History of the Georgian Bay Native Friendship Centre
THE EARLY YEARS: 1984 - 1993
The Georgian Bay Native Friendship Centre (GBNFC) has evolved from a very humble beginning into an organization that has become a very important aspect of the urban Anishnabek in the Midland/Penetanguishene area.
This area includes Midland, Tiny Township, Penetanguishene, Port McNicoll and the surrounding villages in the area. GBNFC became recognized and incorporated as a non-profit organization on July 5, 1984.
GBNFC operated for two full years on its own by fundraising and volunteer services before it attained Friendship Centre status and received core funding. A building was purchased at 366 Midland Avenue in Midland, Ontario from which our programs were delivered by a staff of three full-time workers and one part-time worker.
The organization is governed by an elected Board of nine Directors from its membership, a youth representative, and an elder. The president, vice-president, treasurer, and secretary are the Executive Officers and make-up the Executive Committee. The Board is policy making body of the organization.
The day-to-day operations are managed by the Executive Director who answers directly to the Board when the Board is in session. Program staff with the assistance of volunteers co-ordinate a variety of services for our members and the urban Aboriginal community.
The Centre brought urban Anishnabek together through the development of specific programs such as the Community Development Worker program, Li'l Beavers Program, Youth/Social/Recreational Program, Treatment Program, Summer Prevention Program, Seniors Program, Native Language Program, Tenant Counsellor, Referral Services Intake Worker for Employment and Training, and Arts and Crafts. The type and nature of these programs have changed over the years, but many were fore-runners of the programs we currently offer today.
THE TURBULENT TEENS: 1994 - 2005
The Centre rapidly became constrained within its physical environment from meeting the growing needs and demands of the Anishnabek in our area. A larger facility was needed to provide adequate services to our membership and clients. This need for more physical space was supported in a study conducted by Ballantyne/Branch Counsel to Recreation & Leisure Services. The Board of Directors supported the need to acquire or build a larger facility that would meet the growing needs of the membership. Through 2 years of hard work, determination, and overcoming various barriers that dream became a reality in 1994. Land was purchased at our current location and a new 10,000 square feet was built.
For the next several years, the organization was a hub of activities. The Centre formed partnering relationships with other Aboriginal and mainstream service providers to meet the needs of the urban Aboriginal community of the area. There were also turbulent times or growing-pains as the organization evolved. There were periods of governance and financial distresses.
The late 1990's and early 2000's were particularly bleak times. Failed business ventures, governance issues, and financial troubles brought the Centre to the brink of closure.
ALL GROWN-UP: 2006 - CURRENT
A change for the better started in late 2005. The membership, board, and staff made significant changes in governance, leadership, and fiscal management that steered the Centre into a steady climb to success. By-laws, policies, procedures, and protocols were reviewed and amended to serve the best interests of the organization. Outstanding legal claims and legal matters were settled. In 2006, a new mortgage on the facility was arranged to settle all outstanding Monetary issues including those with CRA to whom the Centre was indebted to the tune of approximately one-quarter million dollars.
The Centre increased its profile in the community at large with new networking, partnering, and marketing strategies; annual GBNFC awards presented to Aboriginal students graduating from the local area high schools; monthly newsletters to the membership; high-interest community workshops; career fairs; cultural ceremonies; and celebrations...all became common features of the Centre.
In 2009, the Centre celebrated its 25th anniversary with much fanfare and gratitude to the Creator for the favour bestowed upon us.
In 2010, the Centre won the coveted the Ontario Indian Friendship Centre's "Model Friendship Centre of the Year Award" which was presented at the 26th Annual General Meeting. The award recognizes outstanding achievement in governance, administration, fiscal management, and cultural relevance among other factors.
In 2011, the Centre for the second consecutive year, won the "Model Friendship Centre of the Year Award. The award was presented at the June 16th, 2011 Annual General Meeting of the Centre.
The future will unfold along the path the Creator has laid out for us. If we stay true to his teachings, follow his directions, and keep to the path, we will continue to stay healthy.