By ROY WOOD
As part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness of her organization, Desert Sun Counselling and Resource Centre executive director Marieze Tarr updated Oliver council on Monday on several of the programs and resources available to the community.
Tarr was appointed last January last year, shortly after stepping away from 16 years as a school trustee, including six as board chair.
With nine full-time and nine part-time staffers and a large group of volunteers, Desert Sun provides an array of programs covering women’s and men’s counselling, affordable housing, effective parenting, seniors’ support and more. Some of the programs Tarr mentioned to council included:
Community Kitchen. Once a week in Oliver and Osoyoos. Aimed at moms but open to anyone, the program leader and the clients cook a meal in the kitchen and then eat it together. There are leftovers, which clients take home to provide another meal. There is a child minder available and a support worker to provide parenting advice for anyone who needs it.
Better at Home takes the view that seniors are often better off in their own homes than in institutions and offers supports to make life at home possible, including yard care and snow removal as well as transporting seniors to appointments and on errands.
Men’s Shed starts April 1 at Sandalwood in Oliver. It offers a meeting place for single, older men for five hours a day Monday to Friday. Social workers say that many solitary seniors can become isolated and depressed, particularly in winter. Clients will be encouraged to socialize and pursue hobbies. And there will be computer training.
Fearlessly Facing Forward was a summer camp aimed at helping children dealing with anxiety. Tarr said the group hopes to expand the program to two one-week camps, one for Osoyoos and one for Oliver.
A Youth Drop-In Centre is a project Desert Sun is working on and hopes to have running shortly. The idea is to provide youth with a place to go and positive things to in the after-school hours.
Sandalwood Court, an 18-unit apartment building on Main Street in Oliver, was recently purchased by Desert Sun as an affordable housing project. Tarr said the group inherited the current tenants, but hopes, “through attrition to meet affordable housing needs.”
Roots of Empathy is a program Tarr coordinated at the school district and has taken with her to Desert Sun. Kids from kindergarten to grade eight learn empathy and emotional intelligence through interaction with a volunteer mother and baby.
Safe Home is a program for women in abusive relationships. The program offers a crisis line and a safe place for women and children fleeing the relationships to stay.
Desert Sun partners with several organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club, United Way. School District 53, Interior Health, Osoyoos Rotary and OneSky Community Resources in Penticton.