Today, as the last day of June marks the final day of Pride Month, ASK Wellness Society is excited to share this alternate ASK logo that we have recently created. As a representation of allegiance and commitment to inclusion, one of our four core values, we are incredibly proud to have the “Progress Pride Flag” incorporated into our logo. We intend for it to act as a physical symbol in support of our 2SLGBTQ+ community. Some may not know the history of the pride flag and the symbolic representation behind each of the colours.
The Pride Flag has undergone multiple iterations since the “rainbow flag” was first created by Gilbert Baker in 1978. It was initially created to recognize and celebrate members of the gay and lesbian political movement. Intended to be a symbol of hope, each of the original eight colours were assigned meaning by the designer:
In 2018, the Pride Flag went through a change and is referred to as the “Progress Pride Flag”, which was designed by Daniel Quasar. The Progress Pride Flag was intended to be more inclusive.
As described by V&A Museum of Art and Design, “From one flag reboot to another, the coloured stripes are imbued with different meanings. For Quasar, the light blue, pink and white stripes [added onto the left side of the flag] represent trans and non-binary individuals. The brown and black ones represent marginalized People of Colour (POC) communities. The black stripe has a double meaning, as it is also intended for those living with AIDS and the stigma and prejudice surrounding them, and those who have been lost to the disease. Quasar plays with the idea of a diverse community, and states that the fight for inclusivity needs to come from both within and outside the LGBTQ community – from all spheres of society. [Quasar states,] ‘This new design forces the viewer to reflect on their own feelings towards the original Pride flag and its meaning, as well as the differing opinions on who that flag really represents, while also bringing into clear focus the current needs within our community.’ ”
“And it was all Women who made this happen.”
As Bob Hughes, ASK Wellness Society’s CEO, spoke to the large crowd gathered in front of Cookie’s Place, many were coming to terms with the enormity of what had just been achieved.
“Cookie's Place” is named after the fearless volunteer who was a force for good during the AIDS crisis in the 80’s. Cookie Reimer played a pivotal role in the formation of the organization that would later become the ASK Wellness Society. The building had its official ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, May 27th, 2022 with more than 100 people in attendance. The guests and onlookers were unfazed by the ferocious wind that was ripping through the valley during the ceremony, and there were loud cheers with each speech that was given, but none more-so than for Cookie herself.
Despite a two-year pandemic and associated delays and challenges, ASK Wellness Society remained committed to complete this important project to provide housing for some of the community’s most vulnerable. There were many doubts about whether the project would be feasible at its inception, but the determination of a few key individuals ensured that we would succeed. It did just that, and now provides many people with a place to call home. Two of those key individuals who were present during the ceremony were Natasha Taylor and Bevin Brown, project managers from D & T Developments. Natasha and Bevin were referenced in Hughes’ earlier speech that gave a special shoutout to the female-led company. Leanne Maloney, Manager of Seniors Housing, was given recognition in the speech for her efforts towards the project and for her ongoing dedication to the residents at Cookie’s Place. Also mentioned were Kim Galloway, Chief Operating Officer at ASK and Pamela Jacobson, Coordinator of the Maverick Recovery Program, which neighbours the building.
Cookie’s Place has 37 units which are dedicated to people over the age of 55. Located in Aberdeen near the Aberdeen Mall, the facility offers one-bedroom suites, including two accessible units.
For more information on the application process, please contact Leanne at email@example.com
Impactful community program seeks ongoing funding
If you have noticed individuals in safety vests doing clean-up around the community of Penticton, you have likely witnessed ASK Wellness Society (ASK) Peer Ambassadors hard at work. The ASK Peer Ambassadors are program participants who have lived-experience with homelessness, supporting clean-up efforts in the community.
ASK Wellness Society is a social services agency based in the Interior. ASK currently operates two supportive housing sites within the city, which are facilities designed to provide vulnerable members of the community with safe and affordable housing. Participants from these supportive housing sites can be hired within ASK’s Peer Ambassador Program, and while not earning a wage, are provided with stipends via gift cards to access food and life necessities. The program, which began operations in August of 2021, is temporarily funded with the financial support of BC Housing. It was developed with the intention of providing individuals with pre-employment skills and personal growth through community clean-up, debris pick-up and safe sharps disposal.
