Resources drying up in Lumby

A Lumby social agency is strapped for cash and that has politicians demanding action.

A Lumby social agency is strapped for cash and that has politicians demanding action.

Members of village council recently met with Mary McNeil, children and family development minister, to discuss ongoing financial challenges at the Whitevalley Community Resource Centre.

“They need core funding and if they don’t get it, programs could be cut,” said Mayor Kevin Acton.

Acton says there is an immediate need for the provincial government to fund the centre adequately.

“They are the social fiber of the community,” he said of the centre, which offers numerous programs.

“Without them, residents from the area will have to go to Vernon for social services.”

Among the programs offered are family support, adult counselling, home and school support, seniors drop-in, recreation equipment, water restoration, employment initiatives for youth, child care referrals and the Good Food Box program.

Gay Jewitt, Whitevalley Community Resource Centre executive director, says agencies in small and large communities face the same pressures of rent, insurance and salaries.

“Comparable funding isn’t necessarily given to small towns because of the lower population, yet we are still expected to provide the same services as the larger cities only on a smaller budget,” she said in a letter to council.

“This year, we have once again trimmed the operating budget as much as possible and yet even with fundraising, we will be faced with a $20,000 deficit and be forced to dip into our reserve. At this rate, our reserve will be depleted in a two-year period.”

The centre’s budget for community-based activities is $750,000 to $800,000 a year.

Jewitt says wages at the centre are about 20 per cent lower than in neighbouring communities and the benefit plan for staff is inadequate.

“We risk losing well-trained, qualified staff to other agencies,” she said.

“Our core funding continues to be insufficient and it will be a challenge to keep our doors open in the future.”

The current situation is of great concern for Rick Fairbairn, a centre board member.

“Having funds for the organization is critical,” said Fairbairn, who is also rural Lumby director for the Regional District of North Okanagan.

Fairbairn says Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster is aware of the problem and he is hopeful that the government will increase funding levels.

“It’s an important service for the community to deal with the social problems we have.”