKNC involved itself in voter registration for elections, advertising the closest polling stations, offering WKNC’s address for the homeless to use in registering, and encouraging people to apply for temporary work with Elections Canada. All local politicians are invited to visit the Centre and meet the participants in person.  
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WKNC involved itself in voter registration for elections, advertising the closest polling stations, offering WKNC's address for the homeless to use in registering, and encouraging people to apply for temporary work with Elections Canada. All local politicians are invited to visit the Centre and meet the participants in person.  
  
A Board member, a lawyer, ran a Legal Clinic in 2005, providing advice on arrest, employment and landlord and tenant problems, abuse and social assistance. This is of value since these types of services tend to located a distance away in the city core.
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A Board member, a lawyer, ran a Legal Clinic in 2005, providing advice on arrest, employment and landlord and tenant problems, abuse and social assistance. It was valuable since these types of services tend to locate a distance away in the city core.
  
Project Winter Survival, Windfall Clothing Services, and local outlets donate used and new clothing, shoes, sleeping bags and household items. A “new” clothing bank was held monthly on Saturdays so the working poor and people with families unable to visit during the week could take advantage of free items. The Toronto Star provided daily newspapers so people could job and house hunt, although the crosswords were usually the most sort after page.  
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Project Winter Survival, Windfall Clothing Services, and local outlets donate used and new clothing, shoes, sleeping bags and household items. A "new" clothing bank was held monthly on Saturdays so the working poor and people with families unable to visit during the week could take advantage of free items. The Toronto Star provided daily newspapers so people could job and house hunt, although the crosswords were usually the most sort after page.  
  
Harm reduction and health support expanded by providing support from The Elizabeth Fry Society, Unison Health and Community Services and Toronto Public Health–The Works. St. Elizabeth Healthcare provided a nurse on-site once a week. Staff were required to hold first aid certificates while funding provided a wheelchair, first aid boxes and a defibrillator. An annual flu shot clinic was held on-site and WKNC’s comprehensive prevention plan meant no one contacted H1N1 during its outbreak.  
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Harm reduction and health support expanded by providing support from The Elizabeth Fry Society, Unison Health and Community Services and Toronto Public Health – The Works. St. Elizabeth Healthcare provided a nurse on-site once a week. Staff hold first aid certificates while fundraising provided a wheelchair, first aid boxes and a defibrillator. An annual flu shot clinic was held on-site, and WKNC's comprehensive prevention plan meant no one contacted H1N1 during its outbreak.  
  
Compared with wealthier areas, low-income neighbourhoods such as Weston-Mt. Dennis have a 28 percent higher death rate and double the suicide rate, so WKNC needed to encourage good health practices. Type-2 diabetes and heart attacks are also more common so special care is taken with meal planning, ensuring people receive adequate nutritious, low-sodium healthy food. A partnership with Toronto Heart Health helped monitor the menus.
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Compared with wealthier areas, low-income neighbourhoods such as Weston Mt. Dennis have a 28 percent higher death rate and double the suicide rate. Hence, WKNC needed to encourage acceptable health practices. Type-2 diabetes and heart attacks are also more common; therefore, special care is taken with meal planning, ensuring people receive adequate nutritious, low-sodium healthy food. A partnership with Toronto Heart Health helped monitor the menus.
  
In 2005, a Crisis Intervention Protocol was developed for the Centre and staff and volunteers trained in conflict resolution. A Town Hall was called for program participants to discuss what they felt should be the Basic Expectations for all to follow. The consequences of not following have changed many times over the years according to various views. Basically though, without withdrawing services, individuals are given time to de-escalate. Before returning, these individuals must meet with staff to build a behavioural contract. Similarly, involvement by the Metro Police has varied, sometimes keeping them outside to maintain a safe place, and sometimes using them to control situations. For many years WKNC Board members sat on the Weston Community Police Partnership Committee working to build a good relationship.
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In 2005, the Centre and staff and volunteers trained in conflict resolution created a Crisis Intervention Protocol. A Town Hall called for program participants to discuss their thoughts on the Basic Expectations for all to follow. According to various staff views. The consequences of not following the expectations have changed many times over the years. Without withdrawing services, individuals are given time to deescalate – days to months – and must meet with staff to build a behavioural contract before returning. Similarly, the Metro Toronto Police involvement has varied, sometimes keeping them outside to maintain a safe place and sometimes using them to control situations. For many years WKNC Board members sat on the Weston Community Police Partnership Committee to build good relationships.
  
In 2009, WKNC extended its hours and days of operation from four to six days a week, including statutory holidays. Four staff were employed in drop-in staff positions and a commercial style kitchen was built with funding from HPI ($105,000)
+
In 2009, WKNC extended its hours and days of operation from four to six days a week, including statutory holidays. Four staff filled drop-in positions.  A commercial-style kitchen, built with funding from HPI ($105,000), eased the space constraints.
  
Staff, Bard members and volunteers were all required to take an online training course – Accessibility Standard for Customer Service 0. Reg 429/07 AODA 2005—committing to providing equal treatment and equitable benefits of City services, program and facilities using respect and recognizing dignity towards people with disabilities. In 2016, the church sought funding to make both the drop-in and church doors accessible.
+
Staff, Board members and volunteers were required to take an online training course – Accessibility Standard for Customer Service 0. Reg 429/07 AODA 2005 – committing to providing equal treatment and equitable benefits of City services, programs and facilities, using respect and recognizing dignity towards people with disabilities. In 2016, the church sought funding to make both the drop-in and church doors accessible.
 +
In 2011, WKNC celebrated its 10th anniversary as an organization. A highlight of the year for WKNC was to be awarded "The 2011 Mayor's Community Safety Award". A comprehensive Health and Safety Manual was provided for WKNC staff use and twice-yearly safety inspections of the premises introduced. Fire safety drills were also instituted.
  
