Fifteen Years And Still Growing
It all started in 1998 when three families got together to find housing solutions for their family members with disabilities and from there just grew into Moose Jaw Families For Change (MJFFC).
MJFFC, which celebrated 15 years of existence in Moose Jaw, grew out these families' needs and the will power to do things for themselves and not take no for an answer.
“When they first started there was only the Valleyview Centre and Citizens All in the community but the families felt these places did not meet their needs,” Mike Bachiu, a 15 year employee with MJFFC said.
Bachiu spoke about how those families approached the Province but the “Ministry (of Social Services) says no that already exists in your community.”
Despite the initial setback the families persisted in their goal to find what they saw as appropriate housing solutions for their loved ones and others.
Through hard work and determination the group continued in their goals setting up a non-profit organization in 2000. Businesses such as the Royal Bank and Seabourne Insurance helped out, Bachiu said.
Then in 2004 the Kinsman Foundation, with funds raised from Telemiracle, got on board with a $50,000 donation.
The money was used to purchase a property on Duffield Street which became their first group home.
In order to make the dream come true and the house ready for residents it needed work and that is where the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences (SIAST) came on board.
‘We became a project house for SIAST students in architectural and interior design programs,” Bachiu said.
The students worked on the group home which was a “win-win” for both sides. The students received their practical course experience working on the house and MJFFC got their group home relocated and readied.
Bachiu spoke about the differences between today when “they give away houses for group homes but we had to work hard for it.”
”We knew how many hot dogs we had to sell to buy a house. There was constant fundraisers with hot dog sales and community barbecues. We raffled off a quilt once we had our first house.”
Somewhere along the line the Province saw the need for what MJFFC was offering and financially got on board.
The attitude of working hard to make things possible as MJFFC went from one group home to their present three by taking chances and using the homes they owned as collateral for expansion.
“We own all of our properties. We can borrow against them for their funding.”
Despite their growth Bachiu said MJFFC never set out to be the largest in the city but kept a philosophy they offered alternatives and were prepared to work cooperatively with other groups on the city.
“We never wanted to be the big guys. We worked to be that alternative. We positioned ourselves to catch people who would fall through the cracks.”
Initial plans called for the first group home to began independent living suite but the realities of operating MJFFC caught up with that. The suite became the group’s office as they “wanted out of an office where they worked in somebody else's home.”
Despite now receiving government funding to help cover their operations the philosophy of being self reliant as much as possible still exists.
“Any government funded organization should not be fully reliant on the Ministry for funding…the Government has been very supportive and like organizations willing to do the leg work.”
Bachiu said there are other benefits to this approach such as keeping in better touch with the community.
Although the Province covers operational costs there ate no funds for vehicles. Vehicles are used to help people using MJFFC services to get to the Kinsmen Inclusion Centre as well as other things in the community.
The newest addition to MJFFC is the Kinsmen Inclusion Centre located at 335 4th Avenue SW offers opportunities for people for varying degrees of disabilities and they do not have to be in a group home to attend.
“The idea for the Centre is having a place to go.”
The Centre also allowed programming to take place and the office to move out of the group home's basement and an independent living suite now there.
To finance the purchase and renovations of the former South Hill branch of Conexus Credit Union MJFFC mortgaged their group homes.
Once again using their assets, ingenuity and faith in success to make the Kinsmen Inclusion Centre a reality.
The Centre offers activities both in the Centre itself as well as on the community volunteering at various agencies in the community.
“We should be giving back to the community. Volunteering helps them learn valuable skills and helps foster integration into the community.”
One of the most well known thing they do through the Inclusion Centre is something called Imagine Kindness.
Imagine Kindness is a partnership between MJFFC and Maple Leaf Bakery as well as Family Pizza. Alternating on a weekly basis Imagine Kindness is where a dozen donuts or a pizza is delivered to a random Moose Jaw business.
It is all part of MJFFC to remove the barriers for people with disabilities to be fuller members of the community.
“We are hoping to tear down that stigma. People living with barriers don't always have a place in society. I absolutely think they do.”
Despite being open for just under a year MJFFC has realized the Kinsmen Inclusion Centre is too small.
“We have realized we should have got a place twice this size…we are growing more.”
Although there is a need to grow MJFFC is not looking to take over and compete with other agencies in the city but works with them for the benefit of the people who use their services.
“We simply offer an alternative and always strive to work with other agencies and groups.”