The ASK Wellness Society would like to acknowledge that our programs and facilities operate on Secwepemcúl'ecw, Nłeʔkepmx Tmíxʷ, and Syilx tmixʷ traditional and unceded territories.
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Good afternoon, everyone!

As you know, we are less than two weeks away from our municipal civic election. Our locally elected officials are responsible for making decisions that affect our daily lives as citizens, as families, and as a business community. These elected officials not only influence our jobs, but they help create safe communities for British Columbians and shape the long-term vision for our community. It is a high level of trust and responsibility being placed on these elected individuals to make decisions on our behalf. Because of this, we strongly encourage everyone to have their voice heard - by way of voting. We also encourage everyone to educate themselves on the mayoral candidates’ and the councillor candidates’ platforms. Learn about their vision, their beliefs and values, and what they plan to focus on in the city, should they be the successful candidate.

There are many resources to explore to learn more about each mayoral and councillor candidate – we are sharing only a small portion of those resources below. There are also many opportunities to learn more about candidates and ask questions through upcoming civic forums. Again, we encourage anyone interested to attend these forums to learn more about the future leader of your city, as well as respective councillors.

Local Forums

Kamloops

TUESDAY, OCT. 4, 6:15 P.M.

CFJC-TV and the Kamloops and District Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to host an all-candidates forum for councillor and mayoral candidates in the Grand Hall at Thompson Rivers University. Doors will open at 6:15 p.m., with the forum beginning at 7 p.m.

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 5, 7 P.M.

Kamloops This Week, CBC Radio and Radio NL are staging an all-candidates forum in the Grand Hall at Thompson Rivers University for councillor and mayoral candidates. It will feature a mayoral session, followed by councillor candidates answering public questions. You can attend in person and ask a question of the candidates or you can catch the forum online via KTW’s Facebook page.

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 12, 5:30 P.M.

The Central Interior chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and the Association of Interior Realtors are hosting an all-candidates forum for mayoral and councillor candidates at Colombo Lodge, east of downtown at 814 Lorne St., on Oct. 12. Registration and networking will begin at 5:30 p.m., and the dinner event will run until 9:00 p.m. Voters planning on attending must first register on the CHBA-CI’s website.

Mayoral Candidate Profiles

Kamloops

Sadie Hunter: websiteKTW featureCFJC feature

Dieter Dudy: websiteKTW featureCFJC feature

Arjun Singh: websiteCFJC feature

Reid Hamer-Jackson: websiteCFJC feature

Ray Dhaliwal: websiteKTW featureCFJC feature

Merritt

Get to know the candidates: Linda Brown (current Mayor)

Get to know the candidates: Mike Goetz (former councillor)

Get to know the candidates: Tony Luck (current councillor)

Get to know the candidates: Mike Bhangu (former councillor)

Penticton

Get to know the candidates: Jason Reynen

Get to know the candidates: Owen Hayward

Get to know the candidates: John Vassilaki (current Mayor)

Get to know the candidates: Corey Hounslow

Get to know the candidates: Julius Bloomfield (current councillor)

Information on How/Where to Vote:

Kamloops

Merritt

Penticton

Happy researching and hope to see many of you this week at one of the forums!

WHAT LED YOU TO BE INTERESTED IN WORKING FOR ASK WELLNESS SOCIETY/THE SOCIAL SERVICES FIELD?
 I lived with addiction previously and wanted to help people in the community.

WHAT MAKES YOU MOST PROUD ABOUT YOUR ROLE WITHIN ASK?
 I am proud when someone walks out of my office with a smile on their face, knowing they will be okay. If I can only help by lending an ear, well that’s okay! Sometimes that’s all a person needs!

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
 Love to go for walks and park hopping! I’m also currently learning how to bead!

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU JUST CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT?
 Timmy’s and my kiddos

CAN YOU TELL US A FUN FACT OR SOMETHING FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?

 I recently learned how to long board and love it

The Housing Outreach team helps to find housing opportunities for those who are unhoused, provides rental subsidies, offers daily living and hygiene items for those in need, and connects folks to other resources in the community – among many other things! Jo leads the team through it all to make it happen and, ultimately, to help support thousands of people across our Kamloops community! Thank you, Jo, for all your hard work and your dedication in supporting our program participants. We hope you enjoy a summer full of beading, long boarding and time with your family!

Today we are excited to introduce you to Stephanie (Steph) Winston! Steph joined the ASK Wellness Society team in February 2022 and for the past five months has been working as an Administrative Clerk. Steph is certainly not a one-word wonder. We were happy to chat with Steph and get to know all about her extensive (incomplete) art projects and her love of adventure! 

