PORT HARDY—With new staff and a new name, family support services are once again available in a familiar location on the North Island.
North Island Building Blocks, a family outreach and support program, was officially opened Tuesday, Sept. 9, with a blessing by Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Chief Willie Walkus. It is located in the office space formerly occupied by Family Place, which closed its doors Mar. 31 when Island Health elected not to renew its contract with the Ministry of Child and Family Development.
“It’s so nice to see the place open again,” said Kate Macpherson, who played with 20-month old son Tony Wilson while waiting for the opening ceremonies. “I kept asking, ‘When is Family Place going to open again?”
Building Blocks will be run by the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw bands through a new contract with MCFD. It will pick up many of the same programs previously offered by Family Place, including Promising Babies, youth clinic, a parents of young children program and various drop-in and outreach services.
Some Family Place features, including the women’s group and men’s group, are not yet in place at Building Blocks. But program coordinator Michele Dorsey said services are still being developed and evolving.
“We’re starting small, but our services will be driven by the needs of the community,” she said.
To that end, Building Blocks offered a brief survey to those who attended last week’s open house and blessing, asking which previous programs they utilized and which services respondents would like to see implemented.
“It’s going to be fun and exciting,” outreach worker Terri Reid said as she mingled with visitors at the open house. “We’re going to be using a lot of word-of-mouth to encourage young families to check this out.”
Building Blocks opens with a staff of four. In addition to Dorsey and Reid, Natasha Bridger will serve as outreach worker and Marilyn Brotchie as receptionist.
Last week’s open house drew guests from many of the social services agencies with which Building Blocks partners. The blessing was given by Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Chief Willie Walkus. He was flanked by regalia-clad women of the bands, including Blanche Walkus, Margaret Joe and Donna Williams.
The blessing was followed by lunch and a tour of the facility, which includes consultation rooms, a kitchen and play areas and toys for children.
Though the program is administered by the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw, it is not restricted to First Nations members.
“We’d like to see ourselves as a hub for North Island families,” said Dorsey. “The biggest thing for us is to advocate for healthy families and strong communities. For that, the community needs to be involved.”
Building Blocks is open Mon.-Fri. from 1-4:30 p.m. each day at 7305-B Market Street in Port Hardy. Stop in for more information on its programs.