During 2011, WKNC celebrated its 10th anniversary as an organization. A highlight of the year for WKNC was being awarded The 2011 Mayor's Community Safety Award. A comprehensive Health and Safety Manual was introduced for WKNC staff use and twice-yearly safety inspections of the premises introduced. Fire safety drills were also instituted.
+
The first of the annual food surveys recorded participant food preferences, medical conditions and allergies.
The first of the annual food surveys was introduced to record participant food preferences, medical conditions and allergies.  
+
In 2012 the city-led Revitalization Program for Weston was a welcome new initiative in the community. A new peer-led outreach program to seniors  (Seniors Outreach Support SOS) was introduced, which aimed to identify and respond to isolated seniors. The volunteers attended weekly workshops to learn how to assist.
  
In 2012, the city-led Revitalization Program for Weston was a welcome new initiative in the community. That year a new program of peer-led outreach to seniors (Seniors Outreach Support SOS) was introduced, which aimed to identify and respond to isolated seniors. The volunteers attended weekly workshops to learn how to assist.
+
May 2013 saw the Resource Centre opening with computers set up for use by the program participants. April to June that year saw a 26 percent increase from the previous quarter in people using the services.
  
May 2013 saw the opening of the Resource Centre with computers set up for use by the program participants. April to June that year saw a 26 percent increase from the previous quarter in people using the services.
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Teacher-led art and writing classes were introduced to the community in 2016, assuming the regular program participants would be the primary attendees. However, a whole new group of people come from the local area to attend. They, in turn, became acquainted with the needs of WKNC, and some volunteered while others donated. When the funding ran out after two years, the writing group conducted its own fundraising, they were so determined to continue to meet.
 
 
In 2016 something new was tried and both art and writing classes were offered to the community with qualified teachers being hired. It was assumed the regular program participants would be the main attendees, however, a whole new group of people come from the local area to attend. They, in turn, became acquainted with the needs of WKNC and some volunteered while others donated. When the funding ran out after two years the writing group conducted its own fundraising, they were so determined to continue to meet.
 
  
 
== Shorter-lived Programs: User Requested ==
 
== Shorter-lived Programs: User Requested ==
  
The programs teach, provide fun and reduce isolation. They have covered well-being, yoga and Zumba, art therapy and classes, writing, listening to music, haircuts and nail decorating, employment planning, crafts, cooking, gardening, knitting, redesigning clothing, jewellery making, jam making and financial management.  
+
The drop-in programs teach, provide fun and reduce isolation. They have covered well-being, yoga and Zumba, art therapy and classes, writing, listening to music, haircuts and nail decorating, employment planning, crafts, cooking, gardening, knitting, redesigning clothing, jewellery making, jam making and financial management.  
  
A group of service users were interested in completing large, 1000 and more piece jigsaw puzzles and took their own table so the puzzle could be left out overnight. Many puzzles were donated. Another group took up dominoes and Bingo was popular with everyone. The Toronto Alliance for Performing Arts provided entertainment tickets, groups travelled to the Canadian National Exhibition and other large shows, visited the ballet, pow-wows, the zoo and other cultural activities and picnicked on Centre Island, WKNC catered for events and marched in local Santa Claus parades. There were sales of books and DVDs, fruits and vegetables, specialized foods and WKNC logo T-shirts and buttons to raise money for outings.   
+
Several service users were interested in completing large, 1000 and more piece jigsaw donated puzzles and took a table to leave out puzzles overnight. Another group took up dominoes, while Bingo is popular with everyone. The Toronto Alliance for Performing Arts; provided tickets, and groups travelled to the Canadian National Exhibition and other large shows, visited the ballet, pow-wows, the zoo and other cultural activities. They picnicked on Centre Island and marched in local Santa Claus parades. Sales of books and DVDs, fruits and vegetables, specialized foods and WKNC logo T-shirts and buttons to raise money for outings.   
  
 
== Volunteers ==  
 
== Volunteers ==  
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The strength of WKNC is that it continues to be primarily volunteer-led and community-based. The staff team at WKNC has always been relatively small. Staff tend to perform more as resource people or facilitators. Volunteers were given a half-day prior training in non-discrimination, anti-racism, access, equity and confidentiality.
 
The strength of WKNC is that it continues to be primarily volunteer-led and community-based. The staff team at WKNC has always been relatively small. Staff tend to perform more as resource people or facilitators. Volunteers were given a half-day prior training in non-discrimination, anti-racism, access, equity and confidentiality.
 +
SNAPSHOT 2007
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During the year 2007, approximately 8,865 meals were served with roughly 3,250 on Tuesdays where meals for 80 were regularly prepared. People received clothing, toiletries, first aid and personal items almost 3,000 times. The staff assisted with 840 referrals for housing, detoxification and addiction treatment, mental health services, medical services, income support, employment support, legal services, settlement services and other food programs. The first version of WKNC’s website went up in 2007, listing staff and Board members, promoting the services WKNC offered and offering  a mechanism to donate online and apply to volunteer.
 +
The majority of volunteers are from the service-user group. Some believe in giving back to society, while others need to keep busy for their well-being. Newcomers, unable to work by law, find opportunities to get involved and learn English as they chop lettuce. Some volunteers lend special skills in bookkeeping, poster design, or fundraising.
 +
Retired people volunteer to fill time, while unemployed use the chance to build skills and add to their resume. It is a chance to learn new skills and meet new people. Some people at WKNC, such as Lang Moffat – the founding President - still volunteer in their 90's.
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By 2004, it was estimated 3,000 volunteer hours were devoted to Tuesday night community meals hosted by the church. WKNC's volunteers – approximately 35 a week - represent a value of $115,000 a year to the drop-in. ($12.00 an hour.)
 +
Over 15 years, staff and volunteers served an estimated 215,000 healthy meals with endless cups of coffee and snacks. The food, worth many thousands of dollars, is provided in partnership with Second Harvest, a partner for over 18 years. Second Harvest is a food rescue charity that picks up food that would go to waste from supermarkets, hotels and manufacturers and delivers to where it can be used – drop-ins, seniors centres, and so on.
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The Board of Directors is the unpaid hub of the organization, and on their shoulders lies the establishment of firm foundations  -  planning, policies and procedures – and financial stability. Success would include service users moving on, having gained self-sufficiency, and for those unable to move on, a safe place where they feel valued members of the community.
  
