June 17, 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of Ladysmith Family and Friends, (LaFF). Their 25th year may be among the most challenging so far as LaFF has had to adapt their programming in response to COVID-19.
LaFF supports some of the most vulnerable families in the region through its facility resource programming. They provide access to public health services, food security initiatives, and give opportunities for social inclusion. LaFF addresses vulnerabilities affecting early child development, including physical and mental health, language and cognitive skills, communication skills and life skills resulting in better outcomes for some of the areas most vulnerable families creating a healthier community.
“Last year LaFF served over 500 local families with children age 0-6 accounting for 16,782 visits to our facilities. That’s up 43% since 2016,” LaFF’s executive director, Jacqueline Neligan said. “But COVID-19 has changed all that.”
As a precaution against COVID-19, LaFF’s Aggie Hall facility has been closed to the public, and programming has been moved online. Participants can join Zoom room check-ins in lieu of morning programming at LaFF. They’re also offering family yoga, early literacy initiatives, and singing online.
A large portion of LaFF’s programming is their food service component. Last year LaFF provided over 15,000 meals. Now that the programming has shifted to online, LaFF is providing families with gift cards to the 49th Parallel Grocer to get food, and they’ve been delivering meals to families in need. LaFF staff recently delivered all the ingredients to make a pot of chili to Ladysmith families.
Not all families can access LaFF’s online programming, which has posed a challenge of accessibility. In the face of that challenge, Karen and Fred Green stepped up to help LaFF. The Greens donated $25,000 to LaFF. Those funds have gone towards the purchase of 45 tablets which can be checked out for free by families to access online programming, and LaFF alumni who need help accessing online education resources.
Fred Green said that he and Karen decided to donate to LaFF because of the ‘multiplying impact’ LaFF can have on the lives of the families and children they serve.
“If you catch kids early, and steer those people towards the resources that can address whatever issues they may have, the benefit of that is not just immediate, it’s really for the next 50, 60, 70 years that those people go through life in a better way. We saw it as a powerful investment because it keeps on giving,” Green said.
The Greens have also committed $100,000 in matching funds if LaFF can raise $25,000. Green said that the matching funds will help to engage more people in the community to donate toward LaFF. That funding will allow LaFF to focus more on their program delivery.
Neligan said that she looks forward to working with the Greens to deliver a blanket of support around families in the community.
“We have had many amazing families and businesses involved with LaFF throughout the last 25 years and we want them to know they are always a part of our organization and community. 250 members is our goal but there’s plenty of room for more,” she said.
For individuals who want to donate to LaFF, they can send funds through e-Transfer to email@example.com, or they can donate by credit card online at familyandfriends.ca. Cash or cheques can be mailed to LaFF at PO Box 1830, Ladysmith B.C. V9G1B4.