History of SIRCH

an unwavering belief in people and possibilities

Here at SIRCH Community Services and Consulting we have spent the past 28 years focusing on the development of programs and resources for the sole purpose of helping improve our community and its residents (and in many cases other communities as well). Our Community Services programs provide support, information, practical resources, build skills and increase confidence. Our Social Enterprises provide training and employment as well as impacting the community in positive ways and raising funding for SIRCH programs. All programs involve intricate partnerships that ensure our services are maximized for the people we serve.

We are amazed that 28 years has gone by so quickly, and we are extremely proud of the programs, resources and consulting that we have offered over this time. Our innovation and expertise remain the backbone of all that we have done and will continue to do in the future. Outlined for you are our accomplishments, ingenuity and community focus in an historical narrative beginning with our inception in 1989.

YEAR 1
1989 – This was the year SIRCH (Supportive Initiative for Residents in the County of Haliburton) became incorporated and the year it started Parent Support Services Program. This program provided counselling, support and advocacy to parents with children up to 18 years of age. The underlying philosophy was one of encouragement and support – you can do it!

YEAR 2
1990 – Recognizing that parents who raise children with special needs (for example autism, developmental delay, serious illness or disease), need a break every once in awhile, SIRCH set up a “Volunteer Host Family Program”. It gave children with special needs the opportunity to stay for an overnight, weekend or longer in a warm family setting – really to many the host families became like extended family. It gave the parents (often single parents) an opportunity to … shop, sleep, catch up, visit. In addition, during the summer the Special Needs Program offered one-to-one workers to take children out, or do activities with them in their homes during the busy summer months.

YEAR 3
1991 — SIRCH started the Haliburton County Counselling Centre, an adult mental health centre. Therapists were hired who did individual and group counselling at the Haliburton site. Previous to this, there was no local mental health counselling available in the county. (This program was later divested to Haliburton Highlands Health Services and is currently celebrating 20 years with that organization. But it was started by SIRCH!)

In 1991, SIRCH also assisted with the development and implementation of a Telecare Crisis Line in Haliburton County, offered (through Peterborough Telecare). Anyone could call 24 hours a day to get immediate support and referrals. Before this toll free number, most crisis lines were operating out of a city, and were long distance for Haliburton County residents.)

The summer Special Needs Program, started in 1990, developed into a year-round venture.

YEAR 4
1992 — Three years before Big Brothers & Sisters would move into Haliburton County, SIRCH identified the need for supports to children of single parents who didn’t have relatives or friends nearby, and started “Big Buddies.” It matched screened men and women with girls and boys who needed support, mentoring and a male or female role model.

SIRCH also continued its collaborative approach and partnered with the CNIB to provide “Talking Books” (in the days before DVDs and Audible) to individuals with vision impairment.

YEAR 5
1993 — SIRCH started a community consultation process to develop a way of housing and supporting women experiencing abuse. At the time a woman who left an abusive partner would have to go to Peterborough to find the nearest shelter – which meant taking the children out of school and missing work. The model developed was called Women’s Emergency House and would be the first of its kind, using trained teams of volunteer women to staff the House 24/7.

That year, SIRCH also welcomed Sir Sanford Fleming College Social Service Worker students, as they did their practicum training with staff at SIRCH.

YEAR 6
1994 — A busy, busy year for SIRCH!

SIRCH applied for funding and was successful in a bid to deliver the Community Action Program for Children (CAPC). The program was in partnership with CHACE Place (which eventually amalgamated with the Ontario Early Years Centre, Haliburton Victoria Brock). CAPC provided services to families with young children facing conditions of risk (poverty, low literacy, social isolation, etc). There was a Mobile Family Outreach, Intensive Parent Support (1-1 in-home supports), Parenting Groups and a variety of educational activities.

Another need in the community that SIRCH identified and was successful at obtaining funding for was a Community Hospice Program. Hospice offered in-home support to individuals and families experiencing a life-threatening illness and/or bereavement. Trained volunteers provided the support.
SIRCH also started a Crisis Assistance Program (CAP). Long before VCARS would come into the county, SIRCH had trained volunteer teams available 24/7 who could be called at any time to go on-site to support family, friend and community members for such things as suicides, car accidents, fires and other traumatic events.