The majority of volunteers are from the service-user group. Some are dedicated to giving back to society while others need to keep busy for their well-being. Newcomers, not able to work by law find opportunities to get involved and learn English as they chop lettuce. Some volunteers lend special skills in book keeping, poster design, or fund raising.
+
Local organizations such as Live Green, teens from local schools and organizations like Free the Children come on-site to offer volunteer time painting walls, spring cleaning and so on. The local Business Improvement Association hires WKNC volunteers to maintain the public planters and work in the local farmers' market. Appeals for supplies, Christmas gifts, used clothing, food for the emergency aid cupboard and so on are generously met by various businesses and faith groups.
 
 
Retired people volunteer to fill time while unemployed use the chance to build skills and add to their resume. It is a chance to learn new skills and meet new people. Some people at WKNC such as Lang Moffat—the founding president—still volunteer in their 90’s.
 
 
 
By 2004, it was estimated that 3,000 volunteer hours were devoted to Tuesday night community meals still hosted by the church. WKNC’s volunteers—approximately 35 a week—represent a value of $115,000 a year to the drop-in. (Hours at $12.00 an hour.)
 
 
 
Over 15 years, staff and volunteers served an estimated 215,000 healthy meals with endless cups of coffee and snacks. The food, worth many thousands of dollars, is provided in partnership with Second Harvest, a partner for over 18 years. Second Harvest is a food rescue charity that picks up food that would go to waste from supermarkets, hotels and manufacturers and delivers to where it can be used—drop-ins, seniors centres, and so on.
 
 
 
The Board of Directors are the unpaid hub of the organization, and on their shoulders lies the establishment of firm foundations—planning, policies and procedures—and financial stability.  In general, the goal of the organization is twofold: to allow some service users to move on, having gained self-sufficiency.  And for those unable to move on, remain a safe place where they feel valued as members of the community.
 
 
 
Local organizations such as Live Green, teens from local schools and organizations like Free the Children came on-site to offer volunteer time painting walls, spring cleaning and so on. The local Business Improvement Association hired WKNC volunteers to maintain the public planters and work in the local farmers’ market. Appeals for supplies, Christmas gifts, used clothing, food for the emergency aid cupboard and so on were generously met by various businesses and faith groups.
 
  
== Value to the Community ==
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== Value to Local Community ==
  
 
Purchasing and banking locally allowed staff and volunteers to became known and grant money flowed back into the community. WKNC held an annual community BBQ which was attended by local politicians and community police officers and brought people together with entertainment by local talent and local businesses donating prizes and food.  
 
Purchasing and banking locally allowed staff and volunteers to became known and grant money flowed back into the community. WKNC held an annual community BBQ which was attended by local politicians and community police officers and brought people together with entertainment by local talent and local businesses donating prizes and food.  
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== Future Planning ==  
 
== Future Planning ==  
  
In 2005, WKNC received funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) to support an organizational development plan, to increase effectiveness and sustainability. The following year, WKNC applied for $10,000 from the City of Toronto to engage in an externally facilitated three to the five-year strategic planning process and to formalize its policies and procedures.  
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Purchasing and banking locally allows staff and volunteers to become known and grant money flows back into the community. WKNC held a community BBQ, attended by local politicians and community police officers and brought people together with entertainment by local talent and local businesses donating prizes and food.  
  
The second President was appointed at the Annual General Meeting in 2006 with the mandate to set the corporation on a good business foundation with approved policies and procedures covering all the aspects of the business. By this time too, the Board of Directors was more diverse with social workers, college professors, policy analysts and chartered accountants. Two places were held for program participants to represent people using the services. A third president of the Board took office from 2010 to 2019 when the position was handed over to the fourth President, the former Treasurer and Vice-President.  
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Board members and staff attend public meetings, encouraging program participants to support their community. Board members spoke at town halls, service club meetings, churches and received awards on behalf of WKNC from groups such as the Weston Lions Club and the Rotary Club of Toronto Humber. WKNC took membership in the local ratepayers' association. Advocacy has been somewhat weak at WKNC, but other faith groups have vital advocacy programs, writing letters to governments, speaking up publicly for social justice and so on, but cannot provide first-hand on-the-ground support like Central, so it evens out. 
 
 
As Board direction has change, so has the planning process. It has gone from a detailed three-year plan laid out by program and listing goals, to deliberately not having any future planning program. The formal report from a consulting group was seen to suggest the organization should continue doing what is was doing, because it was doing that well.
 
  
 
== Branding ==  
 
== Branding ==  
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[[File:Wknclogo.png|thumb|200px|WKNC logo]]
 
[[File:Wknclogo.png|thumb|200px|WKNC logo]]
  
In 2007, funding was secured, a Request for Proposal (RFP) issued publicly and a consultancy firm chosen. They were to develop a distinctive logo after consultation with Board, staff and program participants on what they felt was representative of WKNC’s ethos. The image that emerged was that of an open doorway and three bodies of identical shapes but of different heights and with no distinguishing features to indicate gender, race or age.  
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In 2007, funding was secured, and a public Request for Proposal (RFP) issued. A consultancy firm was chosen to develop a distinctive logo. Consultation with Board, staff and program participants sought what represented WKNC's ethos. The image that emerged was that of an open doorway and three bodies of identical shapes, different heights and without distinguishing features to indicate gender, race or age.  
  
The logo design was approved and letterhead, business cards and so on readied for printing; when a staff member pointed out it was black and white – all the people being white ovals!  So, at the very last minute, they all became blue people and the WKNC colours were blue and white. Pins, t-shirts, posters, booklets, newsletters and so on carried the logo.  
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The logo design was approved, and letterhead, business cards and so on readied for printing; when a staff member pointed out it was black and white – all the people being white ovals!  So, at the very last minute, they all became blue people and the WKNC colours blue and white. . Pins, T-shirts and all posters, booklets, newsletters and so on carried the logo.  
  
 
Subsequently, when WKNC had expanded to include Mount Dennis Neighbourhood Centre a new logo was developed to include the names of both sites at the base.  
 
