© Gary Kean
Michael Burry, executive director of the Spinal Cord Injury Newfoundland and Labrador, addresses the Rotary Club of Corner Brook on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013.
CORNER BROOK — After seeing its employment assistance service — and the funding that went with it — transferred to the provincial government’s control, Spinal Cord Injury Newfoundland and Labrador hopes to restore a presence in Corner Brook.
That was the hopeful message delivered by Michael Burry, the association’s executive director, when he addressed the Rotary Club of Corner Brook during its weekly luncheon meeting Thursday.
Formerly known as the Canadian Paraplegic Association, the organization dedicated to helping those with spinal cord injuries used to operate eight regional offices across Newfoundland and Labrador. Six of those, including the one servicing the Corner Brook and surrounding area, were employment assistance offices f or people with disabilities who are eligible for employment insurance.
As part of this year’s provincial budget, four of those employment services offices were closed and the clients who availed of them redirected to career and employment work centres operated by the Department of Advanced Education and Skills.
The closure of the Corner Brook office, which serviced some 400 clients, impacted four jobs.
Spinal Cord Injury Newfoundland and Labrador still receives funding from the province to operate offices in St. John’s, Bay Roberts, St. Anthony and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Peer support counselling
Burry said the organization would like to be able to get back to Corner Brook and to a location in central Newfoundland, likely Grand Falls-Windsor, with more of a focus on its peer support counselling program.
To do that, Burry estimates the association will have to find around $200,000 annually in additional revenue. That may have to come from sources like corporate sponsors and other fundraising activities.
“We don’t have a lot of corporate sponsors,” said Burry. “It’s not something we’ve ever focused on. Because we were so heavily funded by government, there was never a necessity for corporate sponsors unless there was a specific program we wanted to bring up.”
The corporate sponsors that currently support the association either donate small grants annually or offer a percentage of sales of their products.
Burry said Spinal Cord Injury Newfoundland and Labrador will be trying to negotiate more provincial funding for offices in Corner Brook and central, but expanding its peer support counselling program was something already being considered before this spring’s budget.
Either way, seeking further help from the business community would help it offer more and better services to those living with disabilities.
“We may turn to the corporate community more at this point because it is something we haven’t done before and maybe there is an opportunity there,” said Burry.