Chilliwack Community Services got its start in 1928 as Chilliwack Community Chest with the mandate “to discover and look into needful and pitiful cases”. It relied on donations to put together hampers of clothing and food. Sometimes it meant supplying help in the home or providing railway tickets to ensure that a family reached their relatives who could take care of them.
Throughout the depression, the need continued to grow, as did the reach of the agency. The arrival of the military base in 1942 added to the client list especially when pay cheques were delayed. By 1960, the Chest was becoming too big and the Mayor was approached for assistance. It was decided by the agency that it would have to close its doors by January 15, 1961 if help was not forthcoming.
In April 1966, the Local Council of Women presented to the Centennial Committee a proposed Constitution for the continuing work of the Chest. The following month the founding meeting of the Chilliwack Community Chest and Services was held to adopt the new constitution. It became a registered society and hired its first paid employees. The mandate of the agency changed at that time; it became “to identify and attempt to meet the Chilliwack area’s unmet social needs”.
Several years passed and many new programs were added to the agency’s mandate. Our first Executive Director was Marilyn Fane who took over that job on September 1, 1977.
In 1974, the word “Chest” was dropped to emphasize the “services” aspect of the agency. From 1974 onward, the agency continued to grow: Senior Citizen Counselors, Easter Seal Buses, Alcohol and Drug Counselling, the Thrift Store, Tax Clinics, Big Sisters, Family Place, Daycare programs, the Youth Activity Centre are but some examples of the growth which took place during the 1980s.
The 1990s brought new challenges. We outgrew our premises and moved down the street to what we now call our Wellington Office and Family Place moved in. In 2005, the Sardis Family Resource Centre opened its doors to the neighbourhoods on the southside of the community, fulfilling a long time goal our strategic plan. Sardis Family Place now has a permanent home, with attendance reaching capacity on most days. In 2008, the Mary Street Office was purchased and renovated to accommodate the growing services for immigrants and employment readiness. In 2011, our youth services relocated to The Village – a partnership with BC Housing to provide supportive housing for youth at risk. In 2012, CCS partnered with GT Hiring to provide employment services to the Vedder/Sardis neighbourhoods through the Work BC initiative.
We can never be certain of our future but we can remain confident that if we diligently ensure that the team is competent, the agency will be able to cope with whatever comes our way. The Society has approximately 120 employees and 200 volunteers who work out of several locations in Chilliwack and Sardis to deliver over 40 programs for families of all shapes and sizes.