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The History of Kaslo Community Services

KCS, formerly North Kootenay Lake Community Services Society, has its history rooted in supporting its communities needs.

A History of Kaslo Community Services

(Formerly North Kootenay Lake Community Services Society)

In the fall of 1975, a pilot project was initiated to meet some of the long standing needs for home support in the Kaslo area and to determine the feasibility of establishing this service on a permanent basis. From this pilot project The Kaslo and District Homemaker Society was formed on May 28th 1976. Members from the steering committee of the pilot project formed the first Board of Directors. We are grateful to Castle Thompson, Thornton Conrow, Isabel Butler, Dorothy Warman, Garfield Belanger, Margaret Baggenstos and Joan Thomas for their work in creating this society.

At this time homemaker services focussed mainly on the elderly and the infirm with some services to families and children with special needs.

In November 1990 the agency received Charitable Tax Status allowing for increased opportunities for fund raising. Special Resolutions were passed at an Annual Meeting in May 1991 to change the name and mission statement of the agency. The new name, North Kootenay Lake Community Services Society was chosen to reflect the expanded role of the agency and its commitment to provide services to the entire catchment area surrounding Kaslo. In 2008 the mission statement was updated to read as follows: “to develop and provide services and programs which contribute to a thriving community and enhance the quality of life for North Kootenay Lake residents.”  Unfortunately, over time, having a long name has become unwieldly and many people would forget what the name was.  In October 2022 at our AGM we shortened the name to Kaslo Community Services Society and will generally operate as Kaslo Community Services.  This is a name many people have always referred to us as and we still serve the same area and provide the same services.

Since 1976, Kaslo Community Services Society has been dedicated to providing essential services to people from Ainsworth to Meadow Creek, Howser, Argenta and Johnson’s Landing.

Initially the Agency’s office was located in the Provincial Government Building. In 1978 a two-office space was rented at the Langham Centre. In May 1983, the agency moved into a small house at 414 – 5th Street. The services expanded rapidly and outgrew the physical space. In April, 1994 the agency fulfilled its long-term dream to find a permanent home for its offices. With the help of a grant from the BC provincial lotteries fund and a mortgage from KREDA (Kootenay Regional Economic Development Association) as well as individual and corporate donations, Community Services was able to purchase a suitable building at 336 B Avenue to house all of its services. After a decade of operating in cramped quarters, the board felt confident that the bright welcoming new location would help them carry out its mission and increase efficiency, effectiveness and accessibility. Staff and clients indicated their delight with the new premises.


This program was the first service that the Society was founded upon in 1976 and has experienced a significant decrease in hours over the years. In 1984, twenty-four Home Support Workers provided 10,720 hours of Home Support service to 98 clients. In 2000-2001, fifteen Home Support Workers helped 46 individuals to stay healthy, active, and independent in their own homes and communities. A total of 7,899 hours of quality care was provided. During the next few years the hours continued to be cut, with the Interior Health Authority finally terminating the contract totally in October, 2003. IHA now provides the remaining limited hours directly.

Our Board and staff did everything in our power to protect these essential services. We spearheaded a lobby of our government representatives and worked hard to make the case for inclusion of housekeeping services in the Home Support Program.

We would like to honour the contributions of Corol Wight, Laurie Harris and Emily Youngreen who provided excellent leadership and supervision for our team of Home Support Workers.

With the loss of Home Support, NKLCSS looked for new ways to provide service to the clients left with out help and to provide funding for the wide range of services we offer. In the spring of 2004 Kaslo Community Services launched Hummingbird Home Help, a ‘social enterprise’ business under the able leadership of Emily Youngreen. This service drew on our expertise from Home Support to offer housecleaning and personal care to anyone in the Kaslo and North Kootenay Lake communities. It is a fee for service business with all the profits being turned back into our other programs. In the summer of 2005, Hummingbird was expanded to include the Balfour, Harrop and Proctor area.

The service was well received and was used by young families, working people, seniors, bed and breakfast operations, community halls and others. Unfortunately, in 2007, due to the pressure between what clients were willing to pay and what staff needed to be paid, we were unable to fill staffing vacancies. We ended the Hummingbird service with sadness, knowing that a needed service was left unanswered. We have been glad to see that independent operators have filled the void.

