2014 MCS News Reel Stories









MCS NEWS REEL - November 19, 2014

From Kitchens to Catering:  Food has IMPACT
With a focus on addressing the cycle of poverty in Muskoka the !MPACT Café is addressing the needs of our most nutritionally vulnerable through solutions that promote engagement, education, training, employment and nutrition.  With roots in church basements and community centres, The Café has developed to be more than a community kitchen.  Not only is the Café transitioning to a successful social enterprise, it is also looking to achieve social and community outcomes.  Our cooks are members of our community who are experiencing substantial barriers to finding employment and are socially isolated.  We work with a wide range of individuals who are trying to re-enter the workforce or simply find an inclusive way to participate in their community.  We provide training and work experience in the hospitality industry, while giving our participants the support needed to move forward with their employment, education and other relevant goals.  The revenue generated through these activities goes back into the program to support honourariums and supplies.
Each month we run a variety of activities and programs for the community:
  • Community Kitchens: The community kitchen program contributes to our mission by providing access to healthy food in two meaningful ways: through meals and through food skills education. Working together to prepare food and then sharing in the results of their collective effort are the ideals that drive the !MPACT Café.  Food is used as a tool through which the gaps of social isolation are bridged and connections made to each other and to a greater community, both inside and outside the Cafe.
  • Muskoka Fresh Food Basket: In partnership with community agencies, volunteers and the private sector the !MPACT Café facilitates the distribution of Fresh Food Baskets in 13 communities across Muskoka.  Over 1,200 residents benefit from this program and more 50 volunteers contribute to its success.
  • Catering: Our Café continues to provide high quality food options for meetings and events across Muskoka.  We have provided meals for Savour Muskoka, Agriculture Coalition of Muskoka, YWCA of Muskoka, Lake Country Legal Clinic, District of Muskoka, and Town of Huntsville to name a few.  We are proud to be able to show case our abilities and skills while supporting the sustainability of our programs.
  • Community Meals:  These drop ins are a safe and welcoming place where anyone, regardless of where they live or income can enjoy nutritious food, meet others, and access information on social issues and community resources.  The Café Drop-In also offers services in partnership with other agencies when needed to ensure increased awareness and access.
For further information please contact us at impactmuskoka@gmail.com or follow us on Facebook.
For more information contact Heather Elliott, Manager of Community Engagement and Social Enterprise, at email:  helliott@muskoka.on.ca or tel:  705-645-2412 ext. 333.

700+ Coats Keep Muskoka Warm!
Thank you to everyone who donated new or used coats, hats, scarves, snow pants, boots, gloves and mittens.  Muskoka collected approximately 700 coats, similar to last year’s numbers! 
The donated items will be distributed to those in need. If there are any items remaining after the distribution time, they will be sent to local places like The Nest in Bracebridge or will remain with the Community Services department at The District Municipality of Muskoka as part of the free-cycle program they have at the community offices.
The need has been great in the community this year.  On Friday, as donations were being collected, news of two gentlemen needed coats right away.  A search through items that had been donated early proved successful to find a few men’s coats to send out immediately to the men to ensure they had something warm and appropriately sized to wear for the chilly weekend.
Our coat drive story is a good news story for Muskoka, as you can see in the CTV clip below.  Amazing for our small community!
For more information contact Tina Kilbourne, Manager of Children’s Services, at email:  ckilbourne@muskoka.on.ca or tel:  705-645-2412 ext. 308.

MCS NEWS REEL - October 31, 2014

Fresh Food Basket

The Muskoka Fresh Food Basket is a program designed to get fresh and healthy foods to families across our district at a very reasonable price.  For almost nine years our community partners and volunteers have continued to provide the produce, transportation, space and man power for this initiative.  The basket program has grown to run in 12 different locations benefitting approximately 1,200 individuals each month. 
Anyone can sign up to take advantage of this convenient way to access healthy nutritious fruits and vegetables.  There are two sizes available (in most areas) family and regular $25.00 and $20.00 respectively.  All money collected for the basket goes directly to purchasing the product, there is no profit. 
During the growing season we have additional local products supplied by local farmers.  In our November basket carrots from Brooklands Farm will be included. 
We would like to thank our supplier Northern Produce and our transportation partners Lakeland Power, Beaver Creek Institution and McAuley and Son Renovators for their ongoing support to get the basket to Huntsville,  Ryde, Baysville, Moose Deer Point , Gravenhurst, Bracebridge and everywhere in between.  To find out how to order a basket or for more information about the Muskoka Fresh Food Basket please visit www.muskokafreshfoodbasket.ca or like us on Facebook.
For more information contact Heather Elliott, Manager of Community Engagement and Social Enterprise, at email:  helliott@muskoka.on.ca or tel:  705-645-2412 ext. 333.


