New Sunrise Savings Program Underway

By Donna Marchak

St. Andrew’s United Church is getting more involved with the Sunrise Resource Centre Community Hub this fall as it launches its new Sunrise Savings program at St. Andrew’s Centre.  Sunrise Savings helps people achieve control of their finances and family futures.

“The Sunrise Savings program was introduced in October after many months of planning,” said Luisa Castro, Community Advocate for Sunrise Community Resource Centre. “It’s a six-month program, offering one-on-one advice and group classes on personal finance, banking, credit and consumerism. It’s one of many offered by Sunrise Resource centres in Calgary. Our client community’s needs constantly change with the current social and economic climate, “ she explained.

Sunrise Savings expands upon the weekly Wednesday Community Hub that Sunrise runs in partnership with St. Andrew’s.  Our office location is convenient to the LRT, City Transit, cars and bikes. There are Community Hubs located in every quadrant of the city. St. Andrew’s has become the most popular, busiest location.

St. Andrew’s volunteers provide snacks for the Sunrise Savings participants on Tuesdays. Childcare is also available. St. Andrew’s helps also with practical donations such as transit passes. It’s hoped that St. Andrew’s volunteers will become more involved as Sunrise Savings develops.

“St. Andrew’s has agreed to help in presenting this program by providing not only a safe, comfortable space but also extending a warm welcome to our clients. We are all working toward the same goals – financial independence and confidence,“ said Ms Castro.

The Sunrise Savings program is just one of the many ways the Sunrise Resource Centre realizes its objectives to help clients with financial and career advice. Many of their clients are new Canadians and range in age from the late teens to seniors. Different needs, backgrounds and life experiences make the Community Hub’s mandate very challenging.

“No day (at the community hub) is ever the same. The needs of our clients are changing along with our economy and culture. We are fortunate that St. Andrew’s offers a safe, happy environment where we can meet one-on-one or as a group. St Andrew’s Centre is a joyful place, filled with enthusiasm,” says Ms Castro

The Sunrise Savings program is an intense exercise in managing personal financial matters. Participants are chosen carefully and must commit to attending workshops, open a savings account, provide receipts/bank statements and meet with the Community Advocate throughout the process. They will save a small amount of money each month, with the Community Hub adding to the amount being saved.

“The Saving’s program isn’t just about money – it’s about examining the client’s personal relationship with money and what it means to manage the family’s finances, save for the future and take steps to empower them to make wise decisions. This can be difficult when they are facing many hurdles in their lives,” Ms Castro explained.

The Sunrise Community Hub came to St. Andrew’s Centre as a partnership with Regional Ministries a few years ago. The relationship has now shifted to St. Andrew’s United Church which will assume more responsibilities and support. Our office and meeting space was almost ideal for meeting with clients individually and holding seminars for small groups. The Community Hub program now runs full days each Wednesday and has expanded from the previous half-day offering. Along with private, personal counselling, matters such as banking, job search skills, resume writing and home management are presented. Interactive classes and videos are being used to meet clients’ needs.

“Once you connect with a client and they trust you enough to tell their personal story, you can develop a plan with them. Everyone’s situation is unique. We have to be creative so that they have quick results and build their confidence so that they can see progress,”  Ms Castro said.

Assistance for individuals and families also includes food bank hampers, Project Warmth (winter coats), Christmas hampers, health referrals/information and temporary and permanent housing. The Community Hub works with the Women in Need Society (WINS) for women only and Community Voicemail program,

Many clients are new to Canada and require basic assistance in career development and personal/family finance. Employment agency information, legal resources, financial coaching have been well received and effective. The Happy Birthday project (hampers for children), Bump and Baby Matters (new parent and 0 to 6-month old babies) are also offered.

To keep up the momentum of all the good work the Sunrise Community Hub does in the community, you are encouraged to get involved. Please contact St. Andrew’s office to see how you can help.   Email office@andychurch.org  or call 403-259-4080.