Neha Jayaram, Communications and Marketing Specialist
The Bhayana Family Foundation Awards recognize extraordinary contributions made by frontline staff and middle managers who are tackling #UNIGNORABLE issues at United Way Greater Toronto-supported agencies. Winners are awarded for helping people thrive through their dedication, innovation and creativity, leadership, teamwork and partnership.
On November 18th, SCHC’s Social Support Team won a Bhayana Family Foundation Team Award. The 3 team members, (pictured above, from left to right) Ilene Page, Prakathesh Rabeenthira and Shivana Sankarwere recognized for their commitment to success through excellent and consistent performance.
For the Clients
The Social Support Team provides a number of services, directly to residents of the Scarborough community. As the largest program at SCHC, the members of the Social Support team work diligently each day not only to provide access to basic resources like food, clothing and furniture, but also to build rapport with every individual who comes to our programs. in addition to this they also refer clients to other needed supports and services within the agency.
The program provides support to more than 320 households each week. This results in 1000+ people having their food needs met weekly by our small team of three staff members and a number of volunteers. There's no one-size-fits-all solution at SCHC’s Food Bank: everyone needs to eat, and this variety means that the team must be nimble in their responsiveness.
Staff know most clients by name. Over time, they learn so many wonderful and challenging things about our clients' experiences: who is new to SCHC’s Food Bank, who is having a baby, who just lost a loved one, who got a new job. The team works hard to build meaningful relationships fostered by trust and compassion.
This improves client experience because hunger is not a singular issue. If an individual is in need of food support, chances are they need help in other areas of their lives. Building relationships with the clients gives the team an opportunity to better understand their particular circumstances and provide them with more support, beyond food and clothing. Many of SCHC’s Food Bank clients experience extreme marginalization and barriers to accessing basic services and resources such as primary health care, homelessness or being at risk of homelessness, mental health concerns, recreational activities, income benefits and more. The team is able to direct clients to other SCHC services like a referral to our community health centre, informing a parent about the city's Welcome Policy so they can enroll their children in swimming lessons and even external referrals to partner agencies.
With more than 200 staff and 40 programs, it’s safe to say SCHC is a large agency. SCHC’s Food Bank team have made it their business to get to know individuals and programs across the organization that will benefit their clients. Making approximately 80 internal referrals each month, they are well known across the agency.
The team's ability to network within SCHC has provided new connections, faster responses and improved client experiences. In return, other staff feel confident in reaching out to the Food Bank and asking for support for their own clients. These internal partnerships have improved staff relationships while benefiting clients by opening the door to numerous services.
In addition to the exceptional service provided directly to clients, the team has also worked hard with corporate partners to improve the program space and resources. Several corporate groups such as banks, school groups, realtors and other local businesses partner with us to regularly support SCHC clients with food, cash, volunteer hours, holiday donations, repairs and painting. Last December our telecom system provider connected to SCHC’s Food Bank program, donated food and thousands of dollars in new clothes and gifts. The same company also contributed a large financial donation to the SCHC’s Food Bank. These partnerships are the results of the team's commitment to fostering meaningful relationships that benefit our clients.
Within the community, SCHC’s Food Bank team has also fostered a relationship with a team operating an on-site program in a TCH building. Each week, staff from CMHA drop-by and pick up food for a number of their residents who are not able to leave their homes. The building is not in our immediate area nor have the clients ever come to our location, however, the team has demonstrated their flexibility and creativity in delivering services and their commitment to ensuring clients have their basic needs met.
As with most SCHC programs, SCHC’s Food Bank relies on its volunteers for smooth delivery of services and, with support from the Volunteer Coordinator, the team has been very committed to improving the volunteer program as well. Engaging volunteers in a meaningful way is challenging but the team has been working together on a strategy to improve this experience for everyone - clients, volunteers and staff. On-boarding and training processes have been streamlined and all members of the team know their role in supporting new volunteers. Daily volunteer huddles have improved communication between all team members and service delivery for clients. All team members recognize the importance of ensuring volunteers are supported and work together to make this happen.
Individuals who joined as clients are now also volunteers of SCHC’s Food Bank, and they know that not only is their participation values, but their input is respected and sought after.
This kind of client engagement is a true example of the team's commitment to community development, an attitude that makes them a winning team!
Seems like a lot?
So, How Do They Do It?
The 3 team members have formed a strong team founded on honest communication, common goals for the program, respect for one another and care for each individual. When asked by their manager for the secret to their successful team they will tell you: open communication is critical.
Each morning the team meets over coffee to discuss their day. They talk about what clients will be provided with, what challenges they may face, are deliveries expected, which volunteers are coming and where are they needed, if there are corporate or school groups visiting and so on.
In addition, the team has formal SCHC’s Food Bank team meetings each month to review various aspects of the program. They discuss the status of new processes, identify areas for improvement, review client feedback and specific client cases that require more collaboration in order to successfully support them.
The team explores problems from several angles, in order to find the best possible solution. When team members do not agree with an approach, they respectfully listen to one another and work towards a collaborative solution. Regardless of their personal thoughts, they are always working toward a common goal: to improve client experience and ensure their immediate basic needs are met.
In fact, their clients are so important to the team, that they were one of the first at SCHC to pilot a new approach to integrating the voices of our clients in our work. Last year, two clients were invited to attend weekly meetings and discuss improvement ideas, enabling them to introduce their own ideas as well as suggestions from other clients.
Each year at SCHC, the Social Support team coordinates and delivers a holiday program for the local community. With approximately 500 households registering for gifts and food, this is a large program to coordinate on top of all the regular work at the SCHC’s Food Bank.
Organizing the registration, data entry, donation requests and procurement, coordination of food deliveries, hundreds of toys to sort out, thank you letters to send, scheduling holiday food giveaways and ensuring there were always enough hands on deck to manage this massive effort. All this, plus the daily demands of the food, clothing and furniture banks, seems like an impossible task.
In fact, not only were all of the registered clients provided with holiday packages, numerous walk-ins and last-minute clients also benefited from the holiday program!
If you would like to make a difference in the life of a Scarborough family this holiday season, please considering sponsoring a family hamper.
For more information please contact Shivana Sankar at 416-847-4142 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org