Provincial Friendship Centre AGM cancelled

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

After 25 years of serving the community, the Hinton Friendship Centre Society was supposed to host the provincial annual general meeting for the Alberta Native Friendship Centre Association (ANFCA).

Unfortunately the big event everyone at the friendship centre was waiting for was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yvonne Oshanyk, executive director of the Hinton Friendship Centre, said that provincial board members decided at their last meeting that they couldn’t hold off on a decision any longer and had to cancel the event.

“They didn’t really want to cancel it either and we certainly didn’t want to but it’s more important for people to be safe,” Oshanyk said.

Back in 2004, Hinton also hosted the provincial AGM, but this year was supposed to celebrate some major milestones as ANFCA is also celebrating 50 years of serving Albertans, Oshanyk said.

The provincial AGM will now likely be held virtually, similar to the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) AGM which is set to stream live in July.

The provincial AGM was scheduled in September this year and delegates from the 21 centres across the province planned to visit and stay in the community for the event.

Youth from friendship centres across the province would have attended a youth forum at the centre in Hinton and a banquet for all AGM attendees would have been held at the Legion, said Oshanyk.

She hoped to see her provincial counterparts one more time before retiring at the end of this year.

“I am very sad because this is my last year working and my 25th year, I’ve been here from Day 1. Before day one,” Oshanyk said.

Oshanyk worked at the Edson Friendship Centre for some time and noticed the good work they were doing before she and two others got together to form the Hinton Friendship Centre 25 years ago.

After presenting at the provincial AGM, Oshanyk and the two other board members joined the Friendship Centre movement.

“We started out with three people, and there are almost 40 right now, maybe even more than 40,” Oshanyk said. 

Hinton’s centre has staff placed in Edson for a couple of regional programs, as well as in Grande Cache.

To celebrate the past 25 years and all they accomplished, staff hoped to host several events throughout the year prior to the pandemic.

June is always a big month for the Friendship Centre, starting on June 1 with Day of Friendship, which was kickstarted by the Alberta association.

Staff acknowledged the day online, but normally they would be out in the community dropping off little gifts, visiting different agencies, and spreading awareness of the friendship day, Oshanyk said.

June 21 was Indigenous Day, and last year the centre had a big event with music and dancing, which couldn’t happen this year.

“We hope to celebrate later. When? We don’t know. It all depends. Everybody is talking about the second wave and we hope that doesn’t happen but we don’t know. None of us have lived through a pandemic before, Oshanyk said about their 25th celebration.

Depending on how this pandemic goes, Oshanyk said they still may have one celebration before the end of the year but nothing is planned at this point.

“I’m really proud of the way Hinton has handled the COVID crisis, as I call it. And Alberta in general has been very careful,” Oshanyk said.

The doors remain locked to the public at the Hinton Friendship Centre but services are still being offered. Currently most of these programs are now continuing virtually in various ways.

“We have therapists, in-home support programs and they’ve been carrying on business, not face to face, but they do see each other,” Oshanyk said. 

Recently, the centre celebrated the four-year-olds part of their Head Start program that are going into kindergarten next year.

One at a time they came into the centre for a gift and then took photos outside.

“The staff has been amazing at continuing to offer services and doing all kinds of things. They’ve been out delivering hampers for the food bank, not just here but in the county. They’ve continued their services. Our youth program will be starting to do some programming, mostly outdoor stuff at this point,” Oshanyk added.

Oshanyk said she’s proud of the solid programs, the good staff, and the way the centre has expanded over all these years.

She added that her team is always willing to jump in and help out wherever they can.

“I just wanted to see the 25 years and it’s here and I’m sure everything will be great, Oshanyk said.