The Community Counselling Program was initiated in 1988 with a small contract through Mental Health. We would like to acknowledge the important contribution of Suzanne White in providing this new service to our local area. The program expanded and diversified in 1993 to include additional service components and a new staff team. The newly expanded services included Family Support Program, Stopping the Violence Counselling for Women, Victim’s Assistance, Safe Homes Program, Children Who Witness Violence Counselling, and the Sexual Abuse Intervention Program. Each aspect had its own funder and contract requirements (see related descriptions below).

The Counselling team provides confidential emotional support and facilitates personal growth and healing for individual adults, children, and youth, and for families. This includes crisis response and short and long term counselling services. The team includes professionals with expertise in play therapy, addictions, family violence, sexual abuse and women’s and men’s issues.

In 2000-01, the Community Counselling Program provided therapeutic support to 143 adults and 89 children and youth for a total of 232 individuals and families in the Kaslo Area. By 2011-12 we were providing care to to 346 individuals. In addition, we provide an outreach service to our neighbours on the East Shore. In 2003-04 we provided counselling support to 18 children and youth, and to 13 adults in the Crawford Bay area. Our counselling team also provides outreach service to the schools in Kaslo, Meadow Creek, and Crawford Bay.

We currently have 6 counsellors on staff.

This service is a portion of the original counselling service through Mental Health. However, it has moved over to the Ministry for Children and Family Development with the creation of the new ministry. This program also serves the East Shore of Kootenay Lake.

Expressive art and play therapies are used with children, youth and families. The use of creative image and symbols of the person are honoured, placing less emphasis on the need for verbal communication. Children naturally use art and play to resolve issues and to understand their world.

Addictions Services have been restructured as part of government reorganization. The Addictions contract was originally provided through a partnership between Mental Health and the Ministry of Health. Then the services were transferred to the Ministry for Children & Family Development. Currently funding comes through Interior Health. Addictions services consist of intervention, support counselling, referrals to detox and residential treatment centres as well as education and prevention activities in school and community settings.

Counselling for adults was also part of the original counselling service through Mental Health where it is administered by Interior Health. The service provides therapeutic support for adults in both Kaslo and the East Shore. Currently, the service is available to any adult dealing with trauma, crisis or times of change in their lives.

This service was first funded in 1992. The service provides short and long term individual counselling and related supports to women who have experienced violence or abuse. It provides a safe and supportive place for women to share their stories, appreciate their strengths and recognize growth and change. The program addresses a wide range of violence and abuse issues including sexual assault, assault within a relationship and survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Abuse exists on a continuum from emotional to physical and sexual abuse. This service is available to any woman who has experienced violence or abuse in her life, whether current or past and whether from family members, partners, acquaintances or strangers.

After 10 years of struggling to provide services to families in crisis with short-term contracts and insufficient funding, the agency received funding support from the Ministry of Social Services to create a permanent Family Support Worker position in 1993.

Through the Family Support Program, outreach counselling, in-home support and crisis intervention for children, youth and families are provided. As well, the program helps people develop necessary life-skills including parenting, assertiveness, conflict resolution and self-esteem building. This service is now funded through the Ministry for Children and Family Development.

The Attorney General has funded a Specialized Victim’s Assistance Program through Community Services since 1993. The program provides justice related services, crisis intervention, advocacy and emotional support for victims of family violence, and sexual assault. Looking at the peaceful little town of Kaslo and its surrounding rural setting, one might well imagine that the community is free of violence. Statistics, however, clearly demonstrate the extent of family violence across all parts of society. Kaslo and area is no exception and the Victim’s Assistance Program is being well utilized. This service is now funded through the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

In November, 1989 the Kaslo RCMP identified the need for services to victims of family violence in Kaslo and the surrounding area. There was an urgent need for Safe Homes and transportation to the Transition House in Trail. The agency volunteered to work with members of the Kaslo Interagency group to organize and recruit Safe Homes and volunteer drivers to address this need. There were no funds available to support the program. In January, 1991, the agency signed a contract with the Ministry of Social Services that would provide per diem funding for Safe Home volunteers and travel allowance for drivers.

Additional funding was provided by the Ministry of Social Services in 1993-94 and the agency was able to hire a Safe Homes Co-ordinator. This funding is now provided by the Ministry of Community Services. Through the Safe Homes Program, volunteers offer overnight shelter and transportation to the Nelson Transition House for women and children victims of family violence, in collaboration with the R.C.M.P. and the agency’s Victim’s Assistance Co-ordinator. After hours crisis response by telephone is provided by staff who are accessed by the Crisis Line in Trail or the RCMP in Kaslo.

