By Kelly Anne Smith
Over the past decade, True Self has served a holiday feast to about 1000 people, complete with all the trimmings.
This year, the Compagnons des Francs Loisirs was bustling with folks and their families too. The hungry children were entertained by The Magic of Christophe. Chris Farquar donated his magic for the second year in a row. The giggles, gasps and squeals of delight from the children kept a smile on everyone as they waited for the feast. With North Bay Mayor Al McDonald’s arrival, supper was served. Afterward, Santa gave a present to every girl and boy.
True Self offers programs for those that may have experienced trauma. MS Office software is taught for clients to be employment ready. Executive Director Donna Forget looks forward to the special event for the clients. “We have between 80 and 100 people and that includes women and kids, and out of those, every year there is probably at least thirty that this will have been the only dinner.”
The celebratory event proceeded seamlessly with an army of volunteers and the hard-working staff of True Self. Forget is thankful for all the help. “My son Joe has been here all day, as well as staff, recent graduate April McDonald and a secondary school placement student.”
Volunteer Lucy St. John pounded the pavement to ensure donations from area businesses and organizations. The executive director of the Indian Friendship Centre, Kathy Fortin, sent over a team of volunteers with turkeys and toys. Tony Mastrangelo at TCM Produce refused payment for all the vegetables and Randy Sparks at Affordables 4 U stepped up with donations. Brenda Robinson of the Canadian Federation of University Women and Melanie Lanois of The Office of Indigenous Initiatives at Nipissing University offered donations too.
Nipissing First Nation Chief Executive Officer Dwayne Nashkawa was on hand for the feast. “We administer the program through our offices at Nipissing First Nation but we deliver it in city (North Bay) and it’s open for anybody who needs to access its services.”
Nashkawa explained that True Self has been offering programs and employment training for men as well as women for over two years now. “That’s something the staff at True Self had identified years ago. There was a real gap in services for men. They have been working diligently to fill that gap.”
Nashkawa is a member of Chippewas of Saugeen. He believes in True Self. “This is an example of the community we are all capable of bringing together. We have a lot of support from the city and other agencies within the city. So, it’s a real cooperative effort.”
The program is a success but there have been financial stresses says Nashkawa. “I wish this program wasn’t always in such a precarious position, financially. Governments should take the blinders off and just fund it appropriately with stability. Then let them (True Self) do some proper planning and we will really see what they can do.”