'A Great Start for Families: Kahwà:tsire Ronwatiyenawá:se Centre' awarded largest grant in CFKA's history

The Community Foundation for Kingston & Area (CFKA) awarded the largest grant in the foundation’s history to Family and Children’s Services of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington’s 'A Great Start for Families: Kahwà:tsire Ronwatiyenawá:se Centre,' on Friday, Apr. 19, 2024.

Stacy G. Kelly, executive director of the CFKA, announced the three-year grant of over $808,000 at a formal reception at Kingston Community Health Centres on Weller Avenue in Kingston.

He noted that the colossal grant was made possible through the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul Community Impact Fund.

"A Great Start for Families: Kahwà:tsire Ronwatiyenawá:se Centre," Kelly said, “was created in consultation with the communities it would serve as a partnership between the staff and families, to create a welcoming space where families could feel comfortable walking through the door, confident that their cultural life experiences are valued and respected.”

This funding will sustain, enhance, and expand the centre’s innovative model for serving families with young children in Kingston and the surrounding area. Opened in October 2022, the centre offers families access to services with a cultural approach that is inclusive of identity, race, language, and the diverse lived experiences of community members, including but not limited to First Nations, Inuit, Métis, Black, and LGBTQ2S+ identities. The formal announcement event highlighted and celebrated the vital work of the many local organizations collaborating at the centre to serve and support families with young children.

“A few years ago the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul came to CFKA with a vision: prevent and mitigate the lifelong impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and build resiliency in children and families,” said Kelly. “They also presented us with a mission: invest in high-impact, local initiatives that will support transformative, sustainable, systems-level change. Our funding of A Great Start for Families: Kahwà:tsire Ronwatiyenawá:se Centre answers that call with an innovative, collaborative, and genuinely community-built solution."

Amanda Colacicco, executive director of Family and Children’s Services of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, spoke next, saying, “In having spent time [at] A Great Start for Families: Kahwà:tsire Ronwatiyenawá:se Centre with families, the team, and community partners, I can say that the positive impact of the centre can be felt in each interaction. [Family and Children's Services] offers our sincere gratitude to The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul for casting a vision to mobilize community-built solutions and for this incredibly meaningful investment, alongside the support of CFKA and all our community partners in realizing this multi-year expansion. The sustainability and growth of A Great Start for Families: Kahwà:tsire Ronwatiyenawá:se Centre supports the collective vision we all share for the resilience and well-being of children, young people, and families in our communities.”

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Vincent de Paul gifted CFKA with $5 million in 2021. General Superior Sr. Sandra Shannon thanked CFKA for using the gift to carry on the Sisters' good work.

Sr. Shannon explained that since their mission began over 160 years ago, “the Sisters would see an unmet need in the community or hear of an unmet need somewhere and would try to answer that need. They worked hard, and in the beginning with absolutely nothing.”

“Eventually, when they started to work on this unmet need, they would train others to take over, and once the Sisters felt comfortable, they would entrust that mission to the others, and they would move on to another unmet need," Sr. Shannon continued. “Today, because of our increasing age and diminishing numbers, we no longer have the hands to do what we used to do… CFKA has now become our hands, and through the donation that we gave to them, they are carrying on our mission.”

She added that the Sisters were “so pleased” about the grant and the recipients: “The fact that the centre serves an average of 150 families per month tells us that this service is addressing an unmet need in our community. The collaboration, the creativity, the impact of the centre is innovative and exciting. To all those involved… we say thank you, and we wish you success in your future.”

Vicki Casey, program coordinator of A Great Start for Families: Kahwà:tsire Ronwatiyenawá:se Centre, hosted the ceremony and provided tours of the centre.

Jennie Hill, Indigenous Healthy Babies, Healthy Children worker with the Ontario Native Women’s Association, also spoke at the event, highlighting the programs she has been able to provide in partnership with the centre. Having a “touchdown desk” at the centre, Hill said, has given her space to work and opportunities to build relationships with partner organizations.

Representatives from other partnering organizations also joined the festivities, including Kingston Community Health Centres, Kewaywin Circle, Kids Inclusive (KHSC), City of Kingston, Métis Nation of Ontario, Maltby Centre, KFL&A Public Health, Kingston Military Family Resource Centre, Ontario Native Women’s Association, Addiction & Mental Health Services, Resolve, Indigenous Interprofessional Primary Care Team, Ontario Works - Learning, Earning & Parenting, Thrive, Kahwà;tsire Indigenous-Led Child and Family Program, Childbirth Kingston, and Ruthy’s Reading Room.

Michelle Dorey Forestell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kingstonist.com