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Feature Article - September 22, 2005

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Feature Article

September 22, 2005

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North Frontenac Community Services: The early years, 1975-1985

by Jeff Green

For the first article in the series, visit Part 1: NFCS30th Anniversary

This weekend a reunion will be held to mark the 30th anniversary of the incorporation of North Frontenac Community Services Corporation (NFCS). Three weeks ago we ran a story about the development of NFCS before it became incorporated in 1975. This week we will look at the 10 years after incorporation, a period in which NFCS developed rapidly, creating new programs and seeing many programs turn themselves into independent entities. This was also the period during which the idea of North Frontenac as a region began to take hold.

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In an edition of the North Frontenac News in 1982, there was an article about an upcoming NFCS Annual General Meeting. The article boasted that the NFCS AGMs had become the Social Events of the year.

“From its humble beginnings in 1976, the annual meeting has blossomed into a gala pot-luck supper, and time of introspection and dreaming, a challenging speaker and a hotly contested election!”

In 1979 Keith Norton, then Minister of Community and Social Services with the Bill Davis government, was the guest speaker; in 1980 it was Patrick Watson; and in 1981 it was Wayne Rostad. The meetings were held at different locations each year. In 1982 the guest speaker was Reverend Norman Johnston, the founder of “Operation go Home” in Ottawa.

At that time, NFCS had enjoyed a period of unceasing growth. In 1979, core funding for the agency had been assured by the Ministry of Community and Social Services in Toronto, and by 1983 there were 16 people working at NFCS in various roles, under the direction of Larry Leafloor, who served as Executive Director from 1978-1985. Services offered included: family counseling; a community integration program for ex-convicts; home support services for seniors; manpower and unemployment insurance services; Children’s Aid Society service; vocational rehabilitation services; and services for youth and the developmentally handicapped.

Other projects the agency was involved with included: job readiness training; publishing a directory of children’s services; credit counseling; a Legal Aid clinic; an ombudsman’s service; and a swim program (in conjunction with the township’s). As well, NFCS published the North Frontenac News.

Brad Flear, who now works in the insurance business in Frontenac County, worked for NFCS from 1978 until 1995, most of the time as a family counselor. He remembers the first few years he worked at NFCS as a time of great growth, and changes in the way the agency governed itself.

“Larry Leafloor was excellent at developing and finding funds for new services. Of course the times were right for social service development, with Trudeau in Ottawa. But as NFCS developed there was tension about how the board and the staff would relate to each other,” Brad Flear said in an interview this week.

Flear recalls when NFCS staff all would come to board meetings, which would have about 25 people attending, and everyone had a vote, staff and board members alike.

Different people had different agendas. In the early 1980’s Bob Lovelace, then a community Legal Worker with NFCS, got involved along with Harold Perry in what has become known as the Ardoch Wild Rice Dispute, a political and economic struggle that culminated in a stand off with the OPP, which ended peacefully.

“I went to Larry Leafloor, and told him that this was going to take a lot of resources from the agency as the dispute was heating up,” Lovelace recalls. “He said that was fine.”

This kind of political role is no longer, and could no longer, be played by a agencies such as NFCS, but at that time a political role beyond advocating for services was possible for the organization.

Another major stream of effort in those years was in the areas of community and economic development. A community development officer was on staff at NFCS until 1990, and the development of the Highway 7 Community Development Corporation came out of efforts to promote economic development in the region.

A document called “Aims and Objectives of the North Frontenac Community Services Corporation” was published as part of a special issue of the North Frontenac News in April of 1982.

It listed two “basic aims” of the organization:

“Firstly, to continue to develop and maintain a multi-service concept for the delivery of human and social services for the residents of North Frontenac.

“Secondly, to be actively involved in as many aspects of community development as time and resources permit.”

Listed as objectives are the maintenance of the 18 services offered by the organization, and under “community initiatives” there are 10 groupings of initiatives, each including between 5 and 15 subheadings. It is an ambitious list.

Interestingly enough, some of the items on the list have come about, while most of the other ones are still issues that are of concern to this day.

One area that was identified as a concern was to “give increased priority to the needs of children.”

In this regard, an independent group of mothers began meeting, with children in tow, in 1983. This group expanded and also became ambitious, eventually forging an alliance with North Frontenac Community Services and building the Child Centre, a combination day care centre, nursery, and children’s services hub, which opened in 1991. Children’s Services became a separately administered division of NFCS, and remains so to this day.

A structure developed whereby there was an Executive Director of the Agency, a director of Adult Services, and a Director of Children’s Services. Throughout the 1980’s and into the 1990’s the role of the Board of Directors at NFCS changed and there were various periods of tension and even crisis, brought on by personalities, the structure of the organization, and increasingly, concerns over funding.

(In part 3 of this series we will look at the building of the Child Centre and its development through the 1990’s, and at the internal struggles within NFCS which came to a head in the mid 1990’s, followed by a funding crisis that brought the organization to within a hair of closing down the adult services division.)

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