Subsequently, when WKNC had expanded to include Mount Dennis Neighbourhood Centre a new logo was developed to include the names of both sites at the base.  
The first website (wknc.ca) was developed in 2007 and updated by a summer student in 2013 when portals were added for online donations, and then again in 2020. The website lists programs and their hours, names and positions for staff and board members, ways to donate and volunteer, the history of WKNC and so on.
+
 
 +
The first website (wknc.ca) was developed in 2007 and updated by a summer student in 2013 when portals were added for online donations. It was updated again in 2020. The website lists programs and their hours, names and positions for staff and board members, ways to donate and volunteer, the history of WKNC and so on.
 +
 
  
 
== Accreditation ==  
 
== Accreditation ==  
  
In 2011, WKNC received a partial accreditation as a “Ministry” of the United Church of Canada. This was very meaningful to those who saw the work as that of faithful outreach to the community. Once the documentation was assembled there was a thorough inspection—an internal audit—and a formal interview of the Executive by a United Church of Canada representative. The outcome was a partial accreditation with time to introduce some of the missing components.
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In 2011, WKNC received a partial accreditation as a "Ministry" of the United Church of Canada. This accreditation was very meaningful to those who saw the work as that of faithful outreach to the community. Once the documentation was assembled there was a thorough inspection – an internal audit -  and a formal interview of the Executive by a United Church of Canada representative. The outcome was a partial accreditation with time to introduce some of the missing components.
 +
 
 +
== Program Coordinator/Executive Director/Senior Manager Position ==
  
== Evolving Approaches to Management ==
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In 2005, WKNC applied to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for funding to hire a full-time Program Coordinator for two years to manage the organization and take administrative jobs out of Board members' hands. This hiring brought a level of stability, and monthly reports brought Board members a better understanding of program participants' issues. There was one spokesperson for WKNC to respond to invitations to represent it on a variety of committees.
  
In 2005, WKNC applied to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for funding to hire a full-time Program Coordinator for two years to manage the organization and take administrative jobs out of the hands of Board members. This hiring brought a level of stability and monthly reports brought Board members a better understanding of issues facing program participants. There was one person to speak for WKNC and to respond to invitations to represent it on a variety of committees.  
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When the term ended, there were insufficient funds raised in the two years to sustain the position. In response, the Board of Directors passed a motion to continue the program coordinator work through an Operations Committee consisting of four Board members allocated one for each day the Drop-in was open. They were to provide Board oversight and some level of daily supervision. This management model continued for the next six years until funding was again available for hiring a management position.  
  
When the term ended there were insufficient funds raised in the two years to sustain the position. In response, the Board of Directors passed a motion to continue the program coordinator work through an Operations Committee consisting of four Board members allocated for each day the Drop-in was open. They were to provide Board oversight and some level of daily supervision. This model of management continued for the next six years until funding was again available for hiring a management position.  
+
The first Executive Director hired in June 2013 had the difficult task of filling a previously non-existent job position with four Board members wanting to share their areas of expertise and theories of management. She resigned in January 2014. The second Executive Director, hired in April 2014, failed to fulfil the position requirements and was removed.  
  
In 2013, a two-year experiment was launched to hire an Executive Director. This individual was tasked with assuming the functions previously held by the Board of Directors.  This transition from a “working board” (functioning as a collective ED) to a “policy board” proved too difficult for everyone involved.  The experiment was ended, and program coordinators were hired instead.  These staff worked along side the existing board, and were able to focus on training, staff evaluations and managerial requirements.  2019 saw a step toward the ED approach once more, with a Senior Manager of Operations to supervise both sites.
+
A period without overall management saw program coordinators for each site  (see below) answerable to the Board. Lack of funding reduced the number of full-time staff so without administrative help and having to run the day to day programs it was very difficult for these drop-in program coordinators to handle the training, staff evaluations and all the administrative and managerial requirements.  In 2019, the finances were such that a Senior Manager of Operations was hired to supervise both sites.

Revision as of 19:59, 17 March 2021

Founding WKNC: The Community Meal

“In many ways, WKNC is a model of a grass-roots initiative responding to visible needs in a community and successfully evolving. WKNC has been marked by a strong volunteer focus, active community outreach, a team environment amongst staff, Board and volunteers, and the creation of a family-like environment for participants. WKNC employs a client-centred approach and utilizes an anti-oppression framework in its programs and services. WKNC strives to maintain a safe, accepting and nonjudgmental environment, and encourages active and respectful participation in the activities of the Centre.”

— Ken Theobald

In the 1990s recession, York South Weston's riding, with the second-lowest family income levels in the province, found itself facing change. Manufacturing plants now used computers and robots instead of people, and older products gave way to new inventions. Businesses moved out of cities for cheaper land.

Central United Church Outreach Committee members grew concerned, witnessing growing signs of poverty. People in their community struggled to cope with low wages, barely covering necessities. Continuing unemployment and unstable housing situations added isolation and mental and physical challenges to living in poverty. On the main street, young men were panhandling outside recently closed businesses.

As Christians, Committee members felt a need to follow Jesus, who had a particular affinity for the sick, poor and needy and worked to bring social change. He called his followers to take risks and step out into the unknown. Looking at their options, Central's Committee members knew through the week their large, mainly unused building offered a fully-equipped kitchen and washrooms. Many congregational functions centre around sharing food, and people were familiar with catering. So, a bold step was taken, creating a welcoming place, one evening a week, where local people could enjoy food and friendship. Little did those pioneers know where that decision would lead.

A free meal meant people could save money for other necessities, such as paying rent. Research suggests that experiencing positive social interaction and nutritious food improves health, and healthier people can cope better. Worrying if there is enough to eat quickly leads to depression. Alcohol and drug dependency dull the pain.

The word "marginalized" came into use, describing those pushed to society's edges because of assumptions based on clothing, body language and behaviours — the sense of "other" created fear in seniors and perceived threats to local businesses. About two-thirds of people coming for meals were adult men, and very few were youth or children.

In 1993, posters invited everyone to a weekly community supper, timed 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. to include those coming from work. The dining hall, located under the church sanctuary, was entered from the main street. Churchgoers volunteered to prepare food - soup and sandwiches at the start - while others encouraged socialization by talking, playing card games, making art and so on. Disposable dishes and plastic cutlery lessened the dishwashing workload. Later, donated china filled the cupboards, making the group more ecologically responsible. Even later, a dish sanitizer ensured cleanliness.