Ontario Disability Support Program

In July 2013, The Ministry of Community and Social Services announced they were implementing changes designed to strengthen participation in employment related activities for non-disabled adults on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) (spouses & dependent adults) in order to support better employment outcomes. This group has legislated mandatory requirements to participate in Ontario Works (OW) Employment Assistance.

A review of the OW caseload in Muskoka identified that there was a low rate of participation in OW employment assistance among non-disabled adults on ODSP.  A number of initiatives were undertaken to improve the employment outcomes of the group.  Strategies to improve communication and program awareness between OW and ODSP staff included a joint OW/ODSP team meeting. 
In addition to supporting spouses and dependent adults on ODSP, the OW program also provides employment assistance supports to the ODSP recipient (the disabled person).  ODSP clients have full access to our Employment Supports and Services (Community offices) and through the Township & Villages Initiative.  
Since 2011, the average number of clients in ODSP Participating in OW Employment has doubled (2011 – 80, 2014 – 159).  Approximately 55% of those who are participating are disabled, 37% are spouses and 8% are dependent adults.  As of March 2014, there were 248 non-disabled spouses and 31 dependent adults on ODSP in Muskoka.  With the introduction of the Strengthening Participation Initiative, the majority of the growth over the last year has been with the non-disabled spouses and dependent adults.
For more information contact Rick Williams, Commissioner of Community Services, at email:  jduncan@muskoka.on.ca or tel:  705-645-2412 ext. 223. 


Community Services Recognition Program
On Monday, October 20, 2014, as part of the Community Services Committee meeting, a celebration took place in honour of the recipients of the inaugural Community Services Recognition Program.  The goal of the Community Services Recognition Program is to recognize outstanding contributions made by individuals or groups related to the goals and values of Muskoka Community Services.  It is also intended to strengthen our many partnerships within Muskoka and to recognize the extraordinary achievements or contributions of individuals. 

Recipients who were recognized for their outstanding contributions included Nora Bartlett, Amy Hudson, Tina Boysen, Judy Campbell, Linda Edwards, Morris Hudasek, Linda Lacroix, Catherine Trudeau, Joanne Nicholson and Northern Produce.  Congratulations to all of the Community Services Recognition Program recipients!  Refreshments, cake and individual congratulations followed the presentations.

For more information contact Sandra Beausoleil, Manager of Program Information and Seniors Programs & Services, at email: sbeausoleil@muskoka.on.ca or tel:  705-645-2412 ext. 219.

The Fran Coleman Community Room
District Councillor Fran Coleman was honoured on October 20, 2014 by her peers, constituents and District staff.  “I must start off by saying we are NOT naming this room after a politician!” began Community Services Committee Vice-Chair, Steve Clement.  “We are naming this room after a dedicated, thoughtful and compassionate person who just happens to be a politician.”  The Pines Community Room was named after Fran Coleman for her determination to fight against homelessness, her fight for attainable housing, her advocacy for child care and housing for seniors and she was one of the driving forces that lobbied all levels of government for funding to build the new Pines, the addition to the Pines (the Pines Support Building, 2013) and McVittie Place.

District Chair, John Klinck, made a point to thank Fran's family for allowing her and supporting her to continue the work that she is so passionate about.

For more information contact Rick Williams, Commissioner of Community Services, at email jduncan@muskoka.on.ca or tel:  705-645-2412 ext. 223. 

MCS NEWS REEL - October 17, 2014

Ryde Wellness Day a Success
The Ryde Community Co-op hosted a 'Meet the Needs Wellness Day II" on October 16.  Access to over a dozen service providers, seminars, free lunch drew close to a hundred local residents to this community event.  

