Family Futures celebrates 20th anniversary

Jodi Schellenberg
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After 20 years of helping people, the staff at Family Futures still love lending a helping hand to those in need.

Dignitaries spoke about the great work Family Futures is doing in a community during a 20th anniversary barbecue celebration on Tuesday. 

Executive director Donna Strauss started at the organization eight years ago. Although her background is in finance, she quickly fell in love with the job.

“When I came here and I heard about their program, it is really work that touches my heart to support women and to support babies,” Strauss said. “To bring a different background to this kind of work has been very valuable.”

Family Futures is a local organization dedicated to helping pregnant women and young families going through a crisis.

Jolene Furi has been an outreach worker with Family Futures since 2008. Prior to starting there, she worked as an addictions counsellor.

The work at Family Futures has given her a certain type of freedom and step outside the box by going into people’s homes to help them.

“You deal with what the issues are at hand,” she said. “Our mandate is prenatal but if we go into a home and they have no food, we will do the prenatal later and get them some food.”

Outreach workers will go into clients’ homes, helping them one-on-one in a comfortable environment.

“I don’t think I would ever go back to behind a desk,” Furi said.

The home visits are one of Furi’s favourite parts of her job.

“You are right in the middle of their lives and we get close to our clients and the babies and we get to see people grow and change,” she said.

The organization first started as a three-year pilot project to support pregnant women with the support of the YWCA, Catholic Family Services and an organization called Pregnancy Support Service.

Instead of forcing patients to the office to get help, Family Futures depends on one-on-one home visits with outreach workers, making it different from other programs in the community.

Strauss said the they have been dealing with the same issues 20 years ago that they are currently dealing with, from affordable housing and poverty to parenting support and substance abuse.

The biggest changes she has seen are growth and location changes -- otherwise the organization continues its main mandate -- to help pregnant women and families with small children.

“I think one of the best pieces of advertising we have for what we do is most of our participants refer themselves here,” Strauss said. “They value what we do and so they tell their friends and families … That is important to us that people come because they want to and that they value what we do.”

The program really works, Furi said. She has clients who can succeed and take their babies home.

Although there are many stories that stick out in her mind from her six years on the job, one memorable occasion was last Christmas.

Furi worked to bring Christmas to one family that had just brought their baby home. The team gave them a tree, presents, a meal and all the fixings.

“This is a woman who everybody had just sort of just tossed away and gave up on,” Furi said. “She’s amazing and doing so good now.”

Those are the success stories Furi enjoys being a part of every day at Family Futures and is proud to be a part of the 20-year-old program.

“It is a good place to work for all around,” she said. “We do have high-need clients and stuff but we work through the crises together.”

Organizations: Family Futures, YWCA, Catholic Family Services Pregnancy Support Service

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