Manitoulin Family Resources celebrates 35th anniversary with family fun and fundrasing

Manitoulin Family Resources hosted a celebration of their 35th anniversary at Central Manitoulin Public School (Mindemoya) last Saturday. Left to right are MFR board members Leslie Fields, Leanne Bentley, Marnie Hall executive director of MFR, Yana Bauer and Valerie O’Leary.

MINDEMOYA – Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR) celebrated 35 years of providing needed services in Island communities this past Saturday.  

“Good morning everyone and welcome to Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR)’s 35th anniversary celebration,” stated Marnie Hall, executive director of MFR at the anniversary celebrations held at Central Manitoulin Public School (CMPS) last Saturday. “I hope everyone has a fun day,” she said, introducing members of the MFR board on hand for the celebrations, including president Valerie O’Leary, vice-president Leanne Bentley, Yana Bauer and Leslie Fields. Board member Paul Darlaston arrived a little later in the morning, while Jillian Peltier was unable to attend the gathering. 

“Our focus today is on family, celebration, inclusion and the coming together of everyone,” she said. She outlined that the celebration would include a live auction. “Linda Gilchrist, our food security food program supervisor, came up with the idea of holding an auction today and she gathered items over the past year to include in the live auction (with auctioneer Norm Morrell).” She also pointed out there was a whole host of kids’ games and activities set up in the schoolyard for the children, and that the afternoon would include lots of live music and a free barbecue. 

“We are so happy to have reached this point in our history, attaining our 35th anniversary,” said Ms. Hall. “I am very aware and humble to have worked with the staff at Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR). We have several employees who have been with us from the start of the agency, past employees and even babies who were part of some of the services we provided now deliver some of the programs here. It is so inspiring to see.”

“I would like to say a special thanks to our funders over the past 35 years and our program supervisors who continue to find innovative ways to come up with and provide the services that we do,” continued Ms. Hall. “It is very unique to work with an agency that commits and devotes all its efforts to help others through a difficult time. And to our many volunteers who provide so much time and effort to help others, thank you.”

“And the support of the community in our agency is never-ending; we thank each and every one of you.”

Ms. Hall then read a letter from Mary Nelder, the first executive director of MFR, who was part of bringing the Haven House to MFR. Ms. Nelder, who was unable to attend the celebrations, wrote in part, “Dear Marnie. Sometimes I get discouraged. The other day I read that the incidence of sexual assault in Canada has increased for the fourth year in a row, as has the rate of violent crime. Then I went on to read that there was a 24 percent increase in reporting of sexual assault to the police after the #MeToo movement went viral. So, there’s bad news, and then there’s somewhat better news. But then I got an email announcing the astonishing fact that MFR (or Haven House as I still think of it) is celebrating its 35th anniversary and I thought, Okay, then there’s really good news!”

“It’s true that the fact we still require the services of MFR could be seen as negative, but the fact that it’s been supporting women and children on Manitoulin effectively for 35 years is truly cause for celebration,” wrote Ms. Nelder. “From women like me, who’ve been around long enough to remember when there was no Haven House, it is nothing short of wonderful.”

“Let me take you back to that time for just a minute,” continued Ms. Nelder. “Shelters for women did exist in 1984, but only in large cities, where there were women brave and resourceful enough to open their doors to other women in crisis, often at great social and financial cost to themselves. Then one pioneering Ontario MPP by the name of Frank Dray took a stand and convinced his fellow MPPs that small towns and rural areas of the province were just as much in need of such a service.”

“Legislation was passed that offered a 10-bed crisis shelter for women and children to 12 small communities; all that was required was that the local councils be willing to take over the ongoing operating costs after the province had them built,” wrote Ms. Nelder. “On Manitoulin, one municipality, and only one, stepped forward: Carnarvon, as it was called in those days. In the discussion that preceded that decision at a pan-Island municipal meeting, one local politician bravely proclaimed that no such thing as violence against women existed in his community. People were not shocked. In fact, that was the general consensus. Many predictions were made that, once built, the shelter would become an empty white elephant. And here we are, 35 years later, going strong.”

“Let’s remember that 35 years of providing support for women in crisis is no small feat. It is very good news indeed.”

Ms. Hall also acknowledged all those that helped put on the day’s events including Valerie O’Leary, Linda Gilchrist, Children’s Services program director Diane St. Pierre and executive programs assistant Denise Leblanc.