A Glimpse Into The Role of a SpencerCreo Support Worker

My name is Patricia Sekutowska. I would like to introduce myself as the newest employee of SpencerCreo Foundation and share how grateful I feel to be a part of this team. The Foundation’s mandate is ‘to create and support transformational opportunities for individuals.’ This couldn’t be more in line with my own values and how I believe that being front and centre –  supporting the instrumental changes that individuals choose to make in their lives – is my purpose for being. My professional background is in addictions counselling which I was doing for the last 5 years. When this amazing opportunity to work at SpencerCreo came my way I was thrilled to continue broadening my professional horizons, while simultaneously recognizing that I would need to shift gears and become teachable.

My title is ‘Employee Services Specialist’ and I’ve quickly recognized that this role is all-encompassing. It is about more than employment, it is about helping individuals overcome whatever obstacles may be in their way to become employable and self-sufficient. For so many years, I loved what I was doing, but in hindsight I was working for organizations where I had to put the organization’s agenda over the folks I was working with. At SpencerCreo, we have no agenda. It’s all about how can we help those in need and essentially where can we be of maximum service to the community. One of the most rewarding aspects of it is that I actually get to meet people where they are at, serving to help meet whatever goal or need they have.

During my first month, it became apparent to me that the ways we support are boundless. As one of my peers was training me, he brought me to one of his client’s homes. This woman has severe disabilities, both mentally and physically. She had asked us to come over and put a computer chair together for her. Neither of us were particularly skilled in the department of putting things together, but as a team we made it work and figured it out. I asked him if this is the kind of stuff that he normally does for people. He replied, “No, but who else is going to do it for her?” My colleague shared with me that he had been working with this woman for about a year and that he is willing to do whatever he can to support her in finding a better quality of life. It’s truly about: how can we help?

Some of the unchanging services that we provide on a consistent basis include housing assistance, mental health support, finding appropriate cultural connections for those interested, helping folks meet their basic physical needs, and navigating a system that seems intimidating on the best of days. In certain instances, those that we work with need a specific task accomplished, and other times they may just need an ear to listen or a moment where they feel understood by someone. The work that we do here is relevant and purposeful to the demographic of people that we work with: folks who are highly stigmatized in our system, that may actually be in need of the most support, rather than what often happens with injustice and oppression.

In my short time at the foundation I have observed our Program Manager, Tara Taylor invest in the community so deeply that you would think her life depends on it; she has pure selflessness and care for others. I have watched my peers interact with folks that they have built relationships with, truly listening and exuding real compassion. It’s genuinely inspiring and once again I’m reminded of how grateful I am to be a part of it all.

Seeds of neighbourly chats turn into fruitful program partnership

Emma Sutherland, Executive Director of Red Fox Healthy Living Society, and Emily Keller, Executive Director of Environmental Youth Alliance, got to know each other in the hallways of the SpencerCreo Centre. As EDs of small, social justice non-profit organizations, they found they had a lot to talk about, and realized that EYA and Red Fox had shared values and complementary missions.  As their chats in the hall became more frequent and lasted longer, they started to share with each other the challenges and opportunities each were facing in their roles.

When the call for submissions for the new Canada Youth Service Corps project came out in the spring of 2018, Red Fox had already been working successfully with federal and provincial funders for many years and Emma knew it was an opportune time to apply for federal funding. The Canada Youth Service Corps program was created by the federal government to promote volunteerism to Canadian youth to help them see the value of altruistic community service and gain employment skills.

Emma approached Emily with the idea of applying for a grant together, combining the best of Red Fox and EYA to create something new. She readily agreed, and they spent the next few months applying for the grant, and then refining it once they were shortlisted.

As a result of their hard work, the Seed Generation project was launched in February 2019. It was an exciting first year with many challenges and opportunities. Collaborating at this level was a new experience for both EYA and Red Fox and they used all their skills and abilities to make it work.  It was exciting to be able to offer a new adventure to youth. Connecting youth to the land and giving them opportunities to help their communities is important and sets them up for success in many areas of life. Youth of all backgrounds come together to give back and have fun. Seed Generation promotes outdoor recreation as well as environmental stewardship, and one of the highlights for the youth in the first year was urban and wilderness camping trips.  

When the federal government announced that they were extending the Youth Service Corps project for another year, they applied and the Seed Generation was refunded. By the second year, Red Fox and EYA had their partnership down and Seed Generation was making a difference to many youth throughout Metro Vancouver.

“Two organizations coming together and combining their strengths to help empower the youth of today has a big impact.  We help the youth navigate today’s challenges and give them the guidance they need to realize their potential and pursue their passions” – Suki Chhoeun, Red Fox Seed Generation Program Manager

In July 2019, another call for proposals from Employment & Social Development came out. This time, it was for intensive youth internship programs to help youth who face barriers prepare to enter the workforce. It was a big endeavour, so once again, Emma and Emily decided a collaboration would be beneficial to both organizations and by extension, to the youth and communities they serve. They applied for the grant under the Youth Employment and Skills Strategies initiative. Once again, they were shortlisted and had to spend several months refining the application.  Their application was successful and they launched the program in May 2020. Their contract is for three years and is worth $1.75 million. Much of that amount goes directly to youth through living allowances and wages at practicum sites.

Because of Covid-19, the nature of their collaboration in the YESS internship program had to shift to meet the new reality.  The safest strategy was to keep the groups small and run separate programs of six youth and two staff members each.  There is some overlap, but generally each program is operating on its own. Now, youth can choose between two great employment training options: learning how to work in the environmental stewardship field or working in recreation and child care.

Seed Generation has also adapted to the new realities: they hold all activities outdoors, spaced apart, and divide participants into two groups for the weekly recreation outings that have replaced the camping trips. Since mid-November, most activities are done virtually. The staff has done a great job creating on-line content that is keeping the youth active and engaged. Connecting youth with each other is more important than ever.

EYA and Red Fox continue to learn from each other and grow as a result of their collaborations, with thanks to their amazing staff teams: Suki Chhoeun, Madison Ardizzi, Joseph Posey, Siobhan Davis and Chuck Wright of Red Fox and Erica Ellis, Sidney Verburg and Hailey Bird Matheson of EYA for all their innovation and dedication.

“We are grateful to the SpencerCreo Foundation for being the genesis of our collaborations! None of this would have happened without the vison and generosity of the Foundation to create the SpencerCreo Centre. We are thankful to have the opportunity to share the space with so many dynamic and diverse organizations doing valuable work” – Emma Sutherland.

Our Partners

growing-chefs-photoGrowing Chefs! strives to educate kids about healthy eating and healthy food systems. We aim to create lifelong healthy eaters and to inspire kids with the idea that they can grow their own food, even in the city. Our vision is a future with healthy kids making healthy food choices.

mom2mom-photo

Mom2Mom improves the lives of families isolated by poverty through strength-based relationships and by creating opportunities.