A one-year grant funded a program called My Coach Makes A Difference which helped the public and coaches of every type understand what a huge impact coaches and leaders have on youth. It culminated in a fantastic Coaching and Leadership Fair.

Also in 1994, SIRCH partnered with Kinark Child and Family Services that year to organize a Play Therapy Conference at the Pinestone.

At the Haliburton County Counselling Centre, a specialized program for women who had been assaulted, abused or otherwise experienced violence started called “Counselling for Women.”

YEAR 7
1995 — Women’s Emergency House was a phenomenon! The shell of a six bedroom shelter was build by a generous landlord. Local and national businesses offered furnishings, building supplies, and appliances. For several weeks, hundreds of volunteers came into the House to plumb, wire, drywall, paint, furnish and otherwise ensure that the House was ready to open. Local church groups made quilts and dolls. Everyone pitched in – cottagers, visitors and residents. It was an amazing happening!
The Women’s Emergency House prototype was staffed by teams of trained volunteers and a part time coordinator. It provided safe housing and support for women experiencing abuse and their children, and was available 24/7, 365 days a year!

Also in 1995, as a result of a partnership between SIRCH and the Ontario Camping Association, an Education Day was held in Haliburton with the esteemed Dr. Dan Offord as the Keynote speaker.
Big Buddies was divested to Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Victoria County who expanded their mandate to take on Haliburton County.

YEAR 8
1996 — SIRCH successfully applied for funding for a Pregnancy Support Program, a federally funded program called the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program. It focused on helping ensure healthy pregnancies and birth outcomes for women facing conditions of risk. The program included Birth Companions, a Special Delivery Club (group support) and a phone in “Baby Line.”

CAPC (Community Action Program for Children) added on community support to assist people on low or fixed incomes. There were clothing exchanges, and lots of supports to help people budget, shop on a budget and get supports from other organizations.

Haliburton County Counselling Centre was divested to Haliburton Highlands Health Services, an organization that had recently been incorporated to oversee health services in Haliburton County.

The Crisis Assistance Program was devolved, pending the arrival of provincially-funded Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service for Victoria County and Haliburton County.

YEAR 9
1997 – A book, “From Dream to Reality,” written by Lon Duncombe about the Women’s Emergency House model, was published and launched in Toronto.

Recognizing the need for credit counselling, and the difficulty people had getting to the service in Peterborough, SIRCH partnered with Peterborough Credit Counseling to bring free financial counselling services to the residents of Haliburton County.

Parent Support Services, SIRCH’s very first program, was divested to the newly formed Family Services of Haliburton County. That amalgamation process was driven by the Ministry of Community and Social Services, and included Case Coordination, Kinark Child and Family Services, Infant Development Program, and SIRCH’s Parent Support Program.

YEAR 10
1998 — SIRCH applied for expanded federal funding for CAPC (Community Action Program for Children) & CPNP (Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program). Our population didn’t warrant additional funding, but our neighbours to the south, Victoria and Northumberland Counties, did not have CAPC/CPNP services and no new counties were being funded. SIRCH spearheaded a consultative process in both counties that gave the social and health services in those counties the opportunity to choose which organizations would provide the services, while SIRCH would funnel the funding. Northumberland Child Development Centre and the Ontario Early Years Centre Haliburton, Victoria, Brock are still providing CAPC & CPNP services for parents with children birth to six years of age, facing conditions of risk (such as poverty, illiteracy, low education etc).

Also in 1998, SIRCH developed a 72 hour curriculum-based program that increases the skills of children ages 3 to 5, in the areas of math, language, social, self-help and psychological skills. SIRCH successfully partnered with nine organizations across Ontario to pilot the very first School’s Cool program, and develop training for teachers/instructors. Children typically increase their skill development by one year, on average in a 6 week period! (Those results have been validated by longitudinal research.)

Feeling the need to augment government funding with social enterprise, SIRCH set up a Consulting Division to provide consulting and training services at a regional and provincial level. It was to be the first of many social enterprise endeavours.

Two journals were written and published by SIRCH. “My Journal into Motherhood” was a pregnancy journal, and “My Journal into Healing” allowed on individuals who had lost a loved one to journal their feelings and thoughts over a one year period.

