It’s nearly impossible to talk about the history of the North Shore Community Resources Society without the conversation turning to the future.
The charitable organization began its life as the North Shore Volunteer Action Committee, parlaying a small United Way grant to become an information outlet for do-gooders looking for a place to do some good.
“If somebody’s interested in volunteering … we match them up with an interviewer who will spend some time with them to understand their background and skills and interests,” explains the society’s executive director Murray Mollard.
After publicizing the option for volunteers in the pages of the North Shore News (then known as the North Shore Shopper), the first incarnation of the NSCRS functioned very much like its current incarnation, encourage volunteering as a “critical element to building strong and healthy and thriving communities,” Mollard notes.
Looking to the organization’s future, Mollard is concentrating on affordable housing.
“How are we going to make the North Shore an inclusive place for all people, for all ages, for different levels of income, so that this community can remain a diverse and rich and supportive place?” he asks.
While the society’s annual general meeting is scheduled for Monday, Mollard seemed equally excited about a “housing cabaret” he’s organizing for February or early March of 2017.
He’s hoping the NSCRS can function as a convener for “inter-generational conversations” about housing.
“How can we empower people?” he asks.
Towards that aim, NSCRS has scheduled Generation Squeeze founder Paul Kershaw to speak at Monday’s annual general meeting about where resources should be allocated to put generations on an even footing.
NSCRS has also been working with Economic Partnership North Vancouver, an organization formed to assist investors and entrepreneurs.
Mollard said he “never thought” EPNV would be interested in collaboration, but found the issue of housing touched the economy in surprising ways.
“Lo and behold, when I talked to them, they said: ‘Well look, our employers here, they need people to work at their jobs and they’ve got to live somewhere relatively close by,’” he explains. “It’s become a community-wide issue regardless of where you’re coming from.”
Like all non-profits, NSCRS has had to tighten its belt in recent years, notes manager of information and volunteer programs Nancy Hollstedt.
“There’s some serious funding challenges that the non-profit sector faced, particularly since the 2008 financial crisis,” she explains.
NSCRS spent about $1,566,348 in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016. Approximately $966,499, was spent on wages, benefits and training.
Program expenses and equipment were the second biggest cost at $210,000.
In order to free up some cash, about half of NSCRS’s management – including Hollstedt – work part-time to allow the front line staff to work full-time.
“We’re still able to support individuals (with cognitive or physical disabilities), throughout those funding challenges and those funding cuts,” Hollstedt says.
The charity used to provide a full-service office with lawyers who tended to help lower-income clients access benefits and deal with landlord disputes.
“Unfortunately, we had to shut that office down when funding cuts came in in the early 2000s,” Mollard says.
However, they’ve continued to run a community legal services program, providing legal advocates on poverty law matters as well as offering advice and referrals.
The society does a good portion of their work with the oldest and youngest members of the community, helping seniors age in place and helping new parents find a place for childcare.
“If someone’s looking to find childcare for their kids, they come here,” Mollard says.
The AGM begins at 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 28, on the third floor of the North Vancouver City Library. The meeting is open to the public.