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At first glance, Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region (EAFWR) and LWR seem to be two completely different organizations. They have different mandates, and different customers they serve, but they have more in common than one would guess. They are both non-profit organizations, are passionate about affordable housing and both are supported by passionate and dedicated volunteers and staff. But it is the love of learning, growth and development that