Shelldale Better Beginnings Better Futures is 25 this year. On Thursday evening, the community organization, considered a national model in neighbourhood development and support for those living in poverty, held the first of three anniversary events to mark the milestone. The annual general meeting next month will be the second.
Dignitaries, volunteers and supporters of Shelldale gathered for a volunteer banquet at the 20 Shelldale Crescent location. Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, and city councillors Phil Allt and June Hofland were among them.
Corporate sponsor, Skyline Group of Companies received a corporate volunteer of the year award. Pat Milligan of the Guelph Police was honoured with a partner volunteer of the year award, and long-time volunteer Wanda Lucier received a community volunteer of the year award for her nearly 20 years of service to the organization.
Shelldale Centre is a community hub for a host of programs aimed at giving children and families opportunities to overcome poverty and its detrimental effects. It is located in an area of the city where many live in poverty.
Lorri Sauvé, Shelldale program director, said 141 volunteers contributed 9,345 hours last year. Up until recently, the organization included the Onward Willow Neighbourhood Group, but the two have since become separate entities. Onward Willow is now under the auspices of the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, along with all other neighbourhood groups, Sauvé explained.
She was asked why the organization has enjoyed the success and longevity it has.
“I would say the passion of the community – the passion of the volunteers and staff, and the partners,” she said. “When you walk through this building you know that it is a community hub. You see public health, family and community services, mental health, community health, immigrant services. You see all those names, and all work really well together. We play nice in the sandbox.”
Support for the organization has been broad-based, with all levels of government, Guelph Police, the business community, and numerous private citizens helping to sustain it.
June Hofland is a longtime supporter of the organization.
“It’s lasted for 25 years because of the volunteers, and because of the people that are passionate about helping others and being involved in their community,” she said. “There have been some great partnerships, and great collaborations. I believe it is a gem in our community.”
She added that she wished the Shelldale model could be duplicated in other areas of the city.
“It fills a great need for our community – for new Canadians, for children and children’s programs,” she said. “I can’t say enough great things about Shelldale.”
The third anniversary event will be a launch in the fall of a book written by those who were part of a research team connected to Shelldale when it first started.