WHAT LED YOU TO BE INTERESTED IN WORKING FOR ASK WELLNESS SOCIETY?
I have always had an interest in, maybe even a passion for, working in the social sector. The compassion and strength that ASK exudes absolutely pulled me in! The Society has done, and will continue to do, great things for folks who need it most. I am proud to be a part of that.


WHAT MAKES YOU MOST PROUD ABOUT YOUR ROLE WITHIN ASK?
All the little ways I can help out. By taking on extra tasks to help free up time for others, I have had the opportunity to assist in several departments. This has helped me understand how they all interconnect and ways that I can help improve the overall flow. I like getting to learn all the different processes, and especially love to meet and chat with folks when they come by the People Experience office.

WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST ABOUT WORKING FOR ASK?
The atmosphere, 100%.  I actually WANT to come to work.  My colleagues have been so warm and welcoming, and I feel valued here.  ASK fosters such an inclusive, open, and diverse attitude, which absolutely makes me hope to be here for the long haul!  The resilience I see day to day from staff who are committed to helping out program participants and coworkers is inspiring! It also fans my own commitments towards help and change.


WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
I like to think about and plan all the cool art projects I want to do… but will likely never ever get around to. I have a bad habit of seeing something I think is neat, thinking it’ll be quick and easy, getting all the supplies and then promptly putting off starting it. But seriously, I love to camp and explore, and I will be the friend who takes four hours to do a 2 km walk because I stop to look at all the little things along the way. I’m also the person who will bring home that cool looking rock… just because!   

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU JUST CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT?
Oof, this is a tough question. Probably books.  I have enough to open my own library and have been known to come home with a copy of a book I already own because I forgot I already own it, haha.  My dream is to one day build my own personal library room with all of the little reading nooks and comfortable pillows!

CAN YOU TELL US A FUN FACT OR SOMETHING FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I have a scar from being attacked by a lion in Mexico, and my double-jointed elbows seem to weird people out.  I believe that there is a silver lining in everything, sometimes you just have to be a little weird to find it.

Well, we are extremely curious about this lion situation, but we’ll follow up on that one some other time… Thank you for all your hard work and support to our various departments, Steph! You have been a glowing light addition to our administrative team!

In June, we recognized both National Indigenous Peoples Day and Indigenous History Month. Throughout the month, we acknowledged the importance of celebrating and recognizing the rich and diverse cultures, voices, experiences and histories of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.

Even though we have turned the page on the calendar, ASK Wellness Society encourages all members of our staff team to continue to learn about Canadian Indigenous History. We continuously seek to find new ways in which we can better support and work more collaboratively with our Indigenous peers, program participants and communities. Each member of our team is required to participate in Cultural Awareness training, and below we have shared some additional resources. If you are aware of other educational programs or learning tools, please share them with us to add to our list of resources.

Resource List:

Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc (TteS) website History page [with We Will Always Be Here video link]: https://tkemlups.ca/profile/history/our-story/

Syilx Okanagan Nation History and Additional Resources: https://www.syilx.org/about-us/syilx-nation/

Nlaka'pamux Nation Tribal Council Website: https://www.nntc.ca/index.html

Government of Canada Learning Resources: https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1621447127773/1621447157184

School District 73 Strategic Plan Artwork: Honouring Indigenous Voices [VIDEO]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrW7L0DEcvw

City of Kamloops Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc History: https://www.kamloops.ca/our-community/tkemlups-te-secwepemc/history

City of Kamloops Heritage & Culture [AUDIO included]: https://www.kamloops.ca/our-community/tkemlups-te-secwepemc/heritage-culture

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 bluepink 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 l.maloney@askwellness.ca

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.

WHAT LED YOU TO BE INTERESTED IN WORKING FOR ASK WELLNESS SOCIETY/THE SOCIAL SERVICES FIELD?

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.

WHAT MAKES YOU MOST PROUD ABOUT YOUR ROLE WITHIN ASK?

Having the ability to provide safe, affordable housing to individuals at risk of homelessness.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?

I like to play the guitar, go fishing, and play golf.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU JUST CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT?

 Pizza

CAN YOU TELL US A FUN FACT OR SOMETHING FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?

 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!

HOW DID YOU END UP BECOMING A CHEF?

 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.

WHAT LED YOU TO BE INTERESTED IN WORKING FOR ASK WELLNESS SOCIETY?

 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.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF THE JOB?

 I would have to say putting a smile on the clients’ faces when I cook their favourite dishes.

WHAT MAKES YOU MOST PROUD ABOUT YOUR ROLE WITHIN ASK?

 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.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?

 I produce music, go for hikes .

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU JUST CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT?

 My family.

CAN YOU TELL US A FUN FACT OR SOMETHING FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?

 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!

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