|Back to Home||Feature Article - June 21, 2012|
NFCS AGMby Jeff Green
Photo: Life memberships were presented to Tom and Eileen Christenson to mark their 15-year long commitment to delivering Meals on Wheels
When Northern Frontenac Community Services (NFCS) decided to hold their 37th Annual General Meeting at the Ompah hall, there were concerns that the turnout would suffer, as the Ompah hall is on the northern edge of the agency's foot print. (NFCS shares responsibility for North Frontenac Township with Land O’Lakes Community Services, which covers most of Barrie ward).
But when Pam Giroux got up to deliver her keynote address to the meeting it was to packed hall. Representatives from other agencies, officials from funding agencies and governments, board members and local supporters alike had made their way to Ompah for the meeting.
Pam Giroux’s comments touched on one of the unique aspects of the NFCS basket of services, the Aboriginal education program for preschoolers and primary grade students that is run by Marcie Asselstine.
The program grew out of Marcie’s interest in exploring her own roots in Algonquin culture. As a childhood educator at the Child Centre at NFCS, Marcie has been encouraged, first by former Executive Director Sue Leslie, and now by current Executive Director Don Amos, to develop an Aboriginal theme to the programming that is delivered to playgroups that the Child Centre runs in communities across Frontenac County.
At first Marcie was given one day a week to run an Aboriginal playgroup, but over the years bits of money have been found to expand the program, and now she is working almost full time on the Aboriginal program, which is now delivered in the school system as well.
When Pam Giroux moved to Sharbot Lake from Toronto in the 1960s to teach at Sharbot Lake High School, she knew little about Aboriginal culture. Over the years as a teacher and mother of four in the local area, she became exposed to Algonquin culture through some of the efforts of the Manomin Keesis group in the 1980s and early 1990s. About 10 years ago she went to a workshop where she was re-acquainted with some of the people from Manomin Keesis and was introduced to drumming. Out of that workshop a group of women drummers and singers started up, eventually becoming known as “Sisters of the Drum”. The Sisters have been performing ever since, locally and regionally, at gatherings of all kinds, from Pow Wows to Remembrance Day Ceremonies and the Strawberry Moon festivals that are held each year to mark the end of the NFCS Aboriginal program. All of these experiences have exposed Pam Giroux, who does not have any blood connection to the Algonquin community, to a raft of Algonquin cultural practices and traditions.
“My journey on the red road has certainly been an enriching experience,” she told the audience at the NFCS AGM.
She also recounted an experience that she remembers from her parenting days, when one of her sons asked why other students in his class had called him a frog, because his last name was Giroux.
“I told him that he was of French Canadian descent, that he was not a frog, and he never mentioned it again. It does show what can be said in schoolyards, however, and I remember that in those years very few of the kids in the local schools talked about their native heritage.
“But now, thanks to Marcie’s Aboriginal program, kids come forward and say ‘I have native blood’, my family is Algonquin’ – it develops a pride in heritage and brings an end to prejudice. This makes me more optimistic about the future,” said Pam Giroux.
The NFCS Aboriginal Program is one of the smallest that is run by the agency, which spends about $2 million each year on programming for all ages. It delivers children and youth programming throughout Frontenac, and Adult and Senior Programming in Central and North Frontenac.
As part of the AGM, Executive Director Don Amos presented staff recognition awards to Charity Garey (Youth Co-ordinator), to mark 5 years of service; Megan Hughes (Data Analysis Co-ordinator), Lisa Hamilton and Jennifer Morin (Early Childhood Educators), 10 years; and Kevin Raison (Family Counsellor) 15 years.
Life memberships were presented to Tom and Eileen Christenson to mark their 15-year long commitment to delivering Meals on Wheels.
Tom and Eileen have moved to Perth in recent years, but they still travel to Sharbot Lake to deliver meals each and every week.