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Strategies for the future

October 2008   

In this Issue

Extending Telephone Support
for Seniors

World Suicide Awareness Day Event Raises Funds and
Fosters Hope

The Strategic Planning
Process at DCO

Highlights from the 'Spirit of Volunteerism' Recognition


Quiz of the month















































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Extending Telephone Support for Seniors

An $85,000 annual grant from the Ontario Ministry of Health is making it possible for the Wellington-Dufferin Seniors’ TeleCheck service to double the number of people it serves.

The Distress Centre of Wellington-Dufferin (Community Torchlight) began offering service to seniors in 2004. They modelled their program after a senior’s telephone support service that has been operated for 20 years by the distress centre serving Sarnia and Lambton County.  Initially Wellington-Dufferin received funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. But when that came to a close in 2006, the program was forced to either shut down or continue operating on a shoe-string budget of only $5,000 per year.

“For the next two years we worked out of donated space,” says executive director Jessie Baynham. “We only paid for phone lines.  ”Baynham, a mother of one who’s worked in Guelph’s mental health field for the past 10 years, credits her volunteers with keeping the program alive. “Without them we would have had to drop it,” she says.

When appealing to the Central West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) for funding approval, Baynham says the LHIN was impressed with the simplicity and efficiency of their service to seniors. As well, she adds, TeleCheck is a phone line, not a clinical service, making it somewhat informal. “LHIN is looking at funding more preventative and holistic services, hoping to reduce wait times and catch symptoms earlier, and that’s what we do.”

In order to receive direct funding from the Ministry of Health, the Distress Centre needed to partner with a lead agency already receiving government dollars. They approached the Alzheimer Society of Dufferin County, which agreed to collaborating. As a result, the Seniors TeleCheck service received funds to hire a fulltime program coordinator  as well as program dollars.

“With any non-profit program, the majority of the funding goes towards salary and benefits for staff,” explains Baynham, who became executive director in 2007 after serving for two years as crisis line supervisor. “Then there’s money leftover for program costs such as training, recruiting, promotion, community education, etcetera.”

The biggest challenge over the coming months will be to double their current complement of 12 volunteers, says Baynham. Getting clients, she explains, is not a problem; the service already has a waiting list of seniors longing for the daily telephone check-up which not only ensures their safety and health, but provides a regular social connection in an otherwise isolated rural district.

In addition to expanding their clientele from 45 to 80, Wellington-Dufferin also plans to partner with Telecare Distress Centre Brampton in planning a new TeleCheck location, allowing for a multilingual seniors’ service in the Peel region. 

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World Suicide Awareness Day Event Raises Funds and Fosters Hope     

On Wednesday, September 10th at Riverside Park in Guelph from 5 - 9 pm, the Wellington-Dufferin Distress Centre, in partnership with United Way of Guelph Wellington, hosted an event as part of World Suicide Awareness Day.

United Way of Guelph Wellington began the event with their annual campaign kick-off. People browsed information tables while listening to a community concert.

At 5 pm, more than 70 people participated in a fund-raising walk beginning at Riverside Park and continuing through neighbourhoods in Guelph. Community members provided rest stops and refreshments along the way. The walk ended back at the park with a candlelight ceremony. The purpose of the walk was to raise funds for suicide prevention and education, as well as to raise awareness, create discussion, and to foster hope.

Sabrina Hammer, the reigning Miss Ontario, who recently lost a close family member to suicide, was at the event and she told the crowd she is devoting her reign to speaking about mental health issues.

People participating in the events were particularly moved by a speech given by Mina McCluskey, a suicide survivor, who said, “I am proud and honoured to be walking with all of you tonight, as we walk for survivors of suicide, as we walk with the memory of those who have lost their lives, and as we walk to bring hope to those who, at this very moment, can’t find the hope to take even one step.” 

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The Strategic Planning Process at DCO

In September 2008 the membership of Distress Centres Ontario met in Brampton, ON to review the strategic priorities of their association.  The input, discussions and ideas of everyone present were very important in setting the direction and activities for the next three years.

Here is a brief description of the main themes of these discussions.

* Launch a DC Accreditation Process in order to accredit all member centres by 2011

* Significantly increase awareness of Distress Centre access points and of the value of DCO amongst key groups that need our services or can help us strategically in realizing our social objectives

* Strenghten and expand training, education and information - sharing opportunities for DCO and association member staff and volunteers

* Establish integrated help lines province-wide and use new technologies to increase the number of service access points for Ontarians

* Continue to expand the resource capacity of the DC network; with the emphasis on strengthening financial support, organizational development and human resources. 

The Mission and Vision of the association were also reviewed.  The Board of Directors of DCO will be discussing all the input and after the 'wordsmithing' is completed they will approve the new documents.  Expect to see the new Mission/Vision and Strategic Priorities on the web site in early 2009.

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Highlights from the 'Spirit of Volunteerism' Award Recognition Event 

Volunteers are the life force of the Distress Line movement and their contributions were celebrated at the Spirit of Volunteerism Recognition Event held on September 19th.

The award nominees were celebrated with a special issue of the e News published in April 2008 and a copy is downloadable from the DCO website.  They include

Sherman Brown - Telecheck Dufferin
Sandra Conroy - Telecare Distress Centre Brampton
Mary Gurfinkle - Distress Centres Toronto (North branch)
Stacy Harris - Distress Centre of Windsor-Essex County
Phyllis Hemmingway - Telecare Cambridge Distress Line
Carly Hicks - Distress Centre Niagara
Margaret Knechtel - Distress Centre Wellington Dufferin
Pankaj Mehra - Oakville Distress Centre
Steve Raff - Distress Centre Niagara
Charles Ryan - Distress Centre Durham
Cheryl Ryan - Distress Centre Durham
Joan Schrier - Distress Centre of Ottawa Region
Chris Springer - Distress / Crisis Services Waterloo Region
Henry Van Der Werff - Distress Centre Peel
Hira Verma - Telecare Distress Centre Brampton
Lesley Ann Zakoor - Distress Centre of Windsor-Essex County

The recognition event, held at Lionhead Golf Club, was very well attended with family, friends and staff and volunteer supporters.  The nominations for the 2009 recognition will be opening next month. We encourage everyone to review the nomination criteria well ahead of the deadline of February '09.

To view pictures from the event go to

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How many Distress Centres in Ontario have or are establishing Senior's TeleCheck reassurance lines supported by Ministry of Heath funding? 

Name the centres and the areas they offer service in.

Email your answer to Liz Fisk, Executive Director,
Distress Centres Ontario at

The answer will be published in the next edition of the DCO E-news along with the name of the person who sent in the first correct answer.

QUIZ OF THE MONTH - Last Month's winner

Congratulations to Cindy Slavik from Distress Centre - Windsor and Essex County for her answer:

Brampton offers Punjabi, Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi, Portuguese, French, Urdu, Arabic, Polish
Ottawa offers French
Outauouais offers French
Toronto, Peel, Wellington-Dufferin offers TTY for the hearing impaired 

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Next Issue 

Volunteer Management - Survey and Focus Group results

Accreditation Working Group - Benefits and Time-line

DCO Board of Directors - meet the Board and read what
they have to say about your association and the issues facing distress lines




Educational Forum
Networking Event
(for volunteers and staff)
Nov 7 & 8, 2008
Travelodge Ottawa Hotel & Conference Centre, ON


Please click here to download registration forms 

Spirt of Volunteerism Award - nominations open in November 2008


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DCO Distress Centres Ontario
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