Visitors to the event had the opportunity to learn about bus tours available through Muskoka Travel Service; services and in-home support for seniors through Muskoka Seniors and Special Services, Inc.; fire prevention from the Gravenhurst Fire Department; Chronic Disease Management from Hospice Muskoka; and many more services and programs.  
The Wellness Day not only provided connection to community services and programs, but it was also a wonderful social and networking event for all who attended.  This event was made possible, in part, due to a District of Muskoka Pay it Forward Grant (www.payitforwardmuskoka.ca). 
For more information contact Sandra Beausoleil, Manager of Program Information and Seniors Programs & Services, at email:  sbeausoleil@muskoka.on.ca or tel:  705-645-2412 ext. 219.

ECE Learning Series
The Children’s Services Team of The District Municipality of Muskoka Muskoka Community Services department recognized the need for professional development for Muskoka-based staff working with children in child care centres, schools, and other health and resource agencies.  In April 2012, a workshop series was launched in partnership with Nipissing University’s, Centre for Flexible Teaching and Learning.   Objectives of the workshop series were to provide enhancement to the quality of care for Muskoka’s children by bringing educational opportunities to staff, and bridge a gap between elementary school staff and child care staff.

The series offers six workshops per season, approximately every other month during the academic year (September –June) at the Bracebridge campus of Nipissing University.  Attendees are invited to dinner and networking session before each workshop.  The workshop and dinner are free and participants who attend four or more of the workshops receive a Statement of Professional Learning.  The workshops are in direct response to the needs of the Muskoka child care community (as based on a comprehensive survey) and have covered topics such as Communicating with Parents, Storytelling, Behaviour Management, and Literacy for Young Children.
Since its inception, the series has been extremely well received and is now in its third season.  Attendance has grown by an average of 55% since the beginning and continues to climb with approximately 70 attendees per session.  The response has been very positive with participants continually ranking the workshops 9 out of 10 (or better).   As one attendee wrote: “Professional development is so important as an ECE.   It is a field that is changing all the time and we MUST be up to date.”   The child care community has been eagerly awaiting the beginning of the third season, as proven by the number of participants (42) registering within 24 hours of the launch. 
For more information contact Tina Kilbourne, Manager of Children’s Programs, at email ckilbourne@muskoka.on.ca or tel:  705-645-2412 ext. 308.

MCS NEWS REEL - October 10, 2014

Back-2-School Program 2014
The Community Outreach Program for Children (C.O.P) spent an exceptional amount of time prepping and planning for this year’s Back-2-School Program for the children residing in low-income social housing across Muskoka. These complexes include Sabrina Park in Huntsville, Cambrian Court in Bracebridge, Wellington Court in Bracebridge, Ridge in Gravenhurst, Bethune in Gravenhurst, and Lofty Pines in Gravenhurst. 
The Back-2-School Program provided backpacks, school supplies, as well as snacks and refreshments for all who attended.  And just for fun, an activity for the children was planned where the children made personalized tags for their backpacks. Those who did not sign up for supplies were still able to participate with the activity and receive a free haircut from our hairdressers.  
C.O.P. assisted 140 children with school supplies, provided 77 free haircuts, and saw 246 children in attendance for activities and inquiries. C.O.P also assisted a number of mothers with back to school supplies as each of them were returning to school to complete either their secondary or post-secondary education.  C.O.P plans to continue this program on a yearly basis in order to assist those families in need.
For more information or to conduct a live interview, contact Jerica Bailey, District Coordinator for the Community Outreach Program for Children, at email:  communityoutreach@hotmail.com or tel:  705-205-3343.
Warm Clothes, Warm Hearts
Family, Youth and Child Services of Muskoka and Fabricare Cleaning Centre are spearheading the Warm Clothes, Warm Hearts 2014 winter clothing drive.  The Table Food Bank, Children’s Foundation of Muskoka and The District Municipality of Muskoka are all assisting with this program to provide new and used winter clothing to families in Muskoka.
Collection of articles started Monday, October 6th and will continue until Friday, November 7th.  Any articles can be dropped off at a Fabricare Cleaning Centre location in Bracebridge, Huntsville & Gravenhurst during their normal business hours.  Fabricare Cleaning Centre will cover the cost of cleaning all the articles, but volunteers are needed to assist with the cleaning of the articles.  People from the community can assist by donating a minimum of 2 hrs. of their time at any of the Fabricare Cleaning Centre locations to assist with cleaning.  You can contact Emily Stephen at muskokaconnects@muskokavs.ca or Brenda Boothby at bboothby@muskoka.on.ca to arrange to volunteer in any of the three towns.
Distribution of the winter clothing will begin in Bracebridge at the Fabricare Cleaning Centre located at 229 Wellington Street on Monday, November 10th from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Distribution in Huntsville will be at The Table Food Bank located at 9 Hanes Street on Tuesday, November 11th from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and in Gravenhurst at The District Municipality of Muskoka Employment Services office located at 141 Main Street on Friday, November 14th from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Anyone in need of winter clothing is welcome to attend any of the distribution dates.
Every year people are in need of winter clothing so please clean out your closets and get your unwanted winter clothing to a Fabricare Cleaning Centre near you.  There are people in Muskoka that will be cozy and warm this winter because of your generous donations!
For more information or to conduct live interview, contact Tina Kilbourne, Manager of Children’s Programs, at email ckilbourne@muskoka.on.ca or tel:  705-645-2412 ext. 308.

