Friday, 21 December 2012 15:58

Fresh Start gives a hand up to those who need it

Written by  Jessi Gowan
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The Fresh Start program in Swift Current has been hard at work for more than 10years helping the community raise healthy youth, create strong families, and ensure everyone within the area has access to important support services.

“I have a passion for helping people who are struggling,” said Executive Director Sally Wiens, who has been working with the program since 2001. “If you can make a difference in the lives of people in need along their journey of life, that is such a good thing.”
The program focuses on three different strands — youth, families, and community. Through partnership with the Chinook School Division, Fresh Start offers credit classes and driver’s education to youth, as well as one-on-one mentorship. This helps empower young people and teaches them to live independently.
Struggling families can turn to qualified family support workers to help them, giving them the skills and tools to keep their families together. Fresh Start also assists with the reunification of families and children, to get the family back on track.
To help those in need within the community, the program teams up with various individuals and organizations to provide weekly soup kitchens. This is done without the use of any grant money, and is offered solely through the generosity of the community.
They also offer a food box program, where people can sign up and prepay for fruits and vegetables, which Fresh Start then purchases in bulk, saving money for everyone who takes part — and ensuring that they are eating wholesome, nutritious foods.
“Our program continues to grow,” added Wiens. “Everyone has a need, and I think Fresh Start exists to be a light for people who are struggling along the way.”
Although Fresh Start employs some paid staff  — teachers, family support workers, and administrative staff — a large portion of their daily operation is due to the support of volunteers. Recently, the program was awarded with a provincial Community Achievement Award, in recognition of the way they have been able to engage the community in supporting a common goal.
“The entire community has really rallied around several of our projects, and we just wouldn’t be able to deliver them without that support,” Wiens admitted. “That award truly needs to go to the community as a whole, because that’s who makes it happen.”
Wiens is confident the Fresh Start program has been making a difference within Swift Current. Referrals to the program come from a variety of places: from schools, from individuals, and from government organizations.
“There is need out there, definitely. When things get tough and dark for people, it’s so important that we are here to lighten that load, even if it’s just for a moment,” Wiens explained. “I have been a recipient of the graciousness of other people, and it feels good to give that back. A lot of people don’t have that kind of help around them. We can’t fix everything, but being able to walk alongside people and encourage them to move to a better place is so rewarding.”
This time of year, that kind of support is even more important. Fresh Start’s Christmas dinner featured turkey with all the trimmings, with food and gifts donated by the community. Wiens added the atmosphere was warm and festive, making the evening a beautiful one.
“When you can help people who may be alone this time of year enjoy a hot meal and be a part of that love, it’s an important part of the Christmas season,” Wiens said. “People in this community are so generous and give in so many different ways, it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate that.”

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