News: Windsor-Essex

Annual General Meeting - Letter from the VON Windsor-Essex Community Corporation Chair, Linda Menard-Watt

The VON Windsor-Essex Community Corporation worked diligently in 2014-2015 to further the VON vision that Health Starts at Home.  We continue to offer a wide range of community health care solutions that benefit both patients and caregivers.

Our philanthropic activities have started to shift from a dependence on event fundraising towards expanding third party corporate sponsorships and donor engagement activities.  Our elegant Chocolate Lover’s Brunch was more successful this year both in terms of numbers and revenue which led it to be designated as our single annual major event.  We again partnered with Fogalar Furlan as a beneficiary of their Polenta Gala along with the House of Sophrosyne where VON conducts a pre-natal program.  Twenty-one of Shoppers Drug Mart stores in Windsor-Essex designated VON as the receiving charity of their “Tree for Life” campaign in support of prenatal, early childcare and women’s health programs. The VON Pelee Island Nursing Station summer event raised monies for improvements in equipment and services for Pelee Island residents.  Frank and Angela Cross generously donated a portion of the proceeds from their first annual Superstar Tribute Contest to VON.  Donations from these events funded safety and medical supplies to our Supportive Housing clients and provided 250 meals to our Meals-on-Wheels clients during VON week.  

With the support our Fund Development & Community Relations Coordinator, Sharon Bevington, we developed a detailed communications plan for public relations, marketing and fund raising activities for the year.  Some of the events included: a booth at the 50+ Senior Expo at the WFCU centre; VON week activities such as VON Awareness days at the Tecumseh and Devonshire malls; participation in the Unifor Health and Wellness day; advertisements and articles in BOOM!, Windsor Body, snapd and The Windsor Star; a holiday mail campaign informing donors about client stories and the impact of our programs; and the Donor Report summarizing activities from the past year.  The Erie St. Clair redesigned website went live in the fall highlighting events, identifying volunteer activities and facilitating on-line donations and registrations.

Under Sharon’s leadership and with Melissa Landry’s endeavours, we have significantly improved and expanded our donor data base, allowing us increasing flexibility in future campaigns.  We are grateful and thank both for their creativity and efforts.

Our seniors exercise program, SMART,  launched last year as a part of the LHIN strategy for falls prevention, initially targeted residents of all rest and retirement homes.  This year it was  expanded to service patients in their own homes.  There is great potential for growth here, given that we can obtain and train suitable volunteers. 

DETOUR, a respite program for seniors that is designed to provide mental health support, is fully supported by LHIN and continues to save the health care system significant monies each year by diverting seniors from hospital care.   This 4-bed facility is now filled to capacity.  We envision expanding a similar service to other locations in the tri-county.     

Clinical education is identified as a key factor in client satisfaction, quality service and staff retention and hence is an important program for the Community Corporation.  Our budget continues to support a clinical educator, Cherie Gilbeault, who provides on-going training and guidance to our nursing staff.  This year our staff also received extensive training in wound care, an area that is constantly changing with new research.

Volunteers are an integral and vital part of our health care services. We could not undertake many of our programs and activities without an army of volunteers to assist us.    This year, we recognized the challenge of recruiting and retaining high quality volunteers by funding the role of a Volunteer Coordinator, initially filled by Karen Fletcher.  She developed a program that led to the recruitment and training of 50 new volunteers.

We have continued our partnership with the other Erie-St. Clair boards, namely Chatham and Sarnia.  Joint initiatives such as the new website, financial support of staff positions, and participation in regional sessions will hopefully lead to even more cooperation between us.

The Endowment Foundation is essential to the viability of some of our existing programs and certainly critical to the development of new initiatives.  The Community Corporation expresses deep thanks and gratitude to the Endowment Foundation for their understanding, insight and continued support. 

We would like to thank Jon Jewell, Manager of Business Development & Community Relations, who not only provides us with informative and excellent support as our VON engagement lead but also identifies health care gaps, develops the projects and assists us in getting them funded. 

Our thanks also go to Andrew Ward, Executive Director, for his on-going support of the board and for his inspirational leadership of the branch.  He leads a remarkable team of knowlegible, dedicated and enthusiastic VON staff.  A huge thank you to all of our staff and VON volunteers who are making such an impact in our community.

I would be amiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank the Community Corporation members for your insights and dedication to VON.  Our meetings are never dull with discussions that are thoughtful and productive.  We worked hard this year to smooth out the budget process and to begin progress towards a community relations and advocacy plan; indeed, the committees have been instrumental to our progress and will be even more so in the year ahead to help develop and solidify our plans and activities.        

The upcoming year will certainly present new and unknown challenges. It has been a pleasure to work with such an exceptional group of committed people – managers, staff, board members, volunteers, partners - as we together advocate for and address the health care needs of our community.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve,

Linda Menard-Watt

Chair, VON Windsor-Essex Community Corporation

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