The Timmins Friendship Centre in number one. Literally.
From 119 Friendship Centres across the country, the Timmins Native Friendship Centre topped them all and received the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) award for excellence.
In recognition of outstanding achievement in governance, leadership, administration, management, staff satisfaction, cultural relevance and strategic planning, the Timmins Native Friendship Centre (TNFC) earned the national award at the NAFC 42nd Annual General Meeting held in North Battleford, Saskatchewan in July.
Timmins Friendship Centre executive director Veronica Nicholson, attributed this accomplishment to the dedicated staff of the centre. She said the staff strive to make positive strategies and build capacity and transparency to support urban Aboriginals.
“This award was based on all the work we did over the years and in the last year,” Nicholson said. She said that the staff were humbled and honoured.
“This award was unexpected,” she said.
“First they recognized 17 Friendship Centre’s right across Canada and were given a lovely certificate. That was all that I thought we were receiving.”
Nicholson said from the 17 recognized centres the association narrowed it down to eight centres eligible for the national award and then from eight they narrowed it down to four.
“When they announced the Timmins Native Friendship Centre at the general meeting it was like “Oh, My Gosh”. I just instantly thought of all the people who I work with and all the people who had a hand in bringing us forward to where we are today,” she said.
“I don’t even remember walking from my chair to the stage. I think the spirits must have carried me to it. It was so humbling.”
When Nicholson returned to Timmins with the trophy of excellence, she modestly notified the board of directors and the staff.
The criteria guidelines required to earn the award are set by the NAFC. Nicholson believes the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC) was involved in choosing the award recipient.
“The OFIFC highlighted three friendship centers that were doing exceptionally well. It was Timmins, N’Swakamok and United NFC,” she said.
The Timmins Friendship Centre has come a long way since first operating out of a suitcase in the sixties.
“The Timmins Native Friendship Centre has grown into the largest service provider for urban Aboriginal people,” she said.
“It’s always been our continuous goal to learn more about each other. This will strengthen our socioeconomic needs here in Timmins for the people who live here.”
The centre opened a new building in April 2013.
Nicholson said above the social and educational benefits the TNFC want to build lasting community relationships. They are a well known pillar in the city of Timmins and the new larger TNFC centre is an indication of the need for the services and workers.
“We look at what our other community partners want and we want to work with them and share resources. You know it’s about all community partners moving forward in a good way,” she said.
In keeping with the NAFC award standards, the TNFC plans on continuing to be leaders by being involved in initiatives like the Timmins 2020 Strategic Plan. Good initiatives for affordable housing, health and wellness, health workers, economics and social planning are on the priority list.
This isn’t the first time the TNFC won an award. The centre has also been the recipient of the Model Friendship Centre Award and other awards from business agencies like the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.
“When you run a non-profit organization you have all this stuff you deal with on a day to day basis and then you have the business stuff,” Nicholson said.
“And then sometimes it doesn’t always jive with community members. I guess that is a challenge because you want to conduct business in a good way and it has to be open and transparent.”
In working with community partners and building capacity, the TNFC has initiated partnerships between youth and organizations like Timmins Police Service and Canadian Tire. Nicholson said the new centre will continue to offer a place for the organization to grow and evolve into a dynamic centre.
“The facilities are great here. The staff here goes far beyond their job descriptions. We do this work because it’s meaningful and it is what people need and it’s what we need too. We need to help our people to live that good life and then there will be lots of wins. It continues to be very meaningful work for me. I’m happy with what I do and it’s challenging and rewarding.”
Receiving an award like the NAFC award, allows an organization to create networks and it recognizes the success and accomplishments of it. Awards give creditability to an organization and inspire the staff to focus even more on the organization and clients.
Nicholson echoes this sentiment, “It was just such a great pat on the back to say; Wow, people really do recognize the valuable work we do and it’s such an honour.”
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