Province and mayor commend local not-for-profits

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

As part of a government initiative, two local organizations are being recognized for the work they do that benefits the entire community.

The Northwestern Ontario Metis Child and Family Services (NWOMCFS) Fort Frances branch and Northwest Community Legal Clinic (NCLC) Fort Frances branch are both the recipients of the Ontario Government’s recognition during the Non-Profit Sector Appreciation Week, which is held the third week of February each year, beginning in 2021. According to the Ontario Nonprofit Network, the week recognizes the province’s nonprofit sector and the nearly 850,000 workers within the sector who help to provide essential services like child care, long-term care, shelters, community health centres, seniors support and more.

In two separate presentations held on Friday, February 9, 2024, and Tuesday, February 13, 2024, Fort Frances mayor Andrew Hallikas presented both organizations with a letter of appreciation from the Ontario Government, featuring Ontario premier Doug Ford, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Michael Parsa and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Neil Lumsden.

It was all smiles as Fort Frances mayor Andrew Hallikas, second from right, stopped by the Fort Frances branch of the Northwestern Ontario Métis Child and Family Services (NWOMCFS) on Friday, February 9, 2024, to deliver a recognition of appreciation both from the municipality and the Government of Ontario in recognition of Non-Profit Sector Appreciation Week. Included in the photo are NWOMCFS program supervisor Yvonne Friesen, left, board treasurer Brady Hupet and prevention worker Cassandra Jackson. – Ken Kellar photo

“Our sincere appreciation to [your organization] for your dedication and contributions to Ontario in serving the community as a Non-Profit Organization,” the letter reads.

“The executives and professionals of the Non-Profit Sector are COMMUNITY CHAMPIONS. You are driven by your vision and mission, and carry out your responsibilities with a deep sense of pride, passion and persistence. You deserve our unreserved appreciation.”

The mayor’s first presentation was made to the NWOMCFS, located at their office on Williams Avenue. The organization promotes Metis families and culture within the region, and advocates for an Agency environment that facilitates healing and reconciliation for all of its Citizens. The NWOCFS also offers programming for families and individuals in the region, including language lessons, potluck dinners, Metis jigging classes and more.

Hallikas noted that when he was made aware of the opportunity to recognize not-for-profits within Fort Frances, he jumped at the chance to include as many as he could. The NWOMCFS was nominated based on the strength of their programming and the benefits they bring to the community.

“I was here for the grand opening and I saw firsthand the programs they offer and how much they contribute to many of the less fortunate people in our community,” Hallikas said.

“And what a safety net they offer for so many people.”

Brady Hupet, the president of the Sunset Country Metis and board treasurer for the NWOMCFS said that the recognition from the province was a reflection on just how hard the staff of the organization work to help those in need and provide the vast array of different programs to everyone.

“I’d just like to give thanks to the Government of Ontario, and a special thanks to His Worship, Mayor Hallikas,” Hupet said.

“And for this recognition, the Sunset Country Metis community and the staff of the Northwestern Ontario Metis Child and Family Services is honoured to accept it with thanks and appreciation. We do appreciate the honour.”

Hupet noted specifically the contributions of the local staff, which includes program supervisor Yvonne Friesen, prevention worker Cassandra Jackson, and preservation workers Rhonda Howells and Cindy Barker.

The second organization to receive recognition, the NCLC, was chosen for their work as the voice and advocate for many in need in society, Hallikas explained, particularly when it comes to those interacting with the judicial system.

“The Northwestern Community Legal Clinic came to mind simply because they fight for the underdog,” he said.

Fort Frances mayor Andrew Hallikas, third from left, presented another letter of appreciation from the province to the staff at the Northwest Community Legal Clinic (NCLC) on Tuesday, February 13, 2024, for their dedicated work as a not-for-profit who “slay giants” and champion for those in need, according to the mayor. Pictured are NCLC staff Tara Grant, incoming executive director Jillian Kellar, outgoing executive director Trudy McCormick, Tammy Noble and Laurie Nuttall. – Ken Kellar photo

“A lot of communities have marginalized people who don’t have a place to go, who don’t have a champion, but they can always come here. I always think of this group as a group that slays giants, so to speak, and are unsung heroes of the community, and they surely deserve this recognition.”

Trudy McCormick, the outgoing executive director of the Fort Frances branch of the NCLC, said they were thankful for the province and town’s recognition, adding that they are just a part of the bigger picture of supporting those in need.

“We’d like to thank the Town of Fort Frances for the nomination and the provincial government for recognizing the work,” McCormick said.

“It truly does take an entire community to support each other, to be a good and thriving place to live, regardless of who you are or what your background is. In Fort Frances there are many other non-profits that help support us, we work together and it’s a true sign of the community that so many different organizations and people can come together to support the less fortunate members of our community.”

The mayor noted that these two organizations are just the first of several recognitions that will be announced during the 2024 Non-Profit Sector Appreciation Week in Fort Frances.