That first night a group of anxious volunteers waited for the response to their invitation – 12 people. Word of mouth soon expanded the numbers. In six years, the average was 45, and in 10, it was 80 – the maximum for comfort in the room. Numbers fluctuate weekly with social assistance cheques arriving cash is available for people to provide for themselves.

The frequent question was, "Are people required to join in Christian activities like praying or Bible reading if they want to eat?" From the start, the decision was volunteers would demonstrate their faith through behaviour rather than proselytizing. When the question of beliefs and church activities came up, people were encouraged to visit Sunday services.

Gradually the meals grew more sophisticated, mostly when meat was donated, allowing the cooking of a full meal. Congregational funds, designated for the purpose, were used to purchase vegetables and staples like sugar, spices, tea and coffee, milk and juice powder, oil, tea towels, dish soap and other necessities such as a 100-cup coffee urn. Hairnets and aprons were purchased and worn to handle food in compliance with public health requirements. Gradually, newly purchased kitchen equipment replaced that borrowed from the church.

During this time, a new charitable model of consulting with service-users from the start, involving them in building and sustaining projects, replaced the top-down developmental models. Surveyed diners responded about their other needs. Answers pointed to establishing a daily community centre. Living on the street or in a rooming house makes it difficult for friends to hang out. In turn, people became lonely, impacting their well-being and adding societal costs as professional help is required.

Creating a Community Drop-in Centre

At the end of the decade, a local non-profit agency – Syme Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre (SWNFC) - contacted Central's Outreach Committee with a proposal to open satellite offices for housing and harm reduction programs in the church premises. They would open two days a week – Mondays and Fridays – and, if the church continued to provide Tuesday community meals, there would be social worker support three days a week. There was a policy of "Don't Ask. Don't Tell" towards illegal immigrants and others living under the radar but needing services.

After discussion, church officials agreed. In 2001, a church sub-committee started by investigating insurance liabilities. One of the risks in such a venture is property damage occurring - regular wear and tear from constant use and vandalism. The sub-committee organized a no-cost rental agreement to use the space, providing janitorial and security services.

Harm Reduction

The plan was staff from the City of Toronto's "The Works" would look after health and well-being through a "Harm Reduction" approach, aiming to reduce negative consequences of substance use – mostly drugs and alcohol – while still respecting peoples' rights to continue their addictions.

Through programs and one-on-one interactions, staff would try to address conditions leading to these addictions, such as childhood trauma, impoverished lives, lack of self-esteem, and isolation from support systems. Staff encouraged people to solve their problems that led to substance use.

Harm reduction staff exchange needles used for injecting drugs, distribute condoms and safe drug use kits (bags with crack use equipment, lip balm, chewing gum, condoms, and information on where to get help) and other aids for reducing the contraction of infectious diseases Peer workers – people from the community who were familiar with drug use, were hired on an hourly basis to visit local crack houses, bars and barber shops to leave materials and encourage people they met to come to the drop-in. Staff sat on street benches at regular hours to meet people unwilling to visit the office.

Central United Church was called upon to accept the realities of substance use and sex work in the area. Unsafe sex and use of drug paraphernalia can potentially cause hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The potentially critical community would see drug users, alcoholics and sex workers regularly welcomed at the church building.

In later years WKNC was funded by the City of Toronto with both HIV/AIDs 
Prevention and Drug Prevention Grants. This funding ended when insufficiently trained volunteer Board members provided management, and the numbers of HIV/AIDs positive program participants dropped. Harm Reduction then returned into the hands of partners.

Housing Support

The Housing Worker's job is to support the housed with discriminating landlords, eviction notices, and unhealthy environments with mould and bed bugs. The homeless, some "couch surfing" - temporarily sleeping on friends' floors or couches, others camping in local parks, doorways and cardboard and scrap metal shelters. These people need stable, affordable housing, and until that time, places in City-run shelters.

The agency Streets to Homes relocated clients from the downtown core into Weston with WKNC's support. The Federation of Metro Tenants Association provided WKNC with quarterly workshops on tenant's rights. Hospitalized homeless people cost taxpayers an average of $2,500 more than patients with stable homes, so there was a payback to society in keeping people housed and healthy. Successful funding applications added air-conditioning units to the drop-in lounge and kitchen, offering a cool space used during heat alerts.

Incorporation of the Weston King Neighbourhood Centre

The objects for which the corporation is incorporated are:

“To relieve poverty, loneliness and isolation of persons in the Weston community area of the City of Toronto, that are low income earners, unemployed, immigrants, seniors, people with disabilities, drug users and street involved sex trade workers, homeless and under-housed, socially isolated and economically disadvantaged, by establishing, operating and maintaining a Centre that:

a) provides access to food, clothing, laundry and shower facilities, telephones, newspapers and other basic supplies for those in need; and

b) provides social support services including job, income and housing search programs; social agency referral, including emergency shelter referrals; an ID clinic; health promotion (flu and hepatitis vaccines and anonymous testing) and help with filling in forms, ing resumes, and referrals for training, education and legal services; and

c) assists persons affected by substance use by providing harm reduction services, both in the Centre and on the streets (HIV/AIDS prevention services including distribution of condoms, needle exchange, etc.), education and referral to medical and social support services; and

d) provides social integration through the establishment of a wheel-chair accessible drop-in centre where people can meet others, mix with volunteers and staff and feel less isolated; and

e) establishes partnerships with other social agencies to better serve the community and works to provide advocacy for the service users and public education regarding issues of poverty, isolation and homelessness.

For the objects aforesaid, to accept grants, contributions, donations, gifts, legacies and bequests unconditionally or subject to conditions, provided that such conditions are not inconsistent with the objects of the corporation.”


The next step, in 2001, saw the Committee applying for federal funding. "Supporting Community Partnerships Initiatives" (SCPI) was set up to encourage local grassroots groups to support homelessness. The application cited a need to build a lower-level kitchen. Cooked meals carried downstairs proved a safety hazard. Also, making a ramp into the dining hall allowed integration of those with mobility challenges. There were advantages to turning former Sunday school rooms into offices and accessible laundry and shower rooms. Foodservice equipment was required, and enough funding to hire a social worker trained Coordinator to plan drop-in programs and guide volunteers.