Keith Girard, Team Lead, has witnessed the positive results of the program first-hand. “I’ve heard from participants about the effects the program has had on their mental health. They’ve been able to budget their money better, they feel good about themselves when out in community, and it also strengthens their trust in others. I’ve directly witnessed participants becoming more open and comfortable sharing their struggles and background as they participate in the program.”
One program participant has been particularly impacted by the public’s response. They state, “I like the reception we get while out in the community, people waving, smiling, and telling us to keep up the good work.”
Three months after the program was established, ASK Wellness Society and the City of Penticton entered into a partnership to further support the program.
“The City of Penticton is proud to be able to support ASK Wellness Society and the Peer Ambassador program, which provide an opportunity for individuals to learn new skills, connect to the community and help create a cleaner and safer home for all of us,” says Mayor John Vassilaki. “This is an innovative project that shows how by working together we can make a difference for those in need.”
In the nine months since the program’s inception, the Ambassadors have cleaned up over 6,000 lbs of garbage and roughly 150 sharps, while employing 40 people who have collectively worked over 1000 hours. With the warmer weather approaching, the program is proving to be valuable to the community. Just recently, the Ambassadors supported the City’s Bylaw team in cleaning up a homeless encampment and continue to respond to calls from the community.
The program’s temporary funding will end in August of 2022. In order to sustain the positive effects seen both within community and on an individual level with program participants, ASK is hoping to identify and receive support from corporate and private donors to assist in keeping the program running.
On this #TeamTuesday, we are excited to introduce you to Bobby Hines (he/him).
Bobby in a tenant support worker at Fairhaven, a supportive housing program in Penticton. Bobby will be celebrating four years of working with ASK at the end of the month, on May 23rd.
I have lived experience with addiction and homelessness. I went to college for community support work. Four of my many values are the same as ASK Wellness Society: Hope, Inclusiveness, Trust, and Compassion.
Having the ability to provide safe, affordable housing to individuals at risk of homelessness.
I like to play the guitar, go fishing, and play golf.
I am a good cook.
Thank you, Bobby! We appreciate the support and dedication that you have given to ASK Wellness Society and to all program participants throughout the past four years.
It was thirty years ago, on May 2nd, 1992, that the AIDS Society of Kamloops was officially founded. Its founder, Alfons Jalink, had started the work of the AIDS Society of Kamloops in his basement in 1988, and with the help of the Society’s first Executive Director, Mary Ann Sandrelli, formally established the Society four years later in 1992. The Society’s initial focus was on providing support to community members who were living and dying with HIV/AIDS, by supporting their health and wellness, providing comfort, and educating the Kamloops community in an attempt to reduce stigma.
Throughout the past 30 years, the core values of Compassion, Hope, Inclusion, and Trust have remained the ethos of the Society. Over the last three decades, our support has expanded and broadened to provide advocacy, housing and support services to other marginalized members of our community. We pivoted our supports and implemented a Housing-First strategy, and yet continue to address discrimination and stigma placed on the most vulnerable members of our societies. This has been what led to the Society changing its name in 2016 to the ASK Wellness Society, in order to better reflect the scope of the initiatives we are involved in within the communities we serve.
ASK’s humble and “boots on the ground” roots continue to guide our work. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, community reactions towards those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS were not unlike the current reactions towards those living with mental illness and addictions today, as well as their family, friends and care providers. We have always understood that the negative reactions towards those who are marginalized are often based on fear and a lack of understanding. This has been the climate within many of the communities where ASK provides services. Words of scorn, contempt and shame are shared on social media regarding those who struggle to manage their mental health and substance misuse or find themselves unable to work and access housing. We know that those without homes, who are also experiencing other barriers to be meaningfully included in their communities, suffer disproportionately. ASK has always endeavored to be a safe and welcoming place for those who have nowhere else to turn, a place without judgment. We are known for our willingness to support each individual at whatever point they are at in their journey and for our commitment to help improve their circumstance, however possible. We know that ASK is criticized by some for helping certain individuals; however, without harm reduction and housing support, many of these individuals are at serious risk of harm and death. We truly believe that social justice for one group cannot be at the expense of other groups.