Volunteers continued to play a huge part in SIRCH programs, and SIRCH was invited to participate in the World Volunteer Conference in Edmonton.

Women’s Emergency House, after being available 365 days a year to house women fleeing abusive situations with their children, closed. For nearly three years it had operated without any government funding, but the lack of sustainable funding was its undoing. Nonetheless, the model had received recognition from all over the world and was a prototype for rural communities.

YEAR 11
1999 — SIRCH Consulting provided consulting services in the region.

SIRCH packaged the School’s Cool curriculum into a kit, translated it into French and the kiits were sold in several provinces. 75 instructors were trained to teach the School’s Cool program in various communities across the province. A series of parent resource booklets were also developed and distributed.

SIRCH decided to divest Counseling Services for Women, so went through a “Request for Proposals” process. It accepted the proposal submitted jointly by the YWCA and Women’s Health Care (Peterborough).

YEAR 12
2000 — A number of School’s Cool resources were created: puppets, math and literacy kits, and training to accompany them. School’s Cool was delivered for children in Haliburton County, for the first time (it had been piloted in Lindsay and other larger urban areas).

Community Hospice developed a Palliative Care Directory of Services and SIRCH set up the first Palliative and Bereavement Care Coalition for Haliburton County.

YEAR 13
2001 — Resources for fathers of young children were developed by SIRCH and distributed across Ontario.

Community Hospice provided a wide variety of free “Care Notes” (written bereavement information specific to loss of a grandparent, spouse, child etc) in hospital and doctors’ offices. This was done in partnership with the funeral homes in Minden and Haliburton.

The Special Needs Coordination program closed after many years, due to lack of sustainable funding.

SIRCH Consulting was awarded a contract to write and publish “Sharing Matters/Entre Nous” a newsletter of the Ontario Coalition of CAPC and CPNP Projects. The newsletter was distributed nationally. SIRCH continued that contract for about 7 years.

SIRCH hosted the First Annual School’s Cool Conference at the Pinestone, and it was a great success!

YEAR 14
2002 – More resources were developed in affiliation with CAPC: “Connect With Your Baby” (to help parents interact with and intellectually stimulate their infants, and “Getting Ready for K” (to help parents prepare children for the entry into kindergarten). SIRCH also provided these manuals and training to other organizations across Ontario.

SIRCH held the Second Annual School’s Cool Conference, attended by over 100 people who were interested in, or delivering School’s Cool programs in their own areas.

YEAR 15
2003 – SIRCH Consulting provided evaluation services for 52 School’s Cool programs across Ontario & Manitoba. The Third Annual School’s Cool Conference was held in Haliburton.

SIRCH also assisted an entrepreneur in Niagara to develop a board game to assist pre-teens and teens to understand the complicated factors that lead up to teen pregnancy.

YEAR 16
2004 — The much anticipated Fourth Annual School’s Cool Conference was held, with Charles Coffey as our Keynote speaker.

School’s Cool was piloted as part of the kindergarten curriculum in the Trillium Lakelands District School Board. There were pros and cons to incorporating it as part of kindergarten rather than as a summer program – many teachers said it allowed them to know the children in their classroom by December at a level that they normally wouldn’t reach until June.

SIRCH authored “Raising the Bar,” a report for the Ontario Coalition of CAPC & CPNP Projects. The report was presented to the federal government.

The Telecare Distress Line finally closed as many other help lines were now available.

SIRCH Consulting also worked with Trillium Lakelands District School Board to develop and pilot a program to reduce girl bullying in Grade 8. Power, Popularity & Peers used positive local female role models throughout a semester to work with teams of girls as they prepared a presentation to younger girls on bullying.

YEAR 17
2005 — The Community Hospice Program received a much-needed infusion of funding. Hospice partnered with the Alzheimer Society of Peterborough and Area to provide dementia supports in the County. SIRCH helped to found and organize the Central East Hospice Network.

SIRCH Consulting developed a curriculum on Creating Resiliency in Vulnerable Children for a mental health agency in Muskoka. The Consulting Division was also asked to evaluate a CPNP program in Peterborough.

