SEASONAL SITE - Just some of the wreaths set up at the Lacombe Memorial Centre as part of the annual Festival of Wreaths fundraiser in support of the Lacombe Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. Mark Weber/Lacombe Express

Big Brothers Big Sisters marks a successful 2017

Staff members are confident of a bigger, brighter 2018 as well

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lacombe is marking a successful 2017 and staff members are excited about what lies ahead in 2018.

Recently, the organization hosted the annual Great Big Christmas Dinner and Awards Night at the Lacombe Memorial Centre.

“We had a free turkey dinner for all of our families involved here, as well as we honoured lots of our volunteers, too,” explained Crystal Zens, executive director, adding that a ‘Business of the Year’ and an ‘Organization of the Year’ were also recognized during the course of the evening among other honours handed down.

“It went really well, and we had great attendance – almost 300 people,” she said. “It’s very special to recognize our volunteers, and have dignitaries there – we had both mayors from Blackfalds and Lacombe.”

Success in seen, of course, in the commitment of the volunteers and staff to the cause, and the community as a whole has always been there to help out along the way. For example, Lacombe Ford sponsored half the year of the organization’s ‘Landlord of the Month’ program in 2017 where they covered the mortgage costs for those particular months.

“Every time we have an activity, an event or a need, they are there,” said Zens. “So it was really special to honour them.”

Zens added that the local Kinsmen are always there to lend a helping hand as well in a variety of ways.

Meanwhile, this past fall the organization launched a campaign mainly focused on in-school mentoring and teen mentors called ‘40 Mentors in 40 Days’. Last year, the campaign wasn’t held in the City because staff and volunteers were busy with moving, so this year there was an even bigger need for people in the community to come onboard.

“It was nice to enter into this fall full-force, and we recruited well over 30 mentors we are matching with kids in our community and in surrounding communities,” said Zens, adding that some Burman University students have been helping run some programs of late as well. “They are facilitating ‘Game On’ which is a boy’s healthy self esteem program – about positive life choices.”

Other Burman students are helping with ‘Go Girls’.

“Game On is being delivered in Blackfalds and Go Girls is being held in Lacombe – so it’s been great to have those extra resources.”

It’s this kind of support, as mentioned, that means so much, she said.

“The Landlord of the Month program was sold out every month 2017 – so our mortgage was sponsored for all 12 months,” she said. “And we’ve sold three months so far for 2018.”

These days, with the Christmas season well underway, Big Brother Big Sisters also has the Adopt a Family program.

“We have 31 families adopted for Christmas. Groups, family members or businesses adopted about 31 of our families, so they will cover their wish lists and essential needs,” explained Zens.

“We are done recruiting for that because they are all matched, but we are encouraging people to call us if they still want to be involved because we are looking also into the FCSS Good Food Program and trying to get some of our families set up with a Good Food Box for the year,” she said. “They get a bin of fresh veggies once a month for the whole year,” she said.

“So Adopt a Family went really great — all of our families were adopted. And of course we are doing the Festival of Wreaths – and there are some up at the Abbey Centre in Blackfalds as well. They are gorgeous! Proceeds from the ones in Blackfalds will all go to the Blackfalds programs, and the funding from the Lacombe wreaths will stay in Lacombe,” she said, adding there are about 55 wreaths on display.

“We provide the companies the wreaths for free, and then they will put on their swag, gift certificates or decorations – however they want to brand themselves – and then we display them.

“One hundred per cent of the proceeds stay in the community – it’s a very good fundraiser. It’s also a great team project – I hear back from the companies that their staff had a lot of fun doing it. It’s a good team-building activity and it’s for a good cause,” she added.

“It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way for us to collaborate with businesses,” she said, adding that folks can bid online on the wreaths or in the book that is at the locations.

The goal is to raise $7,000 from that particular fundraiser, which ends Dec. 18th at noon.

For Zens, she couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling role.

“Because I’ve been here for 10 years, I think I’ve seen kids come into our program at six and now at 16 – I’ve seen changes. Lots of our teens are now mentoring and giving back to the agency that has helped them so much.

“It’s about seeing the positive path that mentoring has helped put them on, and how it’s impacted their lives in a a good, good way.”

Check out www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca or cal the local office at 403-782-7870.

news@lacombeexpress.com

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