History of Archway Community Services
From our origins as a committee addressing the need for local social services to a large non-profit organization serving people from all corners of the community, our focus has always been ‘people helping people.’
In 2019 we celebrated our 50th anniversary; travel through the decades with us and learn more about notable programs and events in our history.
In 1967, Walter Paetkau chaired a committee to explore the feasibility of establishing a community services organization. In 1968 he gathered with three other individuals to write the agency’s constitution. In addition to stating basic purposes and intent, the constitution also included a defining vision to stir the hearts and minds of current and future members.
“We who subscribe to the terms of this Constitution are convinced of the potential for good residing within all and are equally convinced that our highest vocation is to serve our brother. We do hereby resolve to work for the development of that potential in the spirit of justice, truth and freedom.”
The committee was approached by the district welfare supervisor to coordinate Christmas hampers which were previously organized by multiple organizations. From the initial 70 hampers in 1968, this program now helps over 3,000 people annually with food and toys for under-privileged children.
Matsqui-Sumas Abbotsford (MSA) Community Services
After sending in their constitution, the official recognition of the organization as a non-profit came in 1969.
After working part-time on the agency and at the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) over the prior two years, Walter accepted a full time role as Project Manager starting January 1st, 1971. He was the Executive Director of the organization from its inception until his retirement in 2000.
Among the earliest programs was Family Life Counselling in which a team of 15 trained professionals offered free sessions for families. Additional counselling programs were added over the years such as the Sexual Abuse Intervention Program, Stopping the Violence and Women Exiting Abuse, Violence and Exploitation.
The agency became the first non-metropolitan community to receive a major grant from the Department of National Health and Welfare. At the time, the three municipalities, Matsqui, Sumas and Abbotsford, only had a combined population of 37,000. The application asked for $30,000 to cover two staff members and operating expenses for three years.
In the early 1970s, newspapers and glass were collected at the agency and delivered to Vancouver. From the beginning, the recycling program has provided employment opportunities for people with physical, mental or developmental disabilities.
In 1986, the ACS recycling program began providing recycling services for the District of Mission as well. In 1990 the Abbotsford Mission Recycling Program moved to a new plant and secured the contract in 1994 for curbside recycling in both municipalities.
A recycling education program was established in the 1990s which reaches thousands of students and community members each year.
Meals on Wheels
To help those who have difficulty shopping or preparing a well-balanced meal, volunteers deliver thousands of fresh and frozen meals every year.
Matsqui-Abbotsford (MA) Community Services
Following the amalgamation of the Village of Abbotsford and the District of Sumas into the District of Abbotsford, the agency changed its name. It was often referred to as MACS.
What started as a clothing exchange in 1969 became a thrift store in 1972 providing work and training opportunities for those with special needs or on social assistance. The market also sold quilts made from recycled fabrics by the Cottage Quilts program. In 1995 the market became the Abbotsford Community Services Thrift Store before closing down in 2003.
Legal Aid & Advocacy
Free legal aid clinics turned into a community law office which handled family, administrative, landlord and tenant, consumer and criminal matters. The program grew with up to 17 staff serving hundreds of clients each year before drastic government cutbacks to legal aid in 2002 led to the closure of the law office. Currently, our Community Legal Advocacy program has three legal advocates who offer advice, referrals and representation on tenancy, employment, government assistance and pension issues.
After a community survey showed the need to coordinate seniors’ services as a Senior Services department was set up as well as the Advisory Council on Aging. Existing programs were brought under the same umbrella and new services like educational and physical fitness classes were added.
Since 1992 the Lunch with a Bunch program has brought together seniors for a weekly lunch with entertainment activities. The Better at Home program helps people stay in their homes by providing non-medical home support services through a partnership with United Way and the Government of BC.
Child Care Resource & Referral
Originally called the Supportive Family Day Care service, this service assists families looking for daycare and provides information on applying for subsidies. It also provides training and resources for daycare providers.
Income Tax Preparation
The Canada Revenue Agency provided training so volunteers could help seniors on limited incomes complete their tax forms. Thanks to dedicated volunteers, thousands of people have been helped with taxes since then along with completing other government paperwork.
School Crossing Guards
During a long-term contract with the Abbotsford School District, this program offered an employment opportunity to primarily retired individuals who helped children cross safely at up to 25 school crosswalks.
Diversity Education and Resource Services
The program had its beginnings with various projects related to community development, welcoming newcomers and creating an inclusive environment.
In 1999, the Fraser Valley Human Dignity Coalition was formed with a focus on brining together community members and stakeholders in the pursuit of social justice and equity. The Coalition promotes the values of human rights and dignities and a safe and healthy community for all.
