Stettler Information and Referral Centre gears up for 2020

A number of local residents aren’t fully aware of the range of services the Centre offers

Lorraine Hankins of the Stettler Information and Referral Centre continues to spread the word about the many ways the dynamic organization serves the community.

“We are going to have some decreased funding this year as a result of the government cuts, so I would like to make the community more aware of our services,” explained Hankins, who is the Centre’s executive director.

With greater awareness also comes more opportunities for folks to directly support the Centre too, as it is a charitable organization as well.

Hankins assists many seniors with any number of forms they may have to fill out to apply for various programs, from Canada Pension to Old Age Security to helping to complete tax returns.

“Any letters they may need help with, and telephone inquiries. We also do the Volunteer Income Tax Program which is coming up, and we’ve been doing that for over 20 years now,” she explained.

“We partner with Canada Revenue to participate in that program, and we do over 500 tax returns during March and April for low-income families, seniors, newcomers and students,” she said, adding that the income tax program is available through the year as well.

“We probably do another 50 (returns) from May through to December.”

Hankins also offers information referrals – anyone with any questions about where to turn for specific assistance can call her office and be pointed to the agency or organization that is best suited to meet their needs from mental health to social services.

“We answer questions on the phone or through email about services, programs, and businesses around town.”

Sometimes, people may even call in with concerns about a neighbour.

“Maybe their neighbour is down and out. They may say, ‘I’m concerned about my neighbour; she doesn’t seem to have enough money to live off of’.

“We also have a partnership with the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic out of Red Deer. Those who are experiencing barriers to accessing legal help can get some free assistance. We Skype with lawyers in Red Deer who do some ‘pro bono’ work, so our clients can get half an hour of free legal direction with how to proceed.

“We also provide guardianship, trusteeship and personal directive services as well,” she said. “I’m also a commissioner of oaths and there is no fee for that.

“I also help lots of newcomers with renewing their working visas or Canadian citizenship or permanent resident (issues). We help families in crisis, too, with forms or we point them in the right direction to help provide them with more options and services.

“We want to make sure people are receiving help from all of the programs for which they are eligible. Sometimes it’s a housing subsidy, sometimes it’s a Canada Pension program question — all those kinds of things.”

Another mandate of the Centre to to help line up local volunteers with various organizations.

“We link people up with volunteer opportunities – and help organizations who need volunteers. That’s where the Volunteer Income Tax Program comes in as well.”

Local events with the National Volunteer Appreciation Week each spring are also planned by the Centre with help from local partners as well, she said.

Hankins said she has noticed of late that there are lots of new folks in town, so that also encourages her to further spread the word about what the Stettler Information and Referral Centre has to offer.

“We are also definitely interested in any partnership opportunities in 2020 – any kind of new initiatives that we can help out with.”

For more information, call the Stettler Information and Referral Centre at 403-742-1155.

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