The funding application was successful, the purchases made, renovations completed, and a program coordinator hired – the organization's first full-time staff.

Only when writing the cheque for $176,970, did administrators realize the church committee was not an incorporated non-profit as required. Being incorporated means elected Board members are a separate legal entity, responsible for the money and staff management – all final responsibility falls on the Board. Until the group was financially viable, trustees should manage the City's money.

The next step was hiring a lawyer, picking a name for this growing enterprise and writing the formal Objectives and Bylaws. The United Church of Canada guidelines gave direction to the incorporation of the drop-in. The Board of Directors required 50 percent plus one of elected Directors to be members of the United Church of Canada or members of an approved faith group to maintain the basic Christian principles, the organization's foundation. The name chosen was for the location at the intersection of Weston Road and King Street.

On January 17, 2003, Weston King Neighbourhood Centre (WKNC) became officially incorporated as a non-profit agency. Those named on the four-page document became the first board members – James Edward Campbell, Thomas Lang Moffat, Charles Stephen White, Rebecca Denise Winder and Barbara Anne Bisgrove. Their first official meeting had been roughly a year earlier. Since then, the Board has met monthly, with an Executive group meeting more frequently, forwarding all approved minutes and financial statements to the United Church of Canada.

Members of the Board provided a core group of volunteers to handle administrative work and finances. The Treasurer managed expenditures including payroll, receipt of income from fundraising and other sources, reporting monthly to the Board for approval, and yearly to the membership at the Annual General Meeting. The Toronto West Presbytery Corporation acted as trustees on behalf of the church to receive financial contributions. In 2005, York Community Services Centre (now known as Unison Health and Community Service) became the trustee for WKNC. Finally, by 2007, the books were audited and found with enough funds that the City no longer required an external trustee.

The President of the Board attended a John McInich Foundation program to help WKNC achieve charitable status. An application for Charitable Status was submitted in September 2006 and received approval in January 2007, allowing charitable donation income tax receipts to be issued.

The President and Secretary set about establishing policies and protocols, incorporating best practices of other well-established drop-in centres for the organizations smooth running. One by one, 66 policies were approved. The second writing of policy and procedure was conducted nine years later with hiring the first Executive Director (ED). They gave the ED decision-making power and moved the Board to a governance role. Staff reviewed them again with the addition of the second site in 2013.

Police checks were instigated for Board members, staff and relief workers because the population served is a vulnerable group. Before joining the Board or staff team, people were required to sign confidentiality documents to ensure the information given to them by the service users or program participants remained confidential.

The initial audit was conducted and approved at the first Annual General Meeting in 2005. Also, the City of Toronto Declaration of Non-Discrimination and the Antiracism, Access and Equity Policy were approved. Since then, Annual General Meetings are held yearly to approve budgets and financial statements and elect Board members. Board members stand for re-election each year. There are no limits to the length of time spent on the Board. Elected members vote for positions on the Board.

In 2005, the SCPI funding ended and WKNC granted access to the City of Toronto Homeless Initiatives Fund. (HIF). This fund paid wages for drop-in staff and relief workers, allowing the purchase of office supplies and Toronto Transit Commission tokens issued to those attending court and medical appointments. During emergency weather warnings, tickets help people reach shelter.

Programs and Partners

OUR DIVERSE PEOPLE INCLUDE (BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO):

Low income earners

Unemployed or injured workers

Substance users

Homeless or under-housed

Sex-trade workers

Immigrants and refugees

Seniors

Physically or mentally challenged

Disadvantaged by race, religion or history.

Victims of domestic violence

People involved with the justice system.

Under-educated or with low literacy levels

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Two-Spirited & Queer.

A small organization like WKNC cannot afford daily running costs, so it collaborates with larger agencies to offer as many services as possible. After approving the yearly funding application and the reporting, the municipal government, the City of Toronto, paid salaries for two WKNC full-time staff and program supplies. Toronto Employment and Social Services covered costs for temporary staffing by people training for re-entry into the workplace. WKNC accepted students from George Brown, Humber, Seneca colleges, and York University. The students experience drop-in issues first-hand during staff training and provide programs in their specialty study areas. During the summer months, Summer Relief Workers are hired from a government program supporting post-secondary education students.

Some partners, such as Partners for Access and Identification (PAID), Toronto Community Care Access Centre (St. Elizabeth), Elizabeth Fry Work Safe Program, John Howard Society and Albion Neighbourhood Services, see their clients on WKNC's site for a few hours, while others use satellite offices. WKNC received supplies regularly, either free or at cost. This involved organizations such as Daily Bread Food Bank, Second Harvest and Windfall Clothing Service.

Central United Church went from no-cost when WKNC started with one room to charging a small but increasing portion of the rent as WKNC grew to use the whole lower floor and consume more significant amounts of hydro and water. This generous gift is valued at $76,000 a year. Toronto West Presbytery Community Ministry Funding and other United Church of Canada grant programs went from the initial three-year funding for community development to various other supportive grants.

A Food Coordinator was hired to run the kitchen program as the number of daily meals increased. The Coordinator planned meals, kept inventory, conducted training and supervised volunteers. At WKNC's request, Toronto Public Health inspects the premises twice yearly as if it were a restaurant. Volunteers and staff are certified at the City of Toronto Food Handling courses, St. John Ambulance and other such upgrading classes. The high standard of hygiene and safety expected in the Centre provides an experience useful on resumes.

In 2006, Thursdays were set aside for women without men being allowed in. The women had time to relax safely. Women's day has continued with regular programming on sexual health, nutrition, mental health and so on. Several women attending were local sex trade workers and an Elizabeth Fry Society worker came in at day's end giving a chance to speak freely and share information. The distributed Bad Date Coalition newsletter listed descriptions of people and cars to be avoided.