Community Services did not have a specialized program for children who witness abuse until November 1, 1993. We began offering a program for women victims of violence in April of 1993, funded through the Ministry of Women’s Equality and contracted with Mental Health. Statistics accumulated through the Counselling Program indicated a high need for a children’s component. In November 1993, the agency established a contract with Ministry of Social Services to provide a Children Who Witness Abuse Program. The Ministry of Community Services now provides the financial support for this program. The program was originally called Children Who Witness Violence but the program name was changed to Children Who Witness Abuse to better reflect the fact that abuse does not need to be violent to be damaging.

The Children’s Program includes a school-based prevention component which was initiated in the fall of 1994.

West Kootenay Wilderness was primarily a prevention based program that provided a unique opportunity for 10 teens at risk aged 13 – 17 years. Participants experienced personal growth and physical challenge during 3 to 7 day wilderness excursions from May to September. The program used an adventure based counselling concept to promote change through challenging activities. This was a regional program which served the entire West Kootenay region from 1988 to 2001.

In 1993, the agency was shocked to learn that the Ministry of Social Services cut the funding for the West Kootenay Wilderness Program. The board immediately began lobbying the Ministry, concerned community members and other potential funders for support. The Child/Youth Committees proclaimed enthusiastic support for the program and as a result funding from Social Services was re-instated at a reduced level. Funding support from Alcohol & Drug Programs was also provided which allowed the program to continue.

In 1999 the program was put on hold due to an incident on the coast where some participants in another wilderness program got lost and experienced frost bite. The Attorney General suspended all wilderness programs until a thorough investigation took place. Policies and standards were developed and our agency was commended for its outstanding accomplishments in meeting these standards. The West Kootenay Wilderness Program continued to be an exemplary program in terms of program content and safety issues.

Unfortunately, funding for this program was ended in 2002 and despite numerous attempts to find new funding, we were unable to continue the program. We still believe that this type of program is valuable and should be brought back. Teens are in a high risk category for crime and drug and alcohol use in general. Rural teens are doubly disadvantaged because of their physical isolation to services that larger centres provide. Past participants words verify the need for this kind of experience: “I will probably never ever have this kind of experience in my whole life again.”There are no other programs out there that have the same kind of impact, yours is the best thing going!”

Judy Evans was our Wilderness Program Coordinator for eleven years. We are grateful for her leadership and dedication.

The agency began providing services to mentally challenged adults in 1989. The programs are currently funded by the Ministry for Children and Family Development to assist mentally handicapped children, youth and adults with independent living and relationship skills. Through these programs, the agency supports the families in providing for the special needs of their members. The services enrich the lives of everyone in the community by helping to integrate, accept and empower people with special needs. For the first time in 1993-94, these programs did not generate a deficit. The Ministry has improved the funding for these programs to more adequately respond to the needs. Currently we have only 1 adult Self Help client and no children. Sandra Rempel is our current Self Help Worker.

In 1991, the agency purchased 18 Personal Emergency Response Units. These were jointly funded by the Senior’s Lottery, Go BC and the Society. These have proven to be so popular with seniors and others who live alone and have a chronic health problem or a physical disability that we purchased an additional 15 units in 2000 with the generous support of the Seniors Foundation of British Columbia. The units are available for a monthly rental fee. When activated by a pendant worn around the person’s neck, the unit automatically dials the national Lifeline Emergency Response Centre. The person is contacted at home or specially chosen friends or relatives are called to respond. Friends and family members feel reassured by the presence of the Lifeline and seniors and people with disabilities in the community are able to maintain their independence.

The Selkirk Health Unit in Kaslo initiated the Nobody’s Perfect Program in 1991. A Steering Committee was formed in June 1991. The Chair of North Kootenay Lake Community Services Society joined the Steering Committee and the first program was delivered in the Spring of 1992. At that time, the Health Unit was directed to formally involve a non-profit society in the management of the program. Community Services agreed to this arrangement.

The overall goal of the Nobody’s Perfect program is to improve parents’ capabilities to maintain and promote the health of their pre-school aged children. The program increases participants’ knowledge and understanding of their children’s health, safety and behaviour. It encourages positive change in the relationship between parents and their children and the participants develop confidence, self-esteem and coping skills. The program also facilitates ongoing self-help and mutual support among parents. We have offered this program in Meadow Creek, Argenta and Kaslo.

