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December 2009 

In This Issue:   

2009 - A Year in Review 

Meet Kassandra Sawatzky

Holiday Wishes from DCO


Upcoming Events:

Spirit of Volunteerism Nominations- due Mar 19th

National Volunteer Week
April 18-24

DCO AGM Sept 24,2010

DCO Net-
work Days
Feb 2010
Sept 23/24 2010

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2009 has been an exciting and challenging year for the membership of Distress Centres Ontario. 

The year started with a very visible sign of support from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.  By offering one-time funding for several of our Moving Forward Initiatives they assisted, DCO is helping its member centres build increased capacity.  The initiatives were developed as a result of the strategic planning exercises we had completed in late 2008 and supported our six strategic priorities. 

The initiatives and the funding support have allowed our members to partner in ways that had not been possible over the past several years. Volunteers and staff from the member centres have been working alongside staff from DCO and its contractors to bring the projects to fruition.  

The committee working on the SIOM initiative along with support from Neil and Britt from iCarol have successfully developed the schema for harmonizing our data collection provincially and providing centres with the on-site support to ease the burden of downloading the information.  The Accreditation committee recommended CARF Canada as our Accreditation partner.  With support from project manager Frank several centres have completed their gap analysis, are actively addressing any areas of low compliance and are rapidly moving to the next steps of submitting their ‘intents to survey’.    

The Education Committee was very instrumental in helping build the partnerships that allowed us to produce our Learning Forums website and fourteen video vignettes that will allow our entire volunteer community, all over the province, to have on demand access to education and in-service training support. With help from videographer Hugues, web designer Dave, educational coordinator Lynn, and support from assistant Leah, we have crafted easy to use tools that provide our call takers with even greater confidence on the lines. 

Many of the other initiatives, including the One-Call-Away provincial promotion and recruitment campaigns, the educational grant program and the telephony feasibility studies are going to further strengthen our network and ensure the distress line movement continues to be strong and vital through 2010 and beyond.

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Meet Kassandra Sawatzky, Executive Director of the Oakville Distress Centre

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In the midst of her Psychology and Crime and Deviance (Criminology) studies, Kassandra began volunteering at the Peel Distress Centre in the mid 1990s at the suggestion of a university professor.

With a desire to continue to help people,
Kass moved into a paid position with the Canadian Cancer Society where she provided emotional and practical support to cancer patients and their families, and supervised volunteers who provided emotional support and transportation for cancer treatments. When the Executive Director position at the Oakville Distress Centre became available, a volunteer coordinator at Peel encouraged her to apply for the position. Now as the Oakville ED, Kass says “it is a privilege to be paid to do a job that is my passion.”

One of Kassandra’s first moves when she began at the small Oakville centre was to modernize the office and literally took it from pen and paper to computers, adding the iCarol system for data capture, and creating a more efficient office
and better processes.  Though modern, Oakville’s challenge lies in fundraising: the small centre must raise 20% of their operating budget each year.

Though Oakville is perceived as affluent and without problems, Oakville residents struggle with the same problems as anyone else does: grief, loneliness, bereavement, and distress. Kass explains that “Our volunteers befriend the callers, recognizing that the repeat callers are the most vulnerable
and at high risk for depression and suicide.  Our volunteers help cushion the callers and help them through.”

Kassandra likes to spend time hiking and enjoys nature.  She also finds herself rescuing animals of all sorts, including cats, dogs, birds, turtles, and horses. Once, she found an orphaned deer while on a retreat in Omaha, Nebraska: “I was walking in the woods one day when I heard a fawn bleating and
after watching him for a few hours, realized that he was orphaned. I tried to catch him, but he was too fast for me. I went out the next day with a friend and managed to catch him and carry him back to the retreat, got him into a truck, and took him to a veterinarian. After the vet, he was taken to an animal rehabilitation centre. Two months later, I heard that he was doing very well!”

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Distress Centres Ontario wishes you a warm holiday season and all the best in 2010!   

On behalf of the staff, volunteers and Board of Distress Centres Ontario thank you for the direction and support you have offered us during 2009.

It has been a pleasure working with so many dedicated and committed individuals as we bring our many projects forward to completion.  The work that we do in our communities continues to be well regarded by those familiar with our services.  Many of our projects will allow us to increase the profile of our centres in their communities and make us even more accessible to those who need our services and will benefit from the help we offer.

Thank you to each and everyone associated with Distress Centres.  It is during this time of the year that we can contemplate the good we have fostered in our communities and look forward to being ever more helpful in the coming year.

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2010 Spirit of Volunteerism Award- in memory of Rev Chad Varah

Nominations are encouraged
Leadership and staff of all DCO member centres are encouraged to think about which volunteers they will be nominating for the 2010 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards.  In its 3rd year, this provincial program recognized the significant contribution of volunteers to the provision of distress and crisis line services throughout the province. 

Each year, a member centre can nominate up to four candidates (3 adult and 1 young adult volunteer) for their exemplary volunteer service and allows us to acknowledge our often 'unsung' heroes. All nominees are profiled in a special edition of the e News+Views published during National Volunteer Week - April 18 -24, 2010 and celebrated during the awards ceremony in September 2010. 

To read about the wonderful nominees from past years, go to the DCO website and tab to the news section.

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