Prince Albert organizations receive support to help vulnerable residents during pandemic

Big Brothers Big Sisters Development Coordinator Natasha Thomson (left) poses at their spudnuts fundraiser at the Prince Albert Exhibition in 2019. (Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald)

Two Prince Albert organizations have received funding to help vulnerable residents come out of COVID-19 strong.

On Tuesday, United Way of Saskatoon and Area announced over $1.2 million in funding through the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund. A portion of that money went to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince Albert and the Prince Albert branch of the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince Albert received $15,000. Development Coordinator Natasha Thomson said the money will go towards continuing virtual mentoring, as well as expanding services to a virtual format.

Thomson said the organization is hoping to purchase 20 tablets.

“During the pandemic, youth really needed support from their mentors. It was very helpful to have that person to reach out to, and there are some barriers there,” she said.

“Some families didn’t have internet or devices that they could connect with.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs youth facing adversity with an adult volunteer. The volunteers usually connect with them for about an hour per week, explained Thomson, to provide support and assist them in growing into adulthood healthily.

The matches stopped meeting in person at the height of the pandemic, but the organization has since allowed them to do so again. However, they still have the option to meet virtually.

The funds will also help staff continue to offer a variety of programs virtually. This includes Go Girls!, which helps 12 to 14-year-olds focus on their physical health and mental wellness.

“We are very thankful for the support of the United Way and the government to be able to continue to help vulnerable youth. We know that that’s an investment in their future and in our future as a community because we’re all about helping youth people unlock their potential,” said Thomson.

According to the Big Brothers Big Sisters website, every dollar invested into mentoring returns $23 back into society. Mentored youth are 50 per cent more likely to volunteer and 17 per cent more likely to be employed, for example.

The John Howard Society of Saskatchewan, which also received funding, provides prevention, intervention, support services and advocacy for people who are at-risk or are involved in the criminal justice process.

The organization has locations in Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Regina.

Overall, the Emergency Community Support Fund benefitted 65 projects in 17 central and northern communities. This also includes Saskatoon, Cumberland House, Buffalo Narrows, La Loche, La Ronge, Melfort and Nipawin.

To read more about the projects in northern Saskatchewan that received funding, see the August edition of The Northern Advocate.

The federal government announced the Emergency Community Support Fund in April, administered in collaboration with United Way Centraide Canada, Community Foundations of Canada and the Canadian Red Cross.

“The way Saskatchewan communities and organizations have adapted to respond to changing needs and disruption has been inspiring and speaks to the resiliency of our communities,” said United Way of Saskatoon and Area CEO Sheri Benson.

“United Way is honoured to be able to support this resilient spirit to help keep communities strong and support vulnerable individuals and families during COVID-19.”

Funds were distributed to organizations supporting immediate needs and priorities related to COVID-19. This includes delivering meals or food hampers, mental health and wellness supports or financial supports and coaching.