In its nearly 40 years of operation, North Coast Community Services (NCCS) has striven to enhance the lives of people living in the region through its programs.
This summer, access to services will be easier than ever for vulnerable individuals and families living on the North Coast thanks in part to a donation from a legacy initiative by the Port of Prince Rupert.
Evolving its service throughout the years
North Coast Community Services (formally known as the Prince Rupert Community Enrichment Society) is one of the region’s most utilized social services organization, being home to just under 10 programs supporting parents and their children, pregnant women and survivors of violent crimes.
More than 600 people use NCCS programs each year, including clients that come from Haida Gwaii and outlying communities to access services.
The origins of NCCS took place in 1977, when it was incorporated as the Prince Rupert Youth Enrichment Society. In its early days, the society’s focus was on the rehabilitation and improvement of at-risk youth.
But within a few years, it had broadened its scope of work. By 1981, the social service agency was running programs for children and youth, as well as adults and families. It was around this time it was renamed the Prince Rupert Community Enrichment Society.
While its programming and services have continuously changed over the years due to funding changes, the society’s home has remained on Fraser Street for decades.
In 2015, the society was redesigned into North Coast Community Services, with Sherry Beal becoming its executive director. Beal worked for the agency back in the ’90s, returning as its leader.
“It plays such an important role in the community,” Beal said.
“I wanted to help (with the work it does).”
Community Investment Fund supports improved accessibility
NCCS was the latest beneficiary of the Port of Prince Rupert’s Community Investment Fund, an initiative the corporation started in 2010. A portion of the port’s annual income is donated to community projects that increase quality of life and create long-lasting benefits.
The port supplied $15,425 to NCCS for its reconfiguration project, consisting of an overhaul of the facility’s back entrance.
The project included the installation of a wheelchair ramp and expanded concrete walkway for easier accessibility, as well as the construction of a security gate and privacy fencing around the back area of the building.
Port of Prince Rupert President and CEO Don Krusel said the agency is proud to support NCCS, noting the society works with some of the most vulnerable members of the region to improve their quality of life.
“Ensuring these vital services can continue to be delivered in a safe and efficient way is imperative to the health of the communities in which we operate, and we thank the staff and volunteers of NCCS for their unwavering commitment,” he said.
The port’s contribution covered a little more than half of the project’s total expenses, with NCCS footing the remainder of the bill. Beal said without support from the port, it would’ve likely taken many more years for the society to save up all of the money required for the upgrades.
The upgrade project was finished last fall, and has made the agency more accessible for people of all capacities and physical abilities, while also ensuring the safety and privacy of clients using NCCS services.
Improved accessibility and delivery of services
The improvements to the back entrance of North Coast Community Services has already made a difference in its programming.
Staff and clients are no longer forced to stay indoors for meetings, with the new fencing allowing the privacy that is necessary. The society was also able to purchase a couple picnic benches within the project’s budget.
“It’s a fairly big back area, but we weren’t able to use it,” said Beal.
“Now that it’s fenced off, families can be outside and enjoy the outdoors together,” she said.
Beal said NCCS programs have already taken advantage of the new outdoor space, including the Pregnancy Outreach Program that has hosted barbecues for its clients, and Family Skills Program that has allowed parents to spend their supervised visits outside with their children.
Furthermore, now that people of all capacities and physical abilities are able to enter the facility with ease, more people have been accessing its services.
Cathy Campbell, who runs the Pregnancy Outreach Program at NCCS, said more clients have been using the program since upgrades to the back entrance were completed, attributing the increase to improved accessibility.
“It makes a huge difference. Mothers with double strollers couldn’t use the back entrance before; it was very difficult for them,” she said, noting it was also a struggle for seniors and people with mobility issues.
“Now it’s accessible for everybody.”