Charitable Registration # 119096493RR0001
Our Journey started over 30 years ago and we have been growing ever since to respond to the needs of our community:
In 1985 community meetings were held to improve the quality of life for citizens in the City of Port Colborne struggling as a result of the massive layoffs at Inco in 1982.
It was also identified that better coordination,communication among service-providers; access to vital services and the development of specific programs to meet those needs would help the community to move forward and benefit all citizens.
Credit goes to Joy Kennedy and Bill Roberts for their leadership in the founding of Port Cares and on February 6th, 1986 Port Cares held its inaugural meeting at 1st Lutheran Church.
The first annual general meeting was held in March 1987 and Brian Baty, former principal of Port Colborne High School served as the first Chairman of the Board of Directors. It the early formative years of the Agency, the focus was on women’s issues, children and transportation.
Funding was provided by the Ministry of Community and Social Services for a Child and Adult Drop in Resource program initially held at 1st Lutheran Church, and later operated for many years at Port Colborne High School. With a grant from the Women’s Directorate Port Cares developed programs delivered by strong volunteers to address the issue of violence against women.
In 1987 we opened a Client Resource Centre at 21A Charlotte Street offering information, referral and emergency services.
In 1989 the first employment program was funded by Human Resources Development Canada with a focus on women in nontraditional jobs and expanded to include men during a 1990's recession.
In partnership with The Niagara Catholic District School Board credit classes were offered to over 200 clients who received high school diplomas.
In 1992 Port Cares expanded to offer Employment Services and opened the Action Centre on Durham Street, later adding a literacy program, funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
By 1998 the 92 Charlotte location started to move towards the hub model we are familiar with today. Along with the Employment and Community Resource Centre several of the other programs and services moved over to 92 Charlotte Street and Port Cares was now able to provide space for many community partners to deliver vital services.
Port Cares also opened a storefront at 57 Clarence Street to operate a Training Centre, a pre- employment program and services to employers through a job developer. The Centre was closed on 2011 and these programs continue to be offered at both our Reach out Centre and at 92 Charlotte Street.
In 2002 Port Cares added the Ontario Early Years sites and the Port Cares Parent and Children Today program at Port High became the Ontario Early Years site for Port Colborne, first on main street and now finally at 92 Charlotte Street. This program includes satellite sites from Fort Erie to Grimsby and also had a mobile van that delivered itinerant services.
On June 28th 2012 the grand opening for the Reach Out Centre at 61 Nickel Street was held. What had begun as a pilot project with a one day a week “soup” kitchen at the Erie Avenue Pentecostal Church with the support of dedicated volunteers later became the Reach Out Centre. The property was purchased in 2009 and was renovated to include a full community kitchen and foodbank and warehouse in 2011.
Today the Reach Out Centre offers many services including a meal program 3 times per week, a food bank , client support, cooking circles, pre- employment training as well as a and a community garden.
Port Cares today now offers vital services to everyone in the communities of Port Colborne, Wainfleet and surrounding communities in addition to access to twenty community partners at both our 92 Charlotte Street and 61 Nickel Street locations. The Port Cares volunteer Board of Directors are deeply dedicated to the original mission of social justice, poverty reduction and a collaborative approach.
While funding for the core Programs such as Employment,Learning,Ontario Early Years Programs and Youth Justice are provided by the Province of Ontario, all of the vital programming offered out of our Reach Out Centre to clients in poverty are not funded.
Port Cares relies on the generosity of private donations and grants to operate the Reach Out Centre which includes the Food Bank and meal programs. Our Clients also have access to a dedicated Staff member to assist with crisis support and referrals thanks to a grant from the United Way of Niagara and a community garden thanks to the support of the Niagara Prosperity Initiative.
Port Cares staff now number 46 and thanks to their dedication Port Cares has responded well to the many challenges facing our communities over these last 30 years. We believe that Port Cares is uniquely positioned to continue to grow and we will continue to strive towards improving the lives of citizens in our community.