Over 100 community members, business owners and local dignitaries attended Why Not City Missions’ annual Fall Fundraiser Dinner on Saturday, October 28, 2023.
Before the event officially began, guests chatted with one another, while others browsed and placed bids on the many items from the silent auction.
Michael Bosveld, Board Chair of Why Not City Missions (WNCM) welcomed guests and thanked them for coming.
“It’s been another exciting year, and we feel privileged to share and celebrate the work that’s being done here in Brantford,” he said. For 21 years now, WNCM has sought to change lives with real and practical support shared through positive and meaningful relationships.”
He said that since the organization started, it continues to grow and evolve.
“Our services have grown from simple curb-side coffee and prayer to a youth centre opened seven nights a week, a residential housing program for young men and our newest venture, support housing for young parents in a beautiful nineteenth century mansion that houses at-risk moms and their young children,” he said. “We’re also blessed to offer a myriad of parallel programs like homework help, counseling and youth church among other high-quality programs for those who are seeking these services.”
Karen Stewart, Executive Director of WNCM then called up Will Bouma, MPP for Brantford-Brant, to say a few words.
Bouma said that he was grateful for the work that WNCM has been doing within the community and noted that its hard work and dedication is important to the city.
“When I drive around the city with a grin on my face, I think ‘wow, this place has good bones.’ But you know why it has good bones?” he asked. “Because it has good people who want to make a difference and that’s the only way we can do this because no amount of government money and no amount of per-bed funding will do it. What we’re doing here tonight celebrates that, and the fact that for 21 years this has happened through WNCM, it’s just absolutely amazing.”
Bouma then presented Charlie Kopczyk, Founder and Pastor of WNCM with a congratulatory scroll of recognition from the Province.
“On behalf of the Province of Ontario, I want to extend my best wishes to WNCM,” he said. “Your hard work and dedication are to be commended as you continue to help support the youth of Brantford with grace, kindness and care. Thank you for making our community a better place.”
Kopczyk then said prayer before guests were called to grab their buffet style dinner.
As dinner wrapped up, Stewart took to the podium to speak about how the topic of mental health has been destigmatized in recent years.
“Mental health and mental illness have become popular topics of discussion over the past few years,” she said. “As we came out of the pandemic many people were realizing that they were not doing well mentally. They were recognizing they needed help to address their mental health and well-being. What was really encouraging was to hear the general public normalize that it’s okay to not be okay.”
Stewart noted that while society has come far when it comes to understanding mental health, there are other topics that are not so readily discussed.
“There is another issue that we face and it’s not as discussed as commonly in our mainstream conversations,” she said. “Childhood trauma, also called adverse childhood experiences, can dramatically affect a child’s brain development and can impact the entire life of the individual who experiences trauma. “
She explained the importance of understanding the word “trauma” in a time when people often use the term flippantly in everyday life.
“In a quote by Psychology Today Canada, ‘trauma is a person’s emotional response to a distressing experience. Unlike ordinary hardships, traumatic events tend to be sudden and unpredictable, involve a serious threat to life like bodily injury or death, and can feel beyond a person’s control,’” she said. “’Most importantly, events are traumatic to the degree that they undermine a person’s sense of safety in the world and create a sense that catastrophe could happen at any time.’”
Stewart said that adverse childhood can be caused by neglect, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as witnessing violence. She also noted how childhood trauma affects young people.
“Adolescent trauma is particularly damaging, as it occurs when the brain is developing and forming, which happens from birth all the way up to the age of 25. Researchers have discovered that childhood maltreatment or trauma, affects nine domains of cognitive functioning, and is considered to be one of the most consistent factors of later life cognitive dysfunction,” she said. “In simple terms, this means that a child who experiences trauma will carry cognitive damage for the rest of their adult life. Some of these affected cognitive functions include memory, academic achievement, literacy and verbal comprehension, intelligence, executive functioning, processing speed and reasoning.
Stewart said that while this is challenging and difficult to deal with, it’s not impossible.
“There is growth and success that can happen for those with childhood trauma but there needs to be very intentional interventions to make it happen,” she said. “In all our programs at WNCM, we empower our youth through relationships, we connect them with the tools they need to thrive in their potential and their purpose and we’re helping them to find ways to overcome and giving them hope for a different future.”
Two residents of Charlie’s Place, a residential housing program for young men, also came up to discuss what they have gained through their time in the program.
One shared that he has since got his Grade 12 diploma and has been working on caring for the grounds and gardens around the centre, while the other, Liam Bock, noted that his favourite memory since joining Charlie’s Place is “being treated like part of the family.”
Stewart then asked Bock what he was most proud of achieving since joining Charlie’s Place.
“The late-night walks that I go on, I end up helping the homeless community by giving them sweaters and whatnot,” he said.
Later, Darryl Bergen, the Youth Centre Coordinator and Volunteer Manager for WNCM, approached the podium to tell the guests about a variety of different volunteer opportunities including the mentorship program, meal preparation, organizing the food and clothing bank and other hands-on-tasks.
Bergen also provided statistics about the community they serve.
“Just to give you a picture of some of the staggering statistics of the Youth Center. We are open seven nights a week and 351 days of the year,” he said. “We get 30 to 40 youths a night and each night we’re serving a meal. That’s around 800 to 900 meals per month and 10,000 meals a year. All in all, we have some staggering statistics, and we are so blessed to be part of a community that is looking towards making a difference in young people’s lives who have been affected by trauma and the adverse effects of generational poverty.”
As the event wrapped up, Bosveld let guests know that for more information and volunteer opportunities, they can visit www.whynotcitymissions.com.