It all began in 2007.
A group of friends, sitting around having lunch at the Quadra Island Community Centre, were talking about the services offered on their little island – or lack thereof.
That was the informal start of the Quadra Circle Community Connections Society.
“Yeah, it’s quite a mouthful,” laughs Maureen McDowell, president of the society – as I fumble their name while asking about their organization as we sit in the group’s small office located between the bookstore and the library in Quathiaski Cove. “Just call us Quadra Circle.”
Quadra Circle began with small meetings in their members’ own homes – as a sub-committee of the Quadra Island Recreation Society – but they soon realized they needed more visibility within the community in order to broaden their reach and decided to become their own registered society, which happened last year.
“I guess what drew us together was the wish to have services (on Quadra) rather than be forced to go to a larger community,” says McDowell.
“It was going not too badly, but as we got busier and developed more services, we also felt it would be better to have a bit more of a physical presence. We wanted to be a resource and information place for people to drop into and get their questions answered.”
Thanks to a New Horizons grant from Island Health through the Strathcona Regional District, they found the funds to move into their current space in Quathiaski Cove.
Their overarching goal is to increase the quality of life for those in the community. But with approximately one-quarter of the approximately 2,400 residents qualifying as “senior,” and those members of the community naturally needing a bit of extra support, seniors tend to garner the most attention from the organization.
“As people get older, it gets harder and harder for them to get motivated enough to go across to Campbell River to get the care they need,” McDowell says, adding that they find out what services are lacking within the community from within the community itself, as the needs are always evolving.
“We have 60 or so people coming to our Friday lunch, for example,” McDowell says, which is a great place for Quadra Circle to discover gaps in services.
Out of those Friday lunches came the idea for their Foot Care program – where people who are low income and can’t afford proper foot care can get the help they need – as well as the organizations’ Home Meals program.
“Some of our seniors just weren’t getting proper nutrition,” McDowell says, so Quadra Circle partnered with Gowland Harbour Resort to produce nutritious meals for $5 each, “which I couldn’t manage to produce on my own, and the nutritional value is very high – not to mention they’re really good. That’s been a wonderful asset.”
The meals are customized for dietary restrictions and preferences, as well.
They are also hoping to implement a “Friendly Phone” service soon, where a volunteer will call a community member daily – or however often they want the service – to make sure they’re okay.
There are a lot of remote properties on Quadra, “and things happen,” says Karen Gair, director and treasurer of the organization, and sometimes people can go for days without seeing anyone.
“We’re hoping a service like this can help give both them and their families some peace of mind.”
They also have a “volunteer driver” program to help people get around the island or over to Campbell River and back, and are working on a “Community Resource Guide.”
“We’ve been working on it for a while now,” says Gair. “You can go on a computer and find different things, but a lot of our seniors are not vey computer literate, so we’re working on a little book type of thing for them to have. It’s all about who to go to when you need different things.”
Thanks to dedicated volunteers like Gair, McDowell and outreach worker Marie Sheran, the organization has been able to secure various grants to keep them afloat, but are hoping to one day be able to employ an actual paid coordinator.
“There are eight directors on the board and we all kind of take our own little area that we’re interested in, but it would be nice to find the money to have a full-time person,” Gair says. “We’re all getting to the stage where we can’t do it full time. It would be nice to have someone on full-time and carry on (these initiatives), and for all the work we’ve done to be able to continue.
“But so far we’ve been able to scrape by and keep going,” she says.
And they have numerous initiatives and programs in the planning stages that are what would be classified as “long-term,” so don’t expect them to give up on that anytime soon.
“We’ve calculated that we’ve probably done about $194,000 worth of volunteer hours this year,” McDowell says.
“We’re proud of that, because it shows how many people are willing to pitch in,” says Gair. “We enjoy it. It’s nice to be doing something you enjoy. I feel sorry for people that are stuck in jobs that they don’t enjoy.”
Find out more about Quadra Circle and the services they offer by calling them at 250-285-2255 or head over to www.quadracircle.ca