Archway Community Services celebrates its 50th anniversary with an open house on Sept. 19.

Archway Community Services to celebrate 50 years with open house

Tours and cake-cutting take place Thursday, Sept. 19

Archway Community Services (formerly known as Abbotsford Community Services) is celebrating its 50th year anniversary with an open house on Thursday, Sept 19.

The community is invited to tour the site and learn more about the programs currently running, the history of the agency and join in the cake-cutting ceremony at 5 p.m.

“We wanted to take the time to pause, reflect on this crucial milestone and celebrate with the community that has supported our work from the very beginning,” said Archway executive director Rod Santiago in a news release.

The non-profit agency began in 1969 and initial projects included creating an information directory on community resources and the Christmas Bureau. Over the next 50 years, the agency grew into 90-plus programs under the Archway umbrella. Over 400 staff members and 1,000 volunteers provide services to parents, seniors, youth, immigrants and newcomers, individuals on a low income and those with diverse abilities.

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

Archway Community Services is now one of the largest and most diverse social agencies in B.C. The growth has been organic as the agency adapted to the needs of the community.

“There was no master plan in the beginning,” said Walter Paetkau, the founder and executive director for the first 31 years. “We never gave it much thought beyond doing whatever we could to help others.”

Early programs included counselling programs in the 1970s, the Abbotsford Addictions Centre, which opened in 1988, and the Abbotsford Food Bank, which began in 1980s.

While still known as Matsqui-Abbotsford Community Services, they assisted refugees and immigrants from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Kosovo. More recently, staff played a key role in organizing the efforts to welcome Syrian refugees in 2016.

While programs and funding sources have changed over the years, some issues have remained constant.

“Rather than being discouraged about the problems and issues we see our communities facing, we concentrate on the ways we can mobilize communities to respond,” Santiago said.

Paetkau echoed the sentiment and insisted that even on the hardest days he never felt like giving up.

“The vision, staff and community support was always so energizing,” he said.

The only discouraging moments he recalls were when he came up against naysayers or keenly felt the loss of staff due to discontinued program funding.

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

“While we can’t predict what issues will be facing our community in the next 50 years, we know that we’ll keep adapting and finding new ways to champion Archway’s vision of ‘justice, opportunities and equitable access for all,’” Santiago said.

The 50th anniversary celebration will be held Sept. 19 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at 2420 Montrose Ave.

To learn more about the evolution of community services programming, visit Archway.ca/history or pick up a signed copy of Paetkau’s book “It Takes Raindrops to Fill a Lake: The First 50 Years of Abbotsford Community Services” at the event.

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