Many of those who we work with are living with seemingly insurmountable barriers. Addiction and mental illness can seem like hopeless causes, yet recovery is possible. It is what we see daily in our workplaces and our programs. We see individuals standing tall and full of pride for their achievements of living in recovery in a home and participating in community through work and volunteerism. In our work, we are in a constant process of balancing the need to act with compassion while also promoting and expecting personal accountability. This is at the heart of the work we do.
In reflecting upon our 30 years and where we now find ourselves, it is imperative to express our gratitude towards our funders, community partner organizations, our staff and volunteers, and the community members who support us across the cities of Kamloops, Merritt and Penticton. Through our collaborative services, you have helped us to provide hope and support, even during the most challenging of times. To improve upon the current housing and health crises we are facing, it truly will take a continuous collective approach. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with all stakeholders and advocates for the next 30 years, as we remain committed to demonstrating community service, and never giving up hope for a better tomorrow.
Article by Bob Hughes and Andrina Tenisci
Today, we are excited to introduce you to Trey Schell (he/him)! Trey is the Chef at our Spero House supportive housing program in Kamloops. He has been providing incredible meals to participants for three years as a member of the ASK team!
I have been working in Kitchens since I was 12. I started as a dishwasher and made my way up to cook, went to Culinary School, and worked every position until I learned all the skills necessary to become the Head Chef of the kitchen.
I wanted to be a part of this amazing team, I had respect and admiration for what ASK does for the community, and I wanted to do my part, to provide amazing food for the amazing clients.
I would have to say putting a smile on the clients’ faces when I cook their favourite dishes.
What makes me proud, is to know we are making a difference daily. We are giving people hope, and helping them with support. They see we care.
I produce music, go for hikes .
I used to run an Entertainment Agency and specialized in Tribute artists.
Whether spinning together a tune or crafting an amazing dish – Trey’s got it covered! Thank you, Trey, for all your hard work providing folks with nutritious and delicious meals over the years. We appreciate you and are lucky to have you on the ASK team!
Today, we are excited to introduce you to Emma Alcott (she/her)! Emma is a tenant support worker at our Fairhaven supportive housing program in Penticton. She has been a member of the ASK team for 7 months.
I went to school for psychology and have always been passionate about working in the field of mental health. I have seen a lot of negative connotations and stigma directed towards the homeless population as a whole, and I know how damaging that can be for an individual's mental health and sense of self-worth. I wanted to be in a position where I could help challenge some of these stigmas within the community and help those who are experiencing them to see they are just as worthy of compassion and empathy as anyone else.
I am proud to work for an organization that meets clients where they are at, and strives to come up with ways to help improve the lives of individuals in a way they are comfortable with, with zero judgement.
When I have spare time, I like to go on hikes and look for waterfalls.
When I sat down to write this holiday note to the ASK family, my thoughts were running wild between everything that has happened over the past year, where we stand as a Society now, and where we are headed in the year that lies ahead. I started reflecting on our “Year in Review” and wondered how I would be able to effectively capture and summarize all that was 2021. Looking back, it’s hard to believe just how much has happened in a single year. Across our local communities, across our Society, across our nation, and across the globe, there were countless storms to weather, both figuratively and literally. While you were all there to witness 2021 first-hand, it is important to look back and reflect on what was endured and overcome, the positive growth and change that occurred, and the accomplishments and successes achieved. So many of you have not only faced the challenges of our work mandate in this social and environmental climate, but also have faced your own personal demands. Finding our own sense of hope that we espouse with our clients has been a critical commitment and collectively we have shown that ‘no one gets left behind’.