Staff continue to provide workshops, host events and consult on policy development to promote cross-cultural understanding and learning.
Multicultural & Immigrant Integration Services
Since the first distinct multicultural service contract in the early 1980s, services for newcomers have grown to over 20 different programs with more than 100 staff.
Over the years, services were created to meet the needs of refugees from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Kosovo, Syria and more.
Settlement Services include assistance with housing, living skills and orientation as well as school liaison work. Learning English through classes and individual tutoring has been demonstrated as a key to successful integration, particularly when supported by childcare. Other services include friendship-matching services, after-school programs and employment services.
Two major donations received in 1981 were invested in endowment funds with the Vancouver Foundation and what later became the Abbotsford Community Foundation. The endowment funds have grown considerably from donations, bequests and matching opportunities. The interest from these endowments continues to support agency programs.
Abbotsford Food Bank
In response to the 1980s recession, the Christmas Bureau program was expanded into a year-round food bank. The Abbotsford Community Services Food Bank now provides food, basic necessities, dental care, and emergency assistance for over 3,000 individuals a month.
Interpretation and Translation Services
A volunteer-staffed language bank in the 1980s turned into a social enterprise in 1994. Nowadays, over 500 professional language interpreters and translator provide services in more than seventy languages.
Specialized Victim Assistance
The program provides emotional and practical support to victims of violence, abuse, and harassment. Staff liaise with Crown Counsel and other agencies, assist with applications, and provide court orientation and accompaniment. A multicultural program offering service in Punjabi was started in 1992.
Abbotsford Addictions Centre
Seeing a need in the community, the Substance Abuse Services program began providing treatment and prevention services for those using alcohol, prescription or street drugs. Services include assessment, individual and group counselling, as well as prevention activities in schools and the community. The name was changed to the Abbotsford Addictions Centre in 2001.
New Beginnings: Young Parent Program
In collaboration with the Abbotsford School District and MCFD this program supports young parents to complete or upgrade their high school education while providing high quality childcare, parenting courses and individual support. The program began at Abbotsford Senior Secondary and then moved to W.J. Mouat Secondary in 2009.
Despite community opposition to social housing, a provincial accommodation for group homes with up to six residents allowed plans to move forward. This residence provides temporary, structured living accommodations for youth who are in the care of MCFD or FVACFS.
The Supervised Access & Life skills program oversaw visits between parents and their children who had been placed into care. The Family Outreach program worked with at-risk families in order to prevent separation or to build skills after regaining their children. In order to maintain continuity for families with the same support workers, the two programs were merged into a new program named Family Connections and Enhanced Access in 2010.
Legal Advocacy for Agricultural Workers
As early as 1978, the agency has assisted farmworkers with information, referrals and advocacy for better regulations. The current program was started in 1994 and works with Canadian, immigrant and temporary foreign workers to educate them on their rights and responsibilities. Legal advocates work with employers and provide mediation if needed.
A series of educational classes for parents and community have been offered since 1969. Over the years, the agency has provided a variety of parenting groups and classes with the Family Education program formalized in 1994.
Abbotsford Community Services
After the Districts of Abbotsford and Matsqui united to become the City of Abbotsford, the agency name was officially changed to Abbotsford Community Services.
Youth Resource Centre
While the Youth Resource Centre opened in 1996, services for youth have been part of the agency from the beginning. Back in 1968, young people were called together to organize a youth council which led to the formation of Generation Ungap, a weekend drop-in centre for as many as 100 youth at a time.
Since the agency’s beginning, services for those with developmental and physical disabilities have been offered. In the late 1990s the Community Living umbrella program was set up to consolidate services offered to children, youth and adults with developmental disabilities. Community Inclusion and recreational activities are offered along with supported work placements.
The kitchen has been used to train people with disabilities, students, job seekers, and new immigrants as well as provide space for nutrition and meal preparation classes for various programs. Over the years, meals were prepared for the Courthouse Café (1997-1998), the Pasta Gallery (1998-1999) and Delish Catering (2014-Present).
The Family Centre officially opened in 1998 and provides a central location for services and young families. Formal and information drop-in programs help connect parents with support and connections to other programs as needed. In the early years, Family Centre operated five preschools as well as summer camps. Current programs include drop-in activities, Best for Babies, parenting classes and a perinatal depression support group.
Statement of Diversity
A commitment to diversity and inclusion was formalized in the Statement of Diversity.
After Walter Paetkau retired, Thelma Schrock took over as the Executive Director. She implemented and strengthened polices and procedures, which were instrumental in gaining the agency’s accreditation with CARF.
