Old Ottawa South Community Association

Program Delivery Team: Katherine Boisvert, Darcy Middaugh, Luke Sears (plus Cody).
Program Delivery Team: Katherine Boisvert, Darcy Middaugh, Luke Sears (plus Cody). Photo by Winnie Pietrykowski.

Season’s Greetings from the Firehall

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We wish each and every one of you, the best of this festive season. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your generosity, support and compassion.

A time to hope

We are delighted to report that this last quarter of 2021 has been promising. Our summer camps were very successful and youth programming continues to grow as restrictions ease. The Firehall is beginning to thrive once again!

It takes a lot of coordination and teamwork to grow in tandem with fluctuating revenues. We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now, but we know that so much of our success depends on reduced COVID-19 infections and restrictions. It’s why the Firehall has a mandated vaccine policy. We remain hopeful but watchful. We continue to put our staff’s health and yours, first.

The Firehall has four full-time staff. We need at least two more. We have hired part-time staff to help us deliver and grow our programs safely. We have an amazing team of youth who not only worked in our summer camps but continue to work part-time supporting our After4 programs and the many new in-person youth initiatives happening at the Firehall.

The OSCA executive continues to supervise Firehall operations and programming activity, focussing especially on forward planning for the transition to new in-person programming.

There’s a “buzz” at the Firehall that hasn’t been heard in a while. We continue to wear masks and social distance, but we have more freedom when it comes to in-person capacity. We play on the side of caution and we are aware that if the number of COVID-19 infections increase, we will have to adapt.

A time to reflect

It’s been a year of dramatic, global change and like many organizations and businesses, the Firehall has not been spared. In 2020-21 program revenue dropped by 70% and we were forced to restructure our internal management and program delivery team. Where once we had seven full-time staff, we were reduced to four. Where our working and personal lives depended on connection and interaction with the public and community, we were denied contact.

We learned to “pivot”, a word all too familiar these days. We rethought or reconfigured how we developed and delivered programs. We considered closure, but instead the Firehall went virtual. We applied for federal grants and we turned to our community for help to raise much-needed additional funds. We didn’t have the necessary sophisticated technology to go totally virtual, but we learned how to bridge and patch the gaps with the know-how of our community volunteers. For many, our workload doubled or tripled.

Sometimes organizational pivots are deep and demanding. They come at a cost. And sometimes although deep and demanding, they transform how we work and how we see ourselves.

We also learned more about you. Once there was a donation system in place, you took it one step forward. Together, you donated over $110K and many of you pledged your support on a monthly basis. What a boost!

You also launched your own fundraising drives. There were the fire-coloured meringue cookie sales, the basement birdhouses, the puzzles, and the online art auctions. You saw an opportunity, a way to help raise funds, and you used your ingenuity and creativity to keep the Firehall going.  We are so grateful for your inspired commitment and generous response.

A time for change

Not having the revenue to rehire immediately much-needed Firehall staff allowed for a different opportunity: the time to fully digest the lessons of the past, the pros and cons of the management structure we had in place, how we might do things differently. By working directly with full-time staff, the executive gained a better idea of what critical functions were essential to a post-pandemic recovery, the strengths and skillsets of staff and how to function effectively with less.

We have learned more about each other and we have learned to cooperate differently. We believe that by working together we can evolve a model of program management and delivery that is less hierarchical and more open to community involvement. We are experiencing a shift in how we see ourselves as a learning organization and how we might facilitate your interests and enthusiasms for engagement and change.

The Firehall is now looking for a full-time communications coordinator and in the near future we will continue to strengthen our management team. We remain cautious but optimistic. We are building from the bottom up, and building team confidence and trust as we go. We hope this team spirit will be felt by you in the weeks and months to come. And, in the meantime, we thank you for your patience and support.

OSCA’s Program and Management Team, back row, Katherine Boisvert, Darcy Middaugh, Ben Baril, Matthew Mitchell, Richard Slowikowski, front row, Winnie Pietrykowski, Michael Jenkin.
Photo by Jackson Mitchell.

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