(Contributed)                                 Sunny Schiller and Monica Hampu at the October 2018 Community Chest BBQ Fundraiser at Save-On Foods.

(Contributed) Sunny Schiller and Monica Hampu at the October 2018 Community Chest BBQ Fundraiser at Save-On Foods.

On Community: ‘We are stronger when we work together’

The Coffee Social is happening from 1-3 p.m. on Dec. 11 at Maple Ridge library.

Every step matters. That was a line I jotted down while listening to Joe Roberts share some of his life story at the May Community Network meeting.

Joe was at the meeting to make a presentation about the impact that those who work in social services can make on the lives of individuals.

After Joe benefited from the services and support of a few caring individuals in his own life, he went on to overcome addiction and become a successful businessman, known as the ‘Skid Row CEO.’

Joe wanted to pay forward some of the support that he had received and started the “Push for Change” campaign to bring attention to the issue of youth homelessness.

Joe spent over 500 days pushing a shopping cart across Canada with the goal of raising awareness about youth homelessness and raising funds to address this issue. With the cross-country trek now complete, Joe continues to share his time and his story to keep pushing to end youth homelessness.

Joe’s presentation to the Community Network was a highlight of 2018 for me as its coordinator. Joe has shown many people across Canada the power of being brave enough to share your own story with others. Being willing to step up and put yourself out there as the face of a social issue has the potential to change the people’s understanding about how social factors and systemic issues influence individual lives.

It takes courage to do what Joe has done. I believe it also takes courage to be a politician and to step up to represent your community. I’m grateful to our MP, Dan Ruimy, and to our MLAs, Bob D’Eith and Lisa Beare, for also being involved with the network this year.

These three politicians have taken the time to engage with our members, to listen to their ideas and thoughts.

The constituency staff of these elected representatives also deserve a shout out – they do a great job here in the community, know a ton about what’s going on and are always ready to jump in and get involved.

This past year the Community Network has had a focus on strengthening communication, making the best use of the technological tools that are available to spread the word about the amazing services and events our members provide.

Good communication supports the community of collaboration that the network is all about.

We know there’s more to be done on this front and will continue working to ensure that information is available when and how people need it.

During 2018, the Community Network working groups have been getting the right people together at the table and focusing on one issue or demographic.

One of the current working groups is Stop Overdose Ridge Meadows. This group brings together brings together individuals with lived experience and the City of Maple Ridge, Alouette Addictions, Fraser Health, RainCity Housing, the Salvation Army, School District No. 42, and others to respond to the opioid overdose crisis.

The group has brought some innovative community-based strategies to respond to the crisis locally. They’ve just opened a pop-up gallery on 224th Street to share the Humans of Maple Ridge photo project and other arts focused on reducing stigma and increasing compassion.

Drop by and check it out.

Other groups focus on services for kids, increasing food security, supporting literacy, and issues facing seniors. These groups benefit from the different skills, knowledge and resources of the organizations participating.

We are stronger when we work together.

Over the last five years, the working groups have brought over $750,000 in funds into our community to provide free and low-cost services, programs and resources for children, families and community members of all ages.

To celebrate the holiday season, the Community Network and the City of Maple Ridge will be hosting a Community Christmas Coffee Social. All are welcome,

The Coffee Social is happening from 1–3 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11 in the Fraser Room at the Maple Ridge library. This is a nice way for local organizations to connect with the public during the holidays. Come join us for coffee, tea, treats and some fun activities.

Through meetings, presentations, and community events, Community Network members are doing what we can where we can to make a difference. Working to solve social issues is tough, with so many different contributing factors to tackle.

That’s why every step matters.

Sunny Schiller is co-ordinator of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows-Katzie

Community Network.

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