Community Employment Development Office
This one-stop employment counselling and resource centre provided services for over 10,000 individuals during its seven year contract.
Cultural Diversity Awards
The Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards were organized to recognize individuals and organizations who work towards building inclusive community, providing their clients with accessible environments and having reflective workforces for all.
In the early 2000s the BC government began to require agencies receiving significant funding from MCFD and for Community Living to be accredited by a recognized, third party. In 2004, multiple ACS programs received CARF’s highest rating – a 3 year accreditation standing – a pattern that has followed in each of its successive surveys. CARF accreditation not only confirms the high quality of services delivered to the community, but also ACS’ determination to continually improve its services.
Community Builder Awards
The Community Builders’ Awards were created by the Board of Directors to honour and acknowledge individuals who have made a significant contribution to not only Abbotsford Community Services but to the community at large. Since then the program has grown to include individuals, organizations and for profit companies.
In it Together
The Abbotsford Community Assessment and Action Network formed in 2007 to address the youth gang trends seen in the community. Federal funding was secured in 2009 for the Abbotsford Youth Crime Prevention Project which enhanced the capacity of the South Asian Community Resource Office and the Wrapping Abbotsford Youth with Support program of the Youth Resource Centre.
In 2013, new federal funding enabled the In It Together program to provide 1-1 support, parenting groups, mentoring, counselling, and educational resources to those seeking to avoid gang life.
A father involvement program grew out of the New Beginnings school and in 2010 officially became a separate program called Abby Dads. It offers activities, groups, supports and services to increase dads’ positive involvement with their children and in the community.
A semi-independent housing program for youth aged 16 to 19 opened in 2008 in partnership with MCFD. On-site staff teach youth the skills needed to live independently.
Following Thelma Schrock’s retirement, Rod Santiago was hired as the Executive Director. Rod’s vision has been to work actively with other organizations and funding partner to bring on new programs and service that meet the needs of the community.
Youth Health Centre
Out of a youth health committee with multiple organizations came the Abbotsford Youth Health Centre which provides primary care health services for youth in a safe, confidential and non judgemental environment. After multiple location changes, the centre found a permanent home within Foundry in 2018.
Starfish Pack Program
After hearing about children going hungry on the weekend, the ACS Food Bank and the Abbotsford Rotary Club created a program that now provides over 200 backpacks for students from 35 different schools in Abbotsford. Many communities in BC have also adopted the Starfish program.
Five community partners were awarded the WorkBC Contract from 2012-2019. They helped over 8,000 clients in their job searches and assisted employers in their recruitment efforts. Clients often had various barriers including limited training, diverse abilities, or being new to Canada.
Toys for Tots
To support the Christmas Bureau, this family-friendly event was created. Community members who make donations or bring toys can enjoy a breakfast along with entertainment.
The first international program started in Chandigarh, India to help immigrants prepare for life in Canada before arrival. While the Pre-Arrival Service contract ended in 2018, the centre now offers test preparation courses along with the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program test required for citizenship.
As Canada welcomed refugees fleeing from the Syrian Civil War, ACS played a large role in planning for their arrival in Abbotsford and coordinating housing and other settlement support services.
After overcoming strong opposition, Hearthstone Place became the first low-barrier residence in Abbotsford. The partnership between ACS, the City of Abbotsford and BC Housing provides support to address client’s individual and often complex needs including mental health, substance use, essential life skills and employability.
Charity Golf Tournament
Board members launched a charity golf tournament to raise awareness and funds for the agency.
Opioid Agonist Treatment Centre
In response to the opioid crisis and in partnership with Fraser Health, this program offers effective methadone and suboxone treatment for opioid-addicted individuals under the supervision of medical professionals.
After years of planning and dreaming Foundry Abbotsford officially opened in 2018. The integrated youth and health wellness centre brings together 14 partners with ACS as the lead agency. There are a number of Foundry centres across BC, all providing a one-stop shop for youth to get help for everything from the common cold to mental wellness support.
To celebrate the past 50 years, founder Walter Paetkau authored a book called It Takes Raindrops to Fill a Lake: The First Fifty Years of Abbotsford Community Services
Archway Community Services
In order to better reflect the programs outside of Abbotsford, the agency name is changed to “Archway Community Services.” Archway speaks to ‘people helping people’ in a collective effort to support the community.
An ‘arch’ draws its strength from the individual pieces supporting each other which is a metaphor for how our agency’s programs work together to support those in need. The ‘way’ part speaks to how we help point clients in the right direction and provide a path forward.