Photo above: Bob Fines, owner Fines Ford Lincoln, and Johanna Chevalier, former Caledon Councillor, accepting awards. Photo Credit: Dan O’Reilly
Held at the Southfields Community Centre, the recent annual general meeting of Caledon Community Services (CCS) was a celebratory evening to mark the agency’s achievements.
CCS has weathered another challenging year thanks to the dedication of very committed staff and volunteer teams and the support of the community, government, and the business sector, said Wanda Buote, chair of its board of directors.
However, several board members acknowledged the challenges the agency faces. There was some troubling news and observations about poverty, food insecurity, homelessness, and the vulnerability of marginalized residents in Peel Region and in Caledon.
“Poverty in our community isn’t a small problem, nor is it a secret problem. It’s something that hundreds of Caledon residents cope with daily and it has an impact on their lives,” said board member Connie Stevens, after the showing of a Peel Region-produced video titled What is Poverty in Peel.
Attendees at the event also heard some disturbing facts about poverty in Peel by the keynote speaker, Sean Baird, the Commissioner of Human Services for Peel Region.
“In 1980, low-income neighbourhoods made up only two per cent of all neighbourhoods in Peel. Thirty five years later, over half of neighbourhoods are low-income.” That increase was primarily at the expense of middle-income neighbourhoods, which dropped from 86 per cent in 1980 to 43 per cent in 2015, said Baird.
“People are in need and in crisis, struggling to maintain stability, and making tough choices on paying for transportation, food, prescriptions, or shelter. These choices are getting tougher.”
Cost of living increases are changing the scope and profile of poverty all across Ontario and Canada and that is true in Caledon, said Baird. He noted that each year approximately 900 low income residents make use of the food bank at the CCS-operated Exchange hub.
“This is truly a community driven organization, from your professional staff to volunteers and donors,” said Baird, citing the establishment of the Exchange and CCS’s long list of projects and achievements such as its employment readiness programs.
At the same time, CCS will be confronted with more challenges in the future as Caledon grows. Adding more people will mean a large economy, but it will also drive increased demand for human services, he said.
Describing CCS as a “valued partner” of Peel Region in pursuing its own mission to build A Community for Life, Baird also addressed the province’s plan to dissolve the Region by January 1, 2025. “I know that everyone has questions. We (the Region) don’t have many answers right now.”
A transition board will be created to map out that dissolution, but in the interim the province has given clear direction that regional services will continue to be delivered, he said.
Baird’s speech came near the end of a full agenda meeting. Highlights of the evening included welcoming comments by CCS’s new chief executive officer Geraldine Aguiar, an update on preliminary details for the creation of a new Strategic Plan, the election of its 11-member board of directors for the coming year, and the presentation of 24 Community Champion Awards to supporting businesses, organizations, and individuals.
In addition, three individuals with a record of long-time support to Caledon Community Services were recognized with Honourary Life Memberships and given crystal plaques. They are: Garden Foods owner Piero Carbone, Fines Ford Lincoln owner Bob Fines, and former Caledon Councillor Johanna Chevalier.
Carbone, who wasn’t able to attend the meeting, has donated more than $400,000 since 2001 and other in-kind services, said past board chair and presenter Ian Armstrong. He also paid tribute to Fines’ generosity such as organizing the Fines Ford Lincoln Annual $-per-pound match where the dealership’s trucks and staff pick up donations from school food drives.
In listing many of Chevalier’s initiatives, presenter Denise Sammut noted that she was the driving force behind the agency’s re-envisioned 2016 Gala.