Archway Community Services founder Walter Paetkau (left) cuts the agency’s 50th anniversary cake with former executive director Thelma Shrock and current executive director Rod Santiago. (Photo by Dale Klippenstein)

Archway Community Services celebrates 50 years in Abbotsford

Agency began in 1969 with Christmas Bureau and information directory

Archway Community Services (formerly Abbotsford Community Services) held a 50th anniversary celebration on Thursday, Sept. 19 at their downtown Abbotsford location.

Guests had a chance to visit 14 different stations featuring some of the more than 90 agency programs, including those for families, youth and seniors.

The afternoon concluded with speeches, a cake-cutting ceremony and a happy birthday song.

The ceremony was emceed by long-term employee Kathy Doerksen and attended by federal and provincial government representatives, municipal council members and school trustees.

Founder Walter Paetkau spoke about how the civil rights movement inspired him and moved him into the social services.

He shared how social justice concerns have changed in intensity and complexity over the decades. As he reflected on the past 50 years, he remarked, “the fire is still burning and it cannot be quenched.”

Former executive director Thelma Shrock (2000-2010) congratulated the agency for the “well-developed array of services” over the years.

MP for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon Jati Sidhu talked about the breadth of services offered and wished Archway another 50 years of success.

RELATED: Abbotsford Community Services announces name change

RELATED: Book by Walter Paetkau details first 50 years of Abbotsford Community Services

Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson said, “I don’t think there is one person that doesn’t at some point touch Archway during the course of the year.”

Deputy mayor Bruce Banman congratulated Archway on behalf of Mayor Henry Braun and council, noting they had enough council members in attendance at the event to hold a meeting.

“Throughout 50 years, the work of Archway, or as I first knew it, Abbotsford Community Services, has reached through every corner of the city,” Barman said.

“This organization’s strong vision of social justice combined with compassion and care has shaped countless lives. It’s hard to imagine where our community would be today without the support of Archway Community Services.”

Archway board president Steve Carlton reminisced about notable events in 1969, including Woodstock, the moon landing, his own high school graduation and the founding of what was then Matsqui-Sumas-Abbotsford Community Services.

He thanked the present and past board members, other volunteers, and the enthusiastic staff.

Rod Santiago, current Archway executive director, concluded the speeches and promised that Archway would continue working on amplifying the voices of those facing challenges in the community.

The non-profit agency began in 1969, and initial projects included creating an information directory on community resources and the Christmas Bureau.

Today, more than 400 staff and 1,000 volunteers provide services to families, seniors, youth, newcomers, individuals on low incomes and those with diverse abilities.

In the coming years, Archway plans to work on expanding their programs and partnerships in the areas of mental wellness and seniors’ services and strengthening relationships with indigenous communities.

For more, visit Archway.ca/history or order a copy of Paetkau’s book “It Takes Raindrops to Fill a Lake: The First 50 Years of Abbotsford Community Services.”

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