The SIRCH Executive Director, who was co-chair of the Ontario Coalition of CAPC & CPNP Projects helped co-found the National Network for CAPC and CPNP. This network allowed programs from all across the country to communicate, share best practices and raise the profile of the work of CAPC & CPNP. Previous to this there had been no mechanism in place.

YEAR 18
2006 — The Ministry of Education funded the translation of School’s Cool, which had been revised and updated, into French. Province-wide funding was received from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to assess the School’s Cool in Kindergarten model.

SIRCH Consulting developed and produced “Impact Statements” profiling CAPC & CPNP project issues (healthy weights, injury prevention, mental health etc), which were distributed nationally.

YEAR 19
2007 — SIRCH was introduced to the Innovation Synergy Centre of Markham. The non-profit matched mentors with businesses to help grow them. ISCM took on School’s Cool.

YEAR 20
2008 — The Healthy Children Program was created under the CAPC umbrella in response to concerns about nutrition and food security. It included several innovative activities: a Chef of the Month Challenge (where chefs tried to cook for a family of four for a day on $6.99 – the amount that many CAPC families had to live on); and a highly successful Community Kitchen where volunteers made nutritious meals that were given out free.

Hundreds of people from every province and territory had been trained as School’s Cool Instructors! The training had always needed to be done on-site, which meant considerable time and travel. For the first time, SIRCH developed and piloted an online training program. Research, done by Dr. Susan Chuang of Guelph University, based on over 3,000 children who had taken the School’s Cool program (from various provinces), validated results which showed the program increased children’s development in math, language, self-help, social and psychological skills by an average of 50 weeks.

SIRCH co-sponsored a two day conference in Peterborough on Aboriginal issues with Nimlewaquom Learning Centre.

YEAR 21
2009 – SIRCH piloted a cottage craft industry, called “Sew Resourceful” which increased employability skills and gave trainees a way to increase their income.

A research report, done as part of the Central East Hospice and Palliative Care Network, recommended an innovative model of residential hospice care for Haliburton. This model had SIRCH delivering Community Hospice as well as provided volunteers to four designated Hospice Rooms at HHHS. Plans began.

School’s Cool was divested from SIRCH October 1, 2009 and School’s Cool became its own business. A distribution agreement with an international distributor, FlagHouse Inc., was signed with School’s Cool Inc. moving more to training and product development, and FlagHouse taking on marketing and sales across North America. Unfortunately, FlagHouse was based in the U.S. and the recession forced it to pull back its resources shortly after the agreement is signed.

SIRCH dropped the “and Consulting” from its name and became SIRCH Community Services once again.

YEAR 22
2010 — SIRCH facilitated community planning around a model of “residential” Hospice that had SIRCH Hospice volunteers supporting Hospice beds at HHHS. Hike for Hospice and ‘In SIRCH of a Perfect Christmas’ fundraisers were focused on raising money for Community Hospice.

SIRCH collaborated with a group of dental professionals and others to incubate the Volunteer Dental Outreach, which provided free dental care to low income adults in Haliburton County.

YEAR 23
2011 — The Volunteer Dental Outreach opened, and like other programs and services started and divested by SIRCH, continued to impact the community in very important ways.

SIRCH and HHHS formally collaborated to pilot a new model of “residential” Hospice area in the hospital. A room was designated as a Hospice room and was supported by teams of SIRCH volunteers. Plans were in the works to expand to two rooms.

SIRCH launched ‘Gifts from the Heart’ catalogue – Give a gift that will make a difference to the community, supporting individuals and families who are struggling with numerous issues.

YEAR 24
2012 — SIRCH participated in a LHIN driven integration process (over a two year period) to look at ways to improve access to health care programs. Transitional planning began for a model in Haliburton County that: 1) merged Community Care and Haliburton Highlands Health Services; 2) transfered SIRCH’s Hospice Services and VON’s Adult Day Program to that new organization.

SIRCH was awarded “Not for Profit of the Year” by the Chamber of Commerce.

YEAR 25
2013 — SIRCH started a new service called Need a Hand, which matched volunteers and registered workers with people who needed assistance with things like home repair and maintenance, respite, packing and moving, yard work, etc. Need a Hand was a “pay as you can” model, where a those who pay subsidize others who can’t.