MCS NEWS REEL - October 3, 2014

Muskoka Affordable Housing Initiatives Program (MAHIP)

In the District of Muskoka, many low and modest income individuals and families struggle to find affordable housing.  Many families don’t believe that they could ever realize the dream of owning their own home.  The Muskoka Affordable Housing Initiatives Program (MAHIP) was launched on August 13, 2014.  The MAHIP program was established to support local individuals and families by providing access to quality, affordable housing through Capital Incentives, Home Ownership and Rent Supplements.
The Capital Incentive program provides funding to developers and builders to encourage the development of affordable housing in the District.  Funding is available for the construction of new affordable units, conversions of buildings into new affordable units, and the construction of affordable secondary units in existing homes.
The Rent Supplement program helps promote affordable rents by providing monthly supplements directly to the landlord.  The rent supplement reduces the monthly cost to the tenant, making the rent more affordable and sustainable.  
Applications and information about MAHIP is available on our website at www.mahip.ca
For more information or to conduct a live interview, contact Jackie Mattice, Housing Development Manager, at email:  jmattice@muskoka.on.ca or tel:  705-645-2412 ext. 614.


MCS NEWS REEL - September 26, 2014

Seniors Experience Isolation
Seniors in Muskoka often experience isolation for many reasons, including lack of transportation, funds to participate, mobility issues or lack of engagement within the community.  One of the ways the District is helping seniors in our community is by coordinating a free, 12-week Nia class in six communities across the District, including Baysville, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, Port Carling, and Utterson.  Within a few days of opening registration, the classes were almost full.  Funding for this program has been provided through the New Horizons for Seniors Grant program through Employment and Social Development Canada.  To find out more information or to see if there are any openings left in any of the classes, please call Lindsay Lima, Seniors Wellness Outreach Coordinator, at 705-645-4488 ext. 199.  Our next session will begin in January 2015. Details on locations coming late fall 2014.
For more information or to conduct live interview, contact Sandra Beausoleil, Manager of Program Information and Seniors Programs & Services, at email:  sbeausoleil@muskoka.on.ca or tel:  705-645-2412 ext. 219.
Licensed Home Child Care
With the implementation of Full Day Kindergarten entering its fifth and final year, child care centres across Muskoka are struggling to provide affordable care for the younger ages, especially infants. In fact, 13 of the 25 infant spaces currently operating across Muskoka will be closing as of September 2014, impacting families in both Bracebridge and Gravenhurst. This means that in addition to the historical shortage of rural child care and child care which is needed seasonally or during non-traditional hours to accommodate shift work (e.g. during evenings and on weekends) infant care is becoming an acute area of need in Muskoka’s child care system.  
Almost 80% of Muskoka’s child care is currently taking place in private homes. Unfortunately the vast majority of these homes are unlicensed and unregulated.  It is difficult to quantify informal care providers, but demographics would suggest over 2,000 children receive occasional informal care and over 700 homes would be involved in care provision.  This will result in a growth of licensed home child care spaces across Muskoka.  Some of these spaces will serve low income families and have subsidy assistance to help those families.
For more information or to conduct live interview, contact Tina Kilbourne, Manager of Children’s Programs, at email ckilbourne@muskoka.on.ca or tel:  705-645-2412 ext. 308.