With time the female population changed to mostly newcomers and women with young children. WKNC applied for funding to run a program for refugees and immigrants: however, the government felt WKNC would be stretching itself too far. There was also a time when a strong supportive group of Indigenous people used WKNC's services. More recently, with Indigenous programmers sharing the space, drumming and talking circles have started up.

As was to be expected, men lobbied for their day without women, and staff decided that seniors would benefit from their own time and programs. For a while, an evening youth cooking class ran, but otherwise, youth tend to gravitate to programs designed for them with a robust recreational component.

WKNC involved itself in voter registration for elections, advertising the closest polling stations, offering WKNC's address for the homeless to use in registering, and encouraging people to apply for temporary work with Elections Canada. All local politicians are invited to visit the Centre and meet the participants in person.

A Board member, a lawyer, ran a Legal Clinic in 2005, providing advice on arrest, employment and landlord and tenant problems, abuse and social assistance. It was valuable since these types of services tend to locate a distance away in the city core.

Project Winter Survival, Windfall Clothing Services, and local outlets donate used and new clothing, shoes, sleeping bags and household items. A "new" clothing bank was held monthly on Saturdays so the working poor and people with families unable to visit during the week could take advantage of free items. The Toronto Star provided daily newspapers so people could job and house hunt, although the crosswords were usually the most sort after page.

Harm reduction and health support expanded by providing support from The Elizabeth Fry Society, Unison Health and Community Services and Toronto Public Health – The Works. St. Elizabeth Healthcare provided a nurse on-site once a week. Staff hold first aid certificates while fundraising provided a wheelchair, first aid boxes and a defibrillator. An annual flu shot clinic was held on-site, and WKNC's comprehensive prevention plan meant no one contacted H1N1 during its outbreak.

Compared with wealthier areas, low-income neighbourhoods such as Weston – Mt. Dennis have a 28 percent higher death rate and double the suicide rate. Hence, WKNC needed to encourage acceptable health practices. Type-2 diabetes and heart attacks are also more common; therefore, special care is taken with meal planning, ensuring people receive adequate nutritious, low-sodium healthy food. A partnership with Toronto Heart Health helped monitor the menus.

In 2005, the Centre and staff and volunteers trained in conflict resolution created a Crisis Intervention Protocol. A Town Hall called for program participants to discuss their thoughts on the Basic Expectations for all to follow. According to various staff views. The consequences of not following the expectations have changed many times over the years. Without withdrawing services, individuals are given time to deescalate – days to months – and must meet with staff to build a behavioural contract before returning. Similarly, the Metro Toronto Police involvement has varied, sometimes keeping them outside to maintain a safe place and sometimes using them to control situations. For many years WKNC Board members sat on the Weston Community Police Partnership Committee to build good relationships.

In 2009, WKNC extended its hours and days of operation from four to six days a week, including statutory holidays. Four staff filled drop-in positions. A commercial-style kitchen, built with funding from HPI ($105,000), eased the space constraints.

Staff, Board members and volunteers were required to take an online training course – Accessibility Standard for Customer Service 0. Reg 429/07 AODA 2005 – committing to providing equal treatment and equitable benefits of City services, programs and facilities, using respect and recognizing dignity towards people with disabilities. In 2016, the church sought funding to make both the drop-in and church doors accessible. In 2011, WKNC celebrated its 10th anniversary as an organization. A highlight of the year for WKNC was to be awarded "The 2011 Mayor's Community Safety Award". A comprehensive Health and Safety Manual was provided for WKNC staff use and twice-yearly safety inspections of the premises introduced. Fire safety drills were also instituted.

The first of the annual food surveys recorded participant food preferences, medical conditions and allergies. In 2012 the city-led Revitalization Program for Weston was a welcome new initiative in the community. A new peer-led outreach program to seniors (Seniors Outreach Support SOS) was introduced, which aimed to identify and respond to isolated seniors. The volunteers attended weekly workshops to learn how to assist.

May 2013 saw the Resource Centre opening with computers set up for use by the program participants. April to June that year saw a 26 percent increase from the previous quarter in people using the services.

Teacher-led art and writing classes were introduced to the community in 2016, assuming the regular program participants would be the primary attendees. However, a whole new group of people come from the local area to attend. They, in turn, became acquainted with the needs of WKNC, and some volunteered while others donated. When the funding ran out after two years, the writing group conducted its own fundraising, they were so determined to continue to meet.

Shorter-lived Programs: User Requested

The drop-in programs teach, provide fun and reduce isolation. They have covered well-being, yoga and Zumba, art therapy and classes, writing, listening to music, haircuts and nail decorating, employment planning, crafts, cooking, gardening, knitting, redesigning clothing, jewellery making, jam making and financial management.

Several service users were interested in completing large, 1000 and more piece jigsaw donated puzzles and took a table to leave out puzzles overnight. Another group took up dominoes, while Bingo is popular with everyone. The Toronto Alliance for Performing Arts; provided tickets, and groups travelled to the Canadian National Exhibition and other large shows, visited the ballet, pow-wows, the zoo and other cultural activities. They picnicked on Centre Island and marched in local Santa Claus parades. Sales of books and DVDs, fruits and vegetables, specialized foods and WKNC logo T-shirts and buttons to raise money for outings.

Volunteers

SNAPSHOT 2007

During the year 2007, approximately 8,865 meals were served with roughly 3,250 on Tuesdays where meals for 80 were regularly prepared. People received clothing, toiletries, first aid and personal items almost 3,000 times. The staff assisted with 840 referrals for housing, detoxification and addiction treatment, mental health services, medical services, income support, employment support, legal services, settlement services and other food programs. The first version of WKNC’s website went up in 2007, listing staff and Board members, promoting the services WKNC offered and offering a mechanism to donate online and apply to volunteer.

