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Access Centre targets advocacy
Changing the name of the Penticton and area Women’s Centre is only one part of what has been a long trail of change for the aid organization.
Calling it the Penticton and Area Access Centre, said society chair Elmie Saaltink, better fits the organization’s focus on advocacy, resources and outreach for both women and men.
The name change, Saaltink explained, reflects both that they now help as many, or more, men as they do women, plus avoids confusion with the South Okanagan Women in Need Society, which runs the women’s shelter, or the South Okanagan Victim Assistance Society. When it was founded three decades ago, funding for PAWC came from federal Status of Women and B.C.’s Ministry of Women’s Equality.
PAWC networked with other nonprofits in Penticton to promote equality and educate them on issues that affected women, becoming involved in supporting International Women’s Day and Take Back the Night.
But it also provided a meeting place, and a place to find out what resources were available in the community.
“It was a chance for women to get together and talk about issues,” said Saaltink.
Over time, the centre became more about gathering together resources and helping people find programs to help them or navigate their way through the system.
Then too, the group had to find new sources of funding as the Women’s Equality Ministry closed down and Status of Women became more focused on supporting specific projects.
Some of that came through the B.C. Gaming commission, which supported their resource and referral program.
Women — and increasingly, men — would come in and workers would listen to their stories and help refer them to the right program, explained Saaltink.
One problem they are often asked for help with, she said, is filling out the disability assistance application form.
That’s a 23-page form that is difficult to comprehend, especially by those who are already marginalized by their disability.
“The word access kept coming up,” said Saaltink, listing off the services they provide in helping people with not only disability advocacy, but legal as well as a drop-in program from help with resource and referrals.
An example of legal advocacy is a series of aboriginal law workshops on now at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.
But funding remains a challenge, and to that end, the Access Centre is holding a fundraiser at the Barking Parrot Thursday evening, with $15 buying a burger and a beer, and entertainment from the Thursday night Jazz band.
“Most funding is program specific,” said Saaltink.
Money raised at fundraisers, though, has no strings attached and can be used for whatever the society needs, from incidental expenses to paying the rent.