This past year has presented us with an array of challenges; the continuation of a Global Pandemic, an Affordable Housing Crisis, the half-decade point of a provincial Opioid Overdose Health Emergency, the unrelenting vengeance of Mother Nature providing deadly weather conditions throughout the seasons, and a hollowing reminder of Canada’s dark history of attempted genocide towards Indigenous peoples… to name a few. These challenges not only had a have a deep impact on our folks, but on each and every one of us as well. Yet, we did not waiver or move an inch in our fierce dedication to the values and vision of ASK Wellness Society. Looking at the challenges we faced, makes the work that has taken place this year that much more remarkable. I am proud that as an organization, on both an operational and individual level, we have committed to improving our cultural safety. We have accepted the need for change and improvement in our language, in our day-to-day practices, in our operations, and in our physical buildings. While we have strengthened our training with 2SLGTBQ+ and Indigenous workshops, it is only just the beginning. Strengthening cultural knowledge while removing biases will take ongoing work and dedication and I believe that while we have come a long way, we still do have a way to go on this journey.
This year we were able to continue to develop and deliver new programming and housing in each of the regions we serve. This includes the upcoming supportive housing program, Nx̌astwilxtn, that is set to open in our Penticton region in 2022. This recovery-focused supportive housing model will see us partnered with Ooknakane Friendship Centre, providing Indigenous cultural supports. We saw the initiation and development of the two 55+ buildings that will provide much needed affordable housing for seniors, Cedar Terrace in Merritt and Cookie’s Place in Kamloops. This year has also seen the adaptation of our Maverick program, from a transitional housing program to a three-tiered recovery program, an essential missing resource in our community. While we have seen the necessary growth of our housing supports to respond to community need, at the same time, it is clear that recovery and employment services have become an increased focus. Those two areas of focus will continue to be nurtured into the new year. It was fitting to conclude 2021 with our Annual Gathering on World AIDS Day, which allowed us all to pause and reflect on the critical work that we do, and ultimately to bring us back to our roots to remind us WHY we do it.
Overall, I send out this message to remind you all to stop, take a breath, and be proud of the work and energy that you put into this past year. ASK’s greatest strength is our ability to remain united as a team in spite of whatever the universe throws at us. We are a positive force in our community and alongside our community partners, we adapt based on unpredictable changes and ensure those we serve continue to feel our commitment to them, as we provide them hope. I do believe that “managing and adapting through uncertainty” is a great catchall for what the ASK team has been able to accomplish throughout the year. During these times of challenge, along with community polarization, we succeeded in focusing on our mission and our purpose. This past year we have proven our unrelenting ability to not only keep the ship afloat throughout the storm, but to also navigate the ship towards safer waters for those aboard. Now, as the countdown to 2022 has begun, we approach our 30th year as a Society. It is awe-inspiring to think that we have been providing services to the most vulnerable members of our communities for almost three decades. I am incredibly proud of the work of ASK and remain excited and ready to forge on alongside you and lead you all into our 30th year ahead.
To each and every one of you – staff, donors, funders, volunteers, community members, partner organizations and business, and program participants, I thank you for your ongoing hard work, dedication, compassion, and grit. The respect and admiration I feel when witnessing the commitment of our employees and board members in providing hope during times of such heightened uncertainty is overwhelming. Please, continue to take care of yourselves and those around you. Wishing you, and your loved ones, a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season!
Happy to have 2021 soon in the rear-view mirror and looking forward to 2022 with we a renewed sense of hope!
ASK Wellness Society, CEO
Happy New Year's Eve! To all staff, donors, funders, volunteers, community members, partner organizations and businesses, program participants, and anyone else who contributed to strengthening ASK Wellness Society's mission and vision in 2021, we THANK YOU and extend our deepest gratitude! 2021 was an eventful and trying year - alongside the challenges and tragedies that we faced, we also saw growth, resiliency, and successes! Enjoy this ASK Highlight Reel that captures many of those moments. Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year ahead; we look forward to the 2022 highlight moments to come.
After overcoming an array of obstacles, Corey reached out to ASK Wellness Society to seek assistance with finding housing. While Corey’s journey with ASK started with a housing search, it has continued on to so much more. This is Corey’s story.