Local families have access to the highest-rated support program in the province according to the BC Association of Family Resource Programs (FRP-BC).
Jacquie Neligan, LaFF’s executive director, travelled to Vancouver last Friday to receive the award. She said this was the second time LaFF has received a Distinguished Service Award from the FRP-BC in the last six years.
“We won in 2006 and then we were just awarded again,” Neligan said. “Winning groups are only allowed to enter once every six years.”
Resource programs from across the province apply to the FRP-BC, submitting testimonial letters alongside their applications. Applicants are then judged based on “what makes a great family resource program,” Neligan said. “Creating a safe and nurturing environment and volunteerism are really important.”
The award was accompanied by a $1,000 bursary that Neligan said would be used to support LaFF and offset the costs of travel to and from association board meetings on the Mainland.
LaFF services 480 families, Neligan said, drawing participants from Duncan, Lake Cowichan, Lantzville, Chemainus and Ladysmith. Some travel from as far as Qualicum Beach and the Malahat.
They provide services to short-term visitors, too.
“There are quite a few families that come to visit grandparents here,” she added, “and when they’re in town, this is definitely the stop for families.”
LaFF was founded in 1996 as a volunteer organization, Neligan said. She joined the program as a participant 15 years ago.
“As a young mom with two children and no friends in the area — and limited family — it was a lifesaver for me at that point,” Neligan said.
Neligan joined the board a few years later and eventually became LaFF’s first paid employee seven years ago when she was named as the group’s program co-ordinator.
LaFF employs seven staff members now, Neligan said. As executive director — her new title as of last spring — she remains LaFF’s sole full-time employee, supported by six part-time staffers and a legion of 85 volunteers, eight of whom sit on LaFF’s board of directors.
LaFF receives additional support from service groups like Rotary, the Kinsmen and the Eagles, Neligan added, and from business groups like the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce and the Ladysmith Downtown Business Association.
“This is definitely more of a community award,” Neligan suggested, “because we’re winning this award thanks to the collaboration and connections within the community.”
LaFF’s programs are diverse and include both daytime and evening activities.
“LaFF in the Morning” runs from 9:30 to noon, Monday through Friday, at Aggie Hall and offers activities for children aged zero to six and their families. “Family Frolics,” hosted Tuesdays from 5:45-6:45 p.m. at the Frank Jameson Community Centre, serves as a “great gym time and a time to burn off energy before bed.”
“We have more dads participating in that one because they’re home from work,” Neligan said, “and that’s time they can spend with their kids.”
Wednesday nights are “SEWcial Nights,” Neligan added, offering children, families and seniors a chance to participate in activities ranging from sewing and quilting to baking and canning.
“That’s a great multi-generational time,” she said. “One member told me with a tear in her eye how she hadn’t held a baby for 33 years, and here she was holding a baby.”
LaFF routinely hosts special events, too, Neligan said. These include community events like last weekend’s Pancake Breakfast with Santa, a family dance scheduled for Feb. 8, Earth Day activities and occasional language classes dedicated to Hul’qumi’num training.
“We’re always creating opportunities for community members, volunteers and service agencies to strengthen the fabric of life for children and families,” Neligan said. “We want families to feel like they’re embedded in this really nurturing environment. We’re not the be-all and end-all for families, but we like to connect them with the amazing services that exist within the community. We’re there to facilitate relationships forming and connections being made.”
To learn more about LaFF’s programs, call 250-210-0870