Building Community Together: AGM 2010 Speech

Kathy Stinson, Executive Director

Welcome members, directors, tenants, clients, volunteers, funders, partners, colleagues and friends of Cool Aid. Like my esteemed Chair I too am hopeful. I am hopeful because in spite of the economic uncertainty of the past year we have managed to sustain and grow our service levels while maintaining financial viability. I am hopeful because together with all of you, we are building a better community.

This year we opened the doors to the Access Health Centre, a project that epitomizes building community together. Access has been a collaborative effort from the beginning, starting with the joint purchase of the building at 713 Johnson Street with our partner AIDS Vancouver Island five years ago.

At Access every door is the right door for the 6,000 individuals each year who will utilize the integrated services of Cool Aid’s pharmacy, primary heath and dental clinics; AIDS Vancouver Island’s education and support programs; the Victoria Native Friendship Centre’s Outreach workers; and the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s community support services team.
This wonderful new asset in our community is more than just a better facility from which to deliver services to patients and clients. It is a symbol of hope to our capital region’s vulnerable and homeless citizens, acknowledging that they matter.

I would like to take a moment and thank those who have made the Access Health Centre possible by providing their financial support —- the Capital Regional Hospital District; the Vancouver Island Health Authority; the Province of BC through BC Housing and BC Gaming; the United Way of Greater Victoria; the City of Victoria; the Victoria Foundation; Coast Capital; TELUS and many of you, who are outlined within our annual report. And of course there is still the opportunity to contribute; we need to raise $880,000 by the end of this fiscal year to meet our goal to be mortgage free. Perhaps you or someone you know would like to name the building – one million and the naming rights are yours!

This past year we have watched the construction of the new Ellice Street shelter progress. Staff and clients at Streetlink are excited to see this new facility take shape. In the spirit of building community together our clients have been participating in focus groups to help build a vision for what community will look like within this new purpose built facility in this new neighbourhood. We also continue to work with a neighbourhood stakeholder committee to build a good neighbour agreement that works for all parties – Cool Aid, the city of Victoria, Victoria Police, the Burnside Gorge Community Association and local businesses, residents and service providers.

We found new friends this past year in the Mount View Colquitz Neighbourhood Association. It was so encouraging to hear their representatives speak out positively about Olympic Vista apartments, the supportive housing project that we will be operating as part of a campus of care on the old Mount View School site in Saanich.  We are thankful to Mayor Frank Leonard and the Saanich Council for their leadership in rezoning the whole site to meet a myriad of community needs.  And we are especially grateful to the Capital Regional Hospital District for making the land available. Kudos as well to the Province of BC and BC Housing for ensuring that the modular units that will become Olympic Vista were built to have a lasting legacy.

We are so pleased that our capacity to provide supportive housing continues to grow. This spring we began the preliminary work necessary to transform the old Streetlink shelter space into supportive housing. Thanks to BC Housing and the City of Victoria, Swift House, Cool Aid’s first housing development, will expand its capacity by 23 units. By early 2011, Cool Aid‘s housing program will be providing safe, supportive homes to 315 individuals who might otherwise be homeless.

If we are to be truly successful at ending homelessness in our community it will be the result of all of us working together in a coordinated fashion. This past year we continued to be active participants in the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, with staff representatives on all of its major working groups.  We fully support the strategic goals and business plans of the Coalition; indeed we believe that the Coalition is the embodiment of building community together and its success in ending homelessness will be the whole community’s success.

Victoria Cool Aid Society is built on a solid foundation which has allowed us to expand our capacity year over year to better serve the needs of our clients and our community. Cool Aid has a continuous improvement approach at all levels of the organization — strategic, operational, and service delivery. We look for the positive and celebrate incremental successes. Within this culture of hope there is no failure, only opportunities for learning and growth.

As in previous annual reports we have included a brief report card on performance, a prelude to our more detailed Annual Report Card. Our balanced scorecard methodology illustrates our commitment to an integrated way of monitoring and improving organizational performance and charting our milestones and achievements.

The work we do at Cool Aid is important but it would not be possible or sustainable without the support of many organizations and individuals.  It truly is about building community together. So to all of our supporters – funders, donors, volunteers and advocates – please accept our very heartfelt thanks.

Thank you as well to our fellow service providers with whom we work in partnership and to our neighbours who so graciously support us.

I would also like to thank our board of directors for their continued leadership and good governance.  We are losing some key individuals this year so I would like to offer particular thanks to Peter Lockie, Vic Murray, and Bernie Pauley – both the organization and I have benefited enormously from your guidance and support.

A special thanks to my colleagues, the management team of Cool Aid, with whom I work so closely. Thank you for the passion you bring to your programs and your diligence in ensuring that meeting the needs of our clients, patients and tenants is always the number one priority.

Finally I would like to thank our amazing staff group – we have over 220 employees and they are all community builders. Their tools are respect and acceptance and compassion and it is their daily dedication and commitment to the work of providing shelter, housing and health supports to our community’s most vulnerable citizens that is at the core of Cool Aid’s success.

Thank you.