By theWedge.LIVE “A New Voice For East Ontario”
Jennifer Miller, Executive Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lanark County, headed the agency for over a decade. She joined the organization in 2007.
On this 20th June 2018, her last day, she passes the torch to a new leader yet to be announced. The Lanark agency operating out of Smiths Falls and Perth has served the region since 1973. The agency is one of the fastest growing in the nation. It served 51 youths 11 years ago and now mentors over 650.
“The need is so great,” exclaims Miller. She has also been a big sister to a young girl now 16 years-of-age; so, she is attune to the challenges and rewards of mentoring.
IN A NUTSHELL
The agency serves all of Lanark through its offices in Smiths Falls. Six trained social service professionals “mentoring coordinators” are responsible for the core services to youths; however, the public is invited to volunteer as big sisters and big brothers.
Their campaign, “Start Something,” is subtle in leaving you to add “big.” Mentoring a child is a big move–the height of altruism.
Nutrition, physical activity, self-esteem boost, dealing with family trauma–these are the agency’s central pieces to assisting youths cope and grow. Ostensibly, it is mentorship.
“Witnessing the transformation of a child into a confident, concerned and motivated young person is a remarkable thing.”
The agency works largely through after-school programs; but, volunteering in various community projects is also in the offing.
STAYING IN THE BLACK
It is impressive that the agency is self-funded. It falls back on benevolence, corporate and individual, but also on its retail operations. After renting for 35 years they purchased their own building at 18 William Street east, Smiths Falls, in 2008.
Events are the lifeblood of its revenue. They used to rely on events like Bingo, but the smoking ban put a cabosh on these. Other events like “Bowl for Kids,” continue in Smiths Falls and Carleton Place. Third-party events and door-to-door pledges also provide revenue streams. Thankfully, 30% comes from United Way and provides a stable base.
Jewel Purdon inspired the opening of consignment shops 14 years ago offering a continuous revenue stream. In recognition, the leadership opted to name the shops, “Jewel’s.”
Two outlets were opened in Smiths Falls on William street east, and Perth on Wilson street. Jewel’s is a favorite haunt of many shoppers as evidenced in social media.
The shops are exceptionally clean and well-merchandised–and the prices puts their “gently used” fare within everyone’s reach. This writer is wearing a gorgeous sequined t-shirt which cost $2.50.
MILLER : FROM NON-PROFIT TO FOR PROFIT
Miller started her new position June 25, 2018, pivoting from non-profit to for profit as Economic Development Manager for the Town of Smiths Falls. She begins her work at an auspicious time in its history. The town is booming thanks to the exponential growth of its leading employer, Canopy Growth.
“I am trying to be a sponge,” she said today as she absorbs a watershed of information. We all wish her well.