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United Way Charity Spotlight – Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries

By Emily Shim. This is the second article in a three-part series on the charities that the United Way supports.

What FCC does

The Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries (FCC) was founded in 1940 to support families suffering the loss of loved ones due to World War II. A lot has changed since then, but the organization has maintained a steadfast commitment to providing flexible, person-centered services. Today, FCC is a mental health and addictions agency, which aims to provide a safe space where counselling and addictions services support the emotional well-being of the Cambridge and North Dumfries community.

To support mental health, FCC provides counselling with qualified clinicians for those who have experienced Violence Against Women (VAW), Ontario Disability Support Program recipients, and others through different health care referrals. They offer therapy for all ages and run the “Partner Assault Response Program” in Cambridge, working with domestic violence offenders to focus on certain issues such as anger management.

For addiction services, Executive Director, Cameron Dearlove, refers to the process as “community case management,” with a focus on those who are homeless or facing homelessness. Trained clinicians help clients plan their recovery journey, including access to detox programs around Ontario, including transportation to and from these programs. They also run two homes for those who have completed residential treatment because without these homes, many could land back in shelters which are not conducive to recovery. Residents learn valuable life skills through the Harvesting Hope social enterprise which involves making and selling goods like jams, pies, and tarts.

Beyond counselling and addiction services, FCC offers an educational mental health program called, “Taming the Dragon” – an in-school program which educates younger children about anxiety, how they can manage it, and how they can support their peers. They also offer community outreach in Ayr, including a lunch program focusing on seniors.

Challenges they face

Like many charitable organizations, there are many challenges facing FCC. “The demand has been growing – 2020 it started increasing, 2021 it increased more, and it’s continuing because the effects of the pandemic are long-term,” explains Dearlove.

The Counselling Collaborative of Waterloo Region, of which FCC is part of, saw a 39% increase in requests for counselling. Among that population, was an alarming 72% increase for youth counselling and a rapidly growing waiting list for mental health and addiction services. While the demand skyrockets, access to these supports becomes increasingly difficult. For example, virtual counselling requires access to technology which not everyone has, children are restricted from tactile therapy, and government funding is not matching the demand. Most employee benefits programs only cover a handful of counselling sessions.

Furthermore, the transition to working from home has resulted in many changes within the organization such as switching to virtual services, training staff on technology, a shift in team dynamics, and limited access to the community. As FCC continues to navigate a post-pandemic world, they are reimagining who they are as an organization, starting with a new name, “Porchlight Counselling and Addiction Services,” launching this October. The name Porchlight was chosen as it renders images of leaving a porchlight on for loved ones, being more representative of their mission.

Ways to get involved

FCC is always looking to expand their board of directors. “Their job is to govern the organization and make sure it’s meeting its mission and moving towards our vision,” explains Dearlove. They are seeking people with a diversity of experiences and skillsets, especially those with lived experience.

How United Way Helps

 “The United Way is essential for many organizations in the community, particularly smaller organizations that don’t have a large fundraising capacity” says Dearlove. It’s disruptive and time-consuming for FCC to start a new project every year to capture project-based funding, and it takes away from the important work they need to do. As a reliable and on-going funder, the United Way ensures that life-changing organizations like FCC have the resources they need to continue helping people on the endlessly growing waitlist.

To learn more about the Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries (Porchlight Counselling and Addictions Services), and the variety of services they offer, visit their website.

Stay tuned for content about our campus United Way Campaign happening in October. To support the Family Counselling Centre and other important organizations in our community, donate today!