Shelley Utz and Connie Alger are looking to help Brocklehurst residents connect.
Between January and April of last year the Kamloops Free Methodist Church at 975 Windbreak St. partnered with social work students from Thompson Rivers University who were tasked with creating, administering and reporting on a community needs assessment in Brocklehurst.
Shelley Utz, lead pastor for the church, told KTW they reached out to the students to conduct the research because they wanted to gather information about the area in order to be able to better serve the Brocklehurst community.
The students administered 118 surveys, via paper and online, to Brocklehurst residents, representing close to 1.15 per cent of the Kamloops neighbourhood’s population which totals nearly 13,000.
The survey showed that residents are not actively engaged in community activities, nor do they interact much within it, but view community activities as the most helpful for emotional well-being.
Nearly 30 per cent of respondents reported not having access to support groups in Brocklehurst, and more than 75 per cent reported interacting within their community anywhere from zero to 50 per cent of the time.
An overwhelming 81 per cent said community activities were most helpful for their emotional well-being and nearly 55 per cent of respondents said they were not engaged in their community.
As for what they felt was responsible for affecting community participation in activities, 37 per cent of respondents said affordability while another 30 per cent said availability.
In total, 93 per cent view the need for more cultural and intellectual activities in Brocklehurst as either important or very important. For Utz, the results were both surprising and to be expected.
“We knew during the [COVID-19] pandemic that people were losing connection,” Utz said. “But to see it statistically represented it was like, this is a real thing that people feel somewhat isolated and don’t necessarily have resources or know how to support themselves.”
As a result of the survey, the church has hired a part-time director of neighbourhood engagement, Connie Alger, who will address the students’ findings, and wants to engage with Brocklehurst neighbours to talk about their needs and how to address them.
Alger, who is from Kamloops, has worked in the local non-profit sector and taught early childhood education at Thompson Rivers University.
Part of Alger’s role will be to continue exploring the results of the survey, Utz said.
“Part of what Connie needs to do is scratch under the surface of some of those findings,” Utz said.
She said while the church has resources to help people in emotional support, they are also a neighbour with space that can be utilized for other community needs such as seniors who’d like to connect for coffee or young mothers who need a place to meet with their children.
Alger said she’s been reaching out to people and groups who may want to partner, but hopes those she may not be aware of will contact the church with their ideas for community support.
“If people have an idea of how the church might be able to support something they care about in our neighbourhood, I’d love for them to reach out,” Alger said.
Some of community activities are already in the works.
For 13 weeks beginning Feb.7, the Kamloops Free Methodist Church will offer a grief support group, GriefShare, this group is open to anyone in the community grieving the loss of a friend or family member.
Come the Family Day weekend next month, the church will host free a community event involving games and crafts that everyone is welcome to attend games.
“We are really encouraging this to be a multi-generational event so grandparents to babies are all welcome,” Alger said. “The date and time for that are yet to be confirmed, this information will also be on our website.”
In the spring the church will be offering Alpha which is an eleven week program to which people are invited to bring all the questions they might have about the Christian faith for open candid conversations.
They also plan to run summer set camps if they can secure funding from the Canada Summer Jobs grant.
As part of her work, Alger has also been engaging with students from neighbouring Brocklehurst middle school during their weekly breakfast program for those students, and in December the church hosted free Christmas activities for the community.
To contact the Kamloops Free Methodist Church phone 250-376-8332, and to reach Alger call 778-694-2342.