CAPC initiated a Farm Tour program during the summer, which allowed parents and children to tour a farm or commercial garden, sample food from the farm and speak with the owners.

SIRCH started Journey Through Grief groups, using trained volunteers to lead three levels of group support for individuals who have lost a loved one.

SIRCH was nominated for the Chamber of Commerce Innovation and Creativity and Not for Profit of the Year awards.

YEAR 26
2014 – Hospice services were divested to HHHS (along with Community Care and the VON Adult Day program) after 20 years. SIRCH piloted Volunteer Match, a concept which posited one point of entry for volunteers who want to volunteer in the community. For a variety of reasons that concept was not readily accepted and VolunteerMatch closed.

Funding for Safe at Home, a program that assessed the physical housing of seniors and connected them to resources to assist with repairs and maintenance, was received and the program piloted.

A Mother-to-Mother Breastfeeding Support Program, matching volunteer mentors with pregnant and breastfeeding women began.

Dig In and Garden Buddies were incubated by SIRCH in partnership with Abbey Gardens and the HKPR District Health Unit to encourage growing, preserving and eating healthy food.

SIRCH partnered with TPS Haliburton Holdings to manage Thrift Warehouse, an 8,000 square foot thrift store in Haliburton, on a profit-sharing basis.

SIRCH was nominated for the Chamber of Commerce Not-for-Profit of the Year.

YEAR 27
2015 – SIRCH opened “SIRCH Central” down by the river in Haliburton. It was used for bereavement groups, food services training and was also available for other organizations to use by donation.

Season One of Cook It Up, a 16 week training program that provided food services and employability skills, was launched. SIRCH took over Baked & Battered restaurant one day a week (when it was closed) and opened for lunch. Trainees provided a free three-course meal to anyone.

Abbey Gardens took the lead in Dig In, with SIRCH and the HKPR District Health Unit playing supporting roles. Dig In provided workshops to encourage growing, preserving and eating healthy food.

Thrift Warehouse grew steadily. It provided employment for many people, low cost goods, and diverted huge amounts from landfill. A second Thrift Warehouse was opened in Bancroft. A summer store, called Thrift Upscale, selling only antiques and vintage, opened in Minden.

SIRCH piloted a “Hop On Hop Off” Bus. The bus did a route from Haliburton Thrift Warehouse to Minden and back, via Carnarvon. The bus was not financially viable but did draw significant positive attention.

The first annual “Release of the Butterflies” fundraiser was held in Minden, with people releasing hundreds of Painted Lady butterflies into the wetlands.

YEAR 28
2016 – SIRCH receives funding to pilot two more training programs: Works of Wood in Bancroft teaches trainees basic carpentry and they build a variety of harvest tables and other reclaimed pine products. Chic & Unique in Haliburton teaches trainees how to upcycle furniture. The upcycled products are revealed at a show held at the end of the training.

Cook It Up ran for the second time. All nine trainees were offered jobs at the end of the program!

As an extension of Community Kitchen, SIRCH starts “Simply Homemade” which offers homemade meals for $5, and also offers lunches to the summer students at Haliburton School of Art + Design.
The second annual “Release of the Butterflies” fundraiser was held.

YEAR 29
2017 – SIRCH continues to provide CAPC & CPNP, food initiatives, a variety of training opportunities, and Bereavement Support.

Thrift Warehouse Haliburton and Thrift Warehouse Bancroft are thriving social enterprises. At Bancroft Thrift, we open a “Smash Room,” where you can don safety shields and smash glasses that are chipped, onsies or otherwise unsaleable. A video is made.

Cook It Up trains 9 more people in food services. As in previous years, trainees take over Baked & Battered on a day they are typically closed and provide free 3-course lunches to the public, as our way of saying “thank-you” to a generous community.

Simply Homemade again has the opportunity to exclusively offer lunches to students attending the School of Art & Design in Haliburton at JDH School. A proposal is submitted to Haliburton County Development Corporation which, if funded, would allow SIRCH to pilot ways to expand Simply Homemade, creating training and job opportunities.

A Journey Through Grief group, facilitated by skilled and trained volunteers starts in May.

The SIRCH office building on County Rd 21 is sold; SIRCH is looking for a new home!