I recently began looking for people around Niagara who contribute positively to the community. My interest in the subject was sparked while writing 8 Reasons Why The Niagara Region Is Making The World A Better Place. The response has been incredible! I have already had the opportunity to feature JR Organic Products, The Literacy Centre & A Unique Perspective – Art/Photography by Jennifer Gruhl. Please welcome:
Start Me Up Niagara
“We work with people in the Niagara region facing significant life challenges and barriers in their lives. We catch the people who fall through the cracks and work with them to help them improve their lives. We believe that strong communities start with individuals”
Start Me Up Niagara’s programs reach across the whole Niagara region. They celebrated 15 years of operating in September.
There are people available to listen, celebrate strengths, mourn losses, educate about services available, and figure out creative solutions. Start Me Up Niagara aims to provide opportunities for interaction, support and growth.
“The listening and sharing is not limited to staff. Other participants and volunteers share about their lived experience. We have a really vibrant peer support and learning network. If someone chooses to take action we do our best to help navigate the system to make the connections and cheerlead as they go along.”
About The Centre
Upstairs includes a Healthy Kitchen project that creates amazing soups and meals for the weekend lunch program. Workshops on healthy economical food preparation are also held here.
“Volunteers, participants, students and work training placements have learned really valuable skills about food in our small kitchen with lots of laughs and camaraderie.”
Downstairs provides a place to receive mail, make a phone call or fax. People are available to assist with paperwork and taxes.
Reception Hub directs inquiries and is the starting and collection point for participants and staff in all projects and programs.
“Staff and volunteers have mastered the art of multi-tasking with a smile. They do what they can to get people connected to the right programs and aid in getting forms sent and calls made.”
Behind The Cubicle Walls reside the desks and worktables of the various programs and special projects SMUN offers.
“The environment in the office can vary from a bustling din of phone calls, key boarding, and meetings to a quiet space with empty desks as many programs reach through the entire Niagara Region. We do a lot of our work out in the community.”
The Housing Team works with people to find homes and stay in them.
“Our partners include participants, landlords, the Niagara Region and other community donations. We look to overcome the barriers to housing issues and help people find a safe and stable place to live.”
Green Garden Program includes a team of volunteers and staff.
“Located in Vineland is a 2 acre plot of land that produces food for the centre and for sale around the region. The land doubles as a meditative labyrinth. The program is always evolving and growing. Participants see the connections between food, health, training, employment and explores ways to enhance them in the region.”
Employment Support Services Program works with people who have physical and mental disabilities to find employment, training and volunteer opportunities in the community. SUMN encourages participants to start up small businesses of their own and provides assistance. Personalised support, coaching, and group learning opportunities are also offered.
“Most of our time is spent around the region with participants. We develop relationships with employers, and promote the talents of our group to the community.”
Creative Arts Program hosts projects, workshops and activities designed to allow creative and entrepreneurial talents learn and grow together.
“We have a lot going on here on so many levels and the community is very dynamic. Recently, we had a show at the Niagara Artists Centre: Art Me Up! A Sight For More Eyes.”
Behind The Scenes is the ED, board of directors and volunteers.
“They tirelessly work to keep the programs funded, the building running, and opportunities available while staying true to our mission – a society where all people are included, healthy and self-sufficient.”
Start Me Up Niagara is most known for their work with Out of the Cold Shelters. There is a drop-in outreach centre that is open 365 days a year for people who welcome everyone as they are no matter what challenges they are facing in life.
“Many of our participants deal with significant barriers due to physical and mental disabilities, poverty, addiction, unemployment and/or homelessness. We offer a physical space and community of people from around the Niagara Region that is safe, free, sociable, and supportive.”
Start Me Up Niagara Facebook Page
Start Me Up Niagara Facebook Group
Start Me Up Niagara Twitter
Start Me Up Niagara strives for the best practices. They listen and accept people for who they are the very moment they walk through the door. They celebrate, acknowledge and focus on the strengths and talents that each individual brings with them. They build community by welcoming conversations, providing opportunities for people to contribute, and enjoy themselves at all walks and stages of life.
Community partners, board meetings, staff, volunteers and participants – past and present – interact and flow through the various departments and projects over time with an expectation of respect, acceptance, good humour and support. They are down to earth, realistic, resourceful, and forever optimistic.