Murray Casey, Elsie Urquhart and Rob Diether outside the Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre. (Max Winkelman - 100 Mile Free Press)

Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre in need of help

‘At present we do not have the funds to operate for more than a couple of months’

The Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre in 100 Mile House is in need of help, according to Wendy Hamblin, secretary of the Board of Directors.

“We have been closed due to COVID-19 since early March of this year. At present we do not have the funds to operate for more than a couple of months, and have decided to postpone opening until the fall.”

The financial difficulties are a longer-term problem, says Hamblin.

“The centre has never had a stable, ongoing source of funding, but has mainly depended on one-time grants from various sources, plus donations from local individuals who believe in the importance of the centre and want to see it continue to operate.”

It’s a situation they’ve been struggling with for quite a long time, according to Rob Diether co-ordinator and host for the centre.

“It’s always been a struggle to get funding,” he says. “We just haven’t had a reliable source of operational funding. Certainly, individuals and groups have been very generous.”

The centre is not recognized through the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and is, therefore, not eligible for federal funding that’s otherwise available for friendship centres, according to Diether.

“We don’t really have the expertise on the board to make applications as funding opportunities come up.”

Stemete7uw’i has been operating since 2015 and serving as a drop-in centre three days a week as well as a place where First Nations arts and culture are encouraged, taught, promoted and displayed. This has included workshops, a spaghetti dinner, music and more.

“What we’re doing at the Friendship Centre is very vital. We’re the only sort of general drop-in centre in 100 Mile House.”

It was opened up as a safe and welcoming environment for all people with the emphasis on being culturally welcoming and appropriate place for First Nations including people on reserve and folks living in the community, according to Diether.

“In the past… if someone was coming into town, for instance for a doctor’s appointment, and didn’t really have a place to wait and spend some time, we were available for that.”

They’re looking for volunteer time from someone with experience leading in non-profit organizations and from someone with experience writing grant applications and forming a registered charity.

“We want to become a registered charity and that is a lengthy and somewhat technical process. We would like some help with that from somebody who’s actually worked on getting a charity registered,” says Hamblin. “Perhaps someone with both these abilities will step forward, or perhaps two or more people with different skill sets will be able to help.”

They’re also in need of a new computer as soon after the announcement that they were closing because of COVID-19 someone broke into the building and stole the old, donated laptop.

So far, they’ve had a couple of replies and garnered quite a lot of interest, says Hamblin.

“I do think it’s very hopeful we will be getting some help,” she says. “People involved in our community might appreciate the existence of the Friendship Centre and hope that it continues.”

Anyone who’s looking to help can email or phone 250-395-6142.

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Rob Diether, Elsie Urquhart and Murray Casey inside the Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre. (Max Winkelman - 100 Mile Free Press)

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