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The Northside Gals
Our Winter Spotlight is The Northside Gals, a group of community minded women with a passion for helping others. The groups’ goals are to help bring about change within the Northside areas by positively impacting others.
To learn more about The Northside Gals, read our Q & A with Norma Blinkhorn.
- Website: https://www.bereavedfamiliesns.ca
- Contact: Norma Blinkhorn | Email: [email protected]
- What communities do you serve? Our catchment area includes the Northside communities of the CBRM (Cape Breton Regional Municipality), including Sydney Mines, North Sydney, Florence, Bras d’Or, and Alder Point/Point Aconi areas.
- Can we find your organization on social media? On Facebook
Tell us about your organization.
Our Mission is to promote and improve the health and wellness of our community in cooperation and collaboration with the local organizations already contributing to meet this need. Social isolation and poverty are addressed by providing ongoing free meals and community activities to the community and individuals.
Our vision is to ensure our community experiences good mental health and well-being, and stronger connections of belonging.
We are a group of community minded women with a passion for helping others. The groups’ goals are to help bring about change within the northside areas by positively impacting others.
We are community-focused with a broad base from youth to seniors which includes vulnerable persons, people in crisis, or community organizations requiring assistance.
Most of our members are involved with community organizations, including service clubs, faith-based and not-for-profit groups within Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
The Northside Gals focus specifically on the needs of communities within the northside area.
Assistance may be provided to a vulnerable person or group/s, natural disaster support, and organizational assistance for an individual or group with a community-related project.
- To provide a safe and welcoming environment where all are welcome
- To respect the rights, differences, and dignity of everyone
- To contribute to the overall well-being of community members
- Diversity and inclusion
- Honesty and transparency
1.How would you describe the ways in which your organization supports the mental health and well-being of Nova Scotians you serve?
Our goal is to engage and empower the community to care for each other in practical, relational, and sustainable ways that gives everyone the opportunity to live out their potential.
Our organization hosts and supports food security programs including hot meals, bagged lunches/snacks, and meal deliveries. We offer a welcoming, inclusive space focusing on community engagement with each other through arts and cultural activities. All events include a meal, entertainment and a “You Matter” take-home blessing bag.
Our organization began by assisting with comfort centers during hurricane Fiona. By providing a safe environment to community members in need, we helped supported their mental health and well-being during a disaster. The group gathered supplies and additional volunteers to provide meals and social interaction.
Since then, our members have assisted seniors, families, and children in various ways: by providing hot meals and lunches for children; securing funds; and coordinating, organizing and executing various community events. Members have organized events which included food, arts and crafts activities, music, and various types of entertainment. Our group works with individuals and/or group/s to assist them with their community-related projects.
Our group goals are to address the need for socialization and social networking which was identified even prior to the pandemic. According to the Northside Rising Community Report (2018), social networks were identified as significant to the future health and growth of the community.
The need for people to socialize has been compounded by the impacts of the pandemic.
Also, the recent sharp rises in inflation has caused greater food insecurity, especially with seniors and children as high poverty rates within this catchment area has always been a major concern.
2. What is one program your organization offers that you wish more people knew about?
Our “Shining Lights Series” is a series of events that we host several times throughout the year. Each event focuses on a different community organization giving them the opportunity to present information about their organization to the audience in attendance.
The proceeds raised to attend the event, are given to the organization as a financial contribution to support their causes. The purpose is to raise community awareness of the poverty and social issues impacting our community. And the overall benefit for everyone is advocacy, net-working and relationship building.
3. How and why was your organization founded?
The organization began organically in the aftermath of hurricane Fiona, when power was disconnected for more than a week and a group of community people came together providing a community barbeque with food donated by local businesses.
This eventually included providing hot water, local meals delivered to those not able to leave their homes, and other services needed. This collaboration and ingenuity within the community sparked a small group of women to continue using their enthusiasm and passion for their community to form a group of more than 50 members in less than a year.
4. What have been the main challenges your organization has faced while trying to meet the needs of the community you serve?
Our main challenge is not having access to core/operational funding. We rely on financial donations and support from the community. As needs continue to grow and more help is identified, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the demand of providing free and nutritious meals with rising food and operational costs.
5. How is your organization looking to grow or expand in the future?
This is the first year of operation of the Northside Gals. We began with 21 core members and we have grown to over 50 members during the year. Our organization will continue to accept new members and volunteers who support our projects such as the new group “Men behind the Northside Gals”.
As the adage states “it takes a village to raise a child,” we believe it takes a community to care for our most vulnerable especially those who are marginalized, living in poverty, seniors, youth, and children. In the spirit of community, we operate by partnering with the following groups and organizations including but not limited to: Holy Family Parish, Sydney Mines and North Sydney foodbanks, Northside Homemakers, Miner’s Memorial Manor, Christmas Cheer, St. Vincent DePaul, Community Social Workers, Seton Community Youth Center, local churches, The Marthas Social Justice group, Diocese of Antigonish, Bereaved Families of Cape Breton, Community Cares, Sydney Mines, Knights of Columbus, Salvation Army, Souls Harbour Mission,J Street and Clifford Street Youth Centres, New Deal Development, Northside businesses, Northside fishers, Northside Firemen, Princess Credit Union, The Northside Boys, Northside the Lakes Community Health Board, and elected provincial, federal and municipal officials.
6. Is there anything else you would like us to know about your organization?
The Northside Gals Community Projects 2023 in one year of operation include:
- 1514 Meals
- 1074 Treat Bags
- 200 Blessings Bags with school supplies
- 100 Blessing Bags with T-shirts and supplies
- 50 Gift Bags for seniors
- Toys Donated by North Sydney Firemen and Brogan’s Fisheries Toy Drive
- Free Community Thanksgiving Meal (approximately 200 meals)
- Snacks for Clifford Street Youth Center
- J Street Christmas Pizza Party
- Jr. High School grading day lunch at Dukes (local restaurant)
- Raised garden beds for seniors complex
- Coats for Kids donated by the Knights of Columbus
- Kids pop up Christmas Shopping
- Spring Pop up Kid’s Shopping
- Community Grading Day Party
- Community Back to School Party
- Community Halloween Party
- Community Christmas Party and Bethlehem Walk
Monetary donations made to:
- Adopt a Family: 18 Families adopted – $7,807
- Supported Memorial High School Culinary Class for specialty training – $3,000
- Memorial High School Safe Grad – $3,000
- Community Cares Youth Center – $1,500
- Sydney Mines Food Bank – $1,000
7) Can you share a story that demonstrates the impact of the work you do at your organization.
- Northside Kids Shopping Event Receives Rave Review
- VIDEO: From hotdogs to hope: the inspiring story of grassroots Cape Breton group Northside Gals.
The mission of the Canadian Mental Health Association Nova Scotia Division [CMHA NS] is to ensure all Nova Scotians experience good mental health and well-being.
We recognize that our mission is broad, and that we cannot and will not achieve it alone.
To better meet the mental health needs of all Nova Scotians we are connecting with organizations that are reflective and supportive of Nova Scotians’ diverse experiences, identities and histories, and contribute to the overall well-being of our province with the goal of using our digital platforms to highlight the work of these organizations, increase awareness and help more Nova Scotians get the help they need.
Contact Lindsay Miller at [email protected]