I have volunteered with the Self-Help Resource Centre (SHRC) for many years. And, I have admired the SHRC’s 29 year history of using the peer support (or self-help) model to empower individuals and communities across Ontario. With this, I was quite sad when I heard the news that the SHRC will be closing their doors this month.
The SHRC’s board of director and executive director released a statement, in April, where they cited some of the following reasons for making the decision to close the agency:
- “After the loss of major organizational funding eight years ago and a continuous struggle to cover core operating costs, we found ourselves with no choice but to recommend a formal dissolution”.
- “The organization has gone through many challenges over the past years. Ultimately, we feel it is best to recommend a formal dissolution in order to ensure that we have the resources to responsibly transition our staff and maintain the enduring legacy of the organization in a meaningful and respectful manner”.
For non-profit professionals like myself, the SHRC was a vital resource. I have over 15 years experience supporting service users from marginalized communities, and also engaging volunteers (in national, provincial and local organizations). Throughout that time I have collaborated with the staff from the SHRC to better support the needs of the service users and volunteers that I have worked with. One of those staff members was Spencer Brennan, who was very well-known and loved in the non-profit community.
Spencer’s passion for adult education, peer support, and for empowering individuals and communities was well known. Spencer collaborated with priority communities to develop resources that could be used by the community. An example of this is the Diabetes Peer Support Group Guide For the Black Caribbean Community. Spencer also helped countless non-profit professionals like myself to develop the tools that we needed to better engage and empower our service users and volunteers. Sadly Spencer passed away a few years ago, but his work and beautiful presence is still remembered by many.
Two other staff that I came to know were Lorraine Purdon and Samantha Peck, whose work through the Family Councils program included creating provincial initiatives, developing educational tools, and consulting widely to provide guidance and support to Family Council members and the staff involved with Councils. Their work has helped to create more welcoming, inclusive, and safe communities in Long-Term Care Homes. And, in January 2015, the program launched into independence as Family Councils of Ontario, a registered non-profit provincial organization.
In addition to getting to know Spencer, Lorraine and Samantha, over the years I also came to meet other wonderful staff and volunteers at the SHRC. And, while the agency has evolved throughout the years, right up until its recent closure, it remained a vital peer support resource for individuals, communities and organizations in Ontario.