The strength of WKNC is that it continues to be primarily volunteer-led and community-based. The staff team at WKNC has always been relatively small. Staff tend to perform more as resource people or facilitators. Volunteers were given a half-day prior training in non-discrimination, anti-racism, access, equity and confidentiality. SNAPSHOT 2007 During the year 2007, approximately 8,865 meals were served with roughly 3,250 on Tuesdays where meals for 80 were regularly prepared. People received clothing, toiletries, first aid and personal items almost 3,000 times. The staff assisted with 840 referrals for housing, detoxification and addiction treatment, mental health services, medical services, income support, employment support, legal services, settlement services and other food programs. The first version of WKNC’s website went up in 2007, listing staff and Board members, promoting the services WKNC offered and offering a mechanism to donate online and apply to volunteer. The majority of volunteers are from the service-user group. Some believe in giving back to society, while others need to keep busy for their well-being. Newcomers, unable to work by law, find opportunities to get involved and learn English as they chop lettuce. Some volunteers lend special skills in bookkeeping, poster design, or fundraising. Retired people volunteer to fill time, while unemployed use the chance to build skills and add to their resume. It is a chance to learn new skills and meet new people. Some people at WKNC, such as Lang Moffat – the founding President - still volunteer in their 90's. By 2004, it was estimated 3,000 volunteer hours were devoted to Tuesday night community meals hosted by the church. WKNC's volunteers – approximately 35 a week - represent a value of $115,000 a year to the drop-in. ($12.00 an hour.) Over 15 years, staff and volunteers served an estimated 215,000 healthy meals with endless cups of coffee and snacks. The food, worth many thousands of dollars, is provided in partnership with Second Harvest, a partner for over 18 years. Second Harvest is a food rescue charity that picks up food that would go to waste from supermarkets, hotels and manufacturers and delivers to where it can be used – drop-ins, seniors centres, and so on. The Board of Directors is the unpaid hub of the organization, and on their shoulders lies the establishment of firm foundations - planning, policies and procedures – and financial stability. Success would include service users moving on, having gained self-sufficiency, and for those unable to move on, a safe place where they feel valued members of the community.

Local organizations such as Live Green, teens from local schools and organizations like Free the Children come on-site to offer volunteer time painting walls, spring cleaning and so on. The local Business Improvement Association hires WKNC volunteers to maintain the public planters and work in the local farmers' market. Appeals for supplies, Christmas gifts, used clothing, food for the emergency aid cupboard and so on are generously met by various businesses and faith groups.

Value to Local Community

Purchasing and banking locally allowed staff and volunteers to became known and grant money flowed back into the community. WKNC held an annual community BBQ which was attended by local politicians and community police officers and brought people together with entertainment by local talent and local businesses donating prizes and food.

Board members and staff attended public meetings, encouraging program participants to support their community. Board members spoke at town halls, service club meetings, in churches, and received awards on behalf of WKNC from groups such as the Weston Lions Club and the Rotary Club of Toronto Humber. WKNC took membership in the local ratepayers’ association. Advocacy has been somewhat weak at WKNC, but other faith groups have strong advocacy programs, writing letters to governments, speaking up publicly for social justice and so on, but are unable to provide the first-hand on the ground support as Central was doing, so it evens out. 

Future Planning

Purchasing and banking locally allows staff and volunteers to become known and grant money flows back into the community. WKNC held a community BBQ, attended by local politicians and community police officers and brought people together with entertainment by local talent and local businesses donating prizes and food.

Board members and staff attend public meetings, encouraging program participants to support their community. Board members spoke at town halls, service club meetings, churches and received awards on behalf of WKNC from groups such as the Weston Lions Club and the Rotary Club of Toronto Humber. WKNC took membership in the local ratepayers' association. Advocacy has been somewhat weak at WKNC, but other faith groups have vital advocacy programs, writing letters to governments, speaking up publicly for social justice and so on, but cannot provide first-hand on-the-ground support like Central, so it evens out. 

Branding

WKNC logo

In 2007, funding was secured, and a public Request for Proposal (RFP) issued. A consultancy firm was chosen to develop a distinctive logo. Consultation with Board, staff and program participants sought what represented WKNC's ethos. The image that emerged was that of an open doorway and three bodies of identical shapes, different heights and without distinguishing features to indicate gender, race or age.

The logo design was approved, and letterhead, business cards and so on readied for printing; when a staff member pointed out it was black and white – all the people being white ovals! So, at the very last minute, they all became blue people and the WKNC colours blue and white. . Pins, T-shirts and all posters, booklets, newsletters and so on carried the logo.

Subsequently, when WKNC had expanded to include Mount Dennis Neighbourhood Centre a new logo was developed to include the names of both sites at the base.

The first website (wknc.ca) was developed in 2007 and updated by a summer student in 2013 when portals were added for online donations. It was updated again in 2020. The website lists programs and their hours, names and positions for staff and board members, ways to donate and volunteer, the history of WKNC and so on.


Accreditation

In 2011, WKNC received a partial accreditation as a "Ministry" of the United Church of Canada. This accreditation was very meaningful to those who saw the work as that of faithful outreach to the community. Once the documentation was assembled there was a thorough inspection – an internal audit - and a formal interview of the Executive by a United Church of Canada representative. The outcome was a partial accreditation with time to introduce some of the missing components.

Program Coordinator/Executive Director/Senior Manager Position

In 2005, WKNC applied to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for funding to hire a full-time Program Coordinator for two years to manage the organization and take administrative jobs out of Board members' hands. This hiring brought a level of stability, and monthly reports brought Board members a better understanding of program participants' issues. There was one spokesperson for WKNC to respond to invitations to represent it on a variety of committees.

When the term ended, there were insufficient funds raised in the two years to sustain the position. In response, the Board of Directors passed a motion to continue the program coordinator work through an Operations Committee consisting of four Board members allocated one for each day the Drop-in was open. They were to provide Board oversight and some level of daily supervision. This management model continued for the next six years until funding was again available for hiring a management position.

The first Executive Director hired in June 2013 had the difficult task of filling a previously non-existent job position with four Board members wanting to share their areas of expertise and theories of management. She resigned in January 2014. The second Executive Director, hired in April 2014, failed to fulfil the position requirements and was removed.

A period without overall management saw program coordinators for each site (see below) answerable to the Board. Lack of funding reduced the number of full-time staff so without administrative help and having to run the day to day programs it was very difficult for these drop-in program coordinators to handle the training, staff evaluations and all the administrative and managerial requirements. In 2019, the finances were such that a Senior Manager of Operations was hired to supervise both sites.