In April, 1995, our agency received funding to provide services to families with children ages 0-6 years. This funding was provided by the federal government CAP-C program (Community Action Program for Children). The first two years were challenging and there were two staff changes. Some of the challenges had to do with an unclear mandate for this program. In December, 1996, when the second staff member resigned, we decided to not renew our contract to provide this service. However, in May, 1997 we decided to re-initiate the program with a new focus. The new community development focus has been very successful and as a result, Parent Support Circles, Parent-Child Drop-Ins and other community based networks have developed.

After several years of transporting toys back and forth to private homes and local church halls, we were very excited in 2003 to receive funding from the Ministry for Children and Family Development to open a Family Centre as a permanent home for our Parent Support Programs.

The Family Centre opened in the spring of 2003 at 412 ‘B’ Avenue. This building sold later that year and in November 2003 we moved from ‘B’ Avenue to our current location at 400 Front St. This has been an ideal location, allowing increased visibility and a larger play area that has supported the increasing numbers of parents and children participating in programs.

The Family Centre has become home to a variety of short and long term programs. In addition to the twice-weekly Parent and Child Time and the Parent Support Circle, we have seen numerous other programs run at the Family Centre. The Parent and Child Time, a two hour drop-in program, has seen as many as 50 participants per session and has had over 160 different participants through the year. The Parent Support Circle has offered a place for parents to come together for mutual support and to share ideas around parenting under the support of a counselor facilitator.

We have been very fortunate to have Barb Cyr and Sarah Evans managing programming at the Family Centre for several years. Over the years several six to eight week programs have been offered including the Nobody’s Perfect Parenting Program (ongoing), S.T.E.P. (Systematic Train for Effective Parenting) Program, Parent-Child Mother Goose (ongoing), and a Prenatal Yoga class. Other single session events have included a Childsafe First Aid course and presentations such as Toy-Making for the Young Child, Guiding Your Child’s Behavior, and Play to Learn.

North Kootenay Lake Community Services Society has been able to offer summer employment programs to youth when funding has been available. Unfortunately the last few years have seen cuts to funding for this type of program and we have not found programs that fit with the needs of the this community. Programs offered in earlier years are outlined below.

In the summer of 1999, Community Services agreed to sponsor a Youth Services Canada project to employ 14 youth for a 6-month summer employment project. This was a large undertaking as a great deal of unfunded staff time went into organising, planning and supporting the project.

The project included mentorship/gardening program with youth and seniors in the community, performing arts and culture events, tourism, lifeskills, training, career planning and hands on work experience in construction of two flotations to enhance the existing floating stage for the Kaslo Jazz Festival. There were many challenges managing a project of this scope and although the benefits to the community were great, the project placed a great deal of stress on our existing staff. Without adequate paid administration and supervision, the agency would not consider such sponsorship again.

The agency provided a successful summer recreation program since Jackie Murdock initiated Kaslo Kids Kool Kamp in 1994 and until funding was cut in 2003. In 2000, this fun program for children ages 5 to 12 years was offered at Vimy Park in Kaslo through July and August. An average of 12 children attended each day. The program served a total of 44 children with additional children dropping in for a day or two during the week.

Parents and tourists appreciated the opportunity to provide stimulating, high quality, supervised activities for their children. The students we hired received valuable work experience and reported a very worthwhile and challenging summer. The children who participated in the program had an enjoyable time with crafts, games, field trips and other fun recreational activities at the beach or in the park.

We would like to appreciate all the students who contributed to the success of this program. Our appreciation also goes to Leigh-Anne Myers for her steady and focussed leadership and supervision of the students throughout the program.


As of May 2013, NKLCSS employs 29 people in various part-time and full time positions.


Since 1976, the agency has been governed by a group of dedicated volunteers who make up the Board of Directors. The Board consists of up to 7 members elected from the community. They are responsible for developing policies and setting program priorities of the Society. As well, they ensure that the Society’s By-laws are maintained, reviewed and revised when necessary. The Board safeguards the Society’s assets and ensures the agency is responsive to the needs of the community. We are grateful to all the Board members who have contributed so generously of their time and energy. Each one of you contributes to the strength and viability of our agency in unique and important ways. Our thanks our current dedicated board members: Victoria McAllister, Carole Summers, Care Cathro, Joanna Temple, Laura Smith, Pamela Griffin, and Sahara Bauer.

Updated October 2013