In its infancy, LaFF was a drop-in “coffee morning” hosted by Ladysmith Parks, Recreation and Culture in a little room at the Frank Jameson Community Center (FJCC). As it grew in popularity, a group of parents, health nurses and recreation staff formed to create a “family and friends drop-in” resource program. To further develop the program and apply for grants and funding, the group pursued and received Federal Charity and Provincial “Not for Profit” status.
Soon, the little room at Frank Jameson Community Center (FJCC) became too small to support the increasing popularity of the group. Consequently, LaFF’s group found it’s second home in a Boys and Girls Club double portable on the Primary School site. The group was open Tuesdays through Fridays and was run solely by volunteer parents.
The LaFF Board applied for funding opportunities but continued to function on a donation basis. Set up and clean up was relatively simple, and “putting on a pot of coffee” was one of the first routine chores. Big toys were left out at all times and there was a huge storage cupboard for all the toys. Parents simply took out the toys their children wanted and put them back at the end of each day. Things could not have been easier… but it would not last! Unfortunately, the building’s oil tanks were vandalized and LaFF faced program closure. Miraculously, Ladysmith Parks, Recreation and Culture came to the rescue with the offer to use Aggie Hall. We graciously accepted!
With the move to Aggie Hall it was decided that the program should only operate two mornings a week due to increased costs, struggles to find volunteers and the need to fill the space with more parents. For the first few months, LaFF seemed a bit lost at Aggie Hall. It was much bigger than the portable and came with additional responsibilities for leaving the facility ready for other groups. The purchase of ride-on toys and a bunch of balls filled the space with action. Soon, the increased space combined with a more accessible location began to draw more and more children to LaFF. Opening and closing activities became more complicated and although our new volunteers were eager, they now required more direction on how best to help with programming. We really started to grow!
At every Board meeting, there were discussions held regarding volunteer management and the need for a coordinator to ensure consistency in the program. In 2005, LaFF received funds to hire one program staff person for a two year period.
The Queen Alexandra Foundation allocated LaFF’s first grant through a Strategic Investment Initiative Fund established by the British Columbia Ministry for Children and Family Development. It was fantastic news!
Jacqueline Neligan was hired in May of 2005. Her goals were to:
- Double the time LaFF at the Aggie was open
- Increase structured activities (such as crafts and circle times)
- Promote volunteerism
- Create a hot lunch program
With the ongoing assistance of LaFF volunteers and the dedication of very active board members, these goals were achieved, and more! She is a welcoming face for new families, the children love her and the Board really values how she brings the community to LaFF.
Jacqueline and her coordination improved LaFF on many levels and it soon became clear that the family and friends resource program required a staff person present each day. Bev Boese was hired as Program Assistant in late 2006, ensuring that the Program remained consistent when Jacqueline was away. Bev offered a background in community nursing and a creative approach to community outreach that complemented the work done by Jacqueline, volunteers and board members.
In May 2007, Monica Stieda (one of LaFF’s founding members) joined the LaFF staff. Her experience includes working with families and children in various capacities for the past 25 years. She helped establish LaFF when her children were young and now has come full circle returning to LaFF to support families and children in the community.
In September 2007, the LaFF Board realized the need for more staff members. To this end, Sandra Hendricks was hired. She is one of the most positive, energetic and organized people you will find at LaFF.
The addition of staff has been a significant shift for LaFF at the Aggie. Program offerings have expanded further than the original objectives in grant applications.
Additionally, LaFF is now an active participant on other committees acting as a link to other services for the 0 to 6 age group. Moreover, the shift in responsibilities permits the Board to focus more attention on further grant writing, fundraising and the elevation of its profile in the community and beyond.
In December of 2006 LaFF received the Commitment to Quality Award of Distinction from the British Columbia Provincial Association of Family Resource Programs. The recognition was for maintaining high program quality during a period of tremendous growth on a limited budget.
The award is a tribute to LaFF’s membership, LaFF’s Board, LaFF’s staff and LaFF’s community partners whose combined efforts keep LaFF thriving to deliver a supportive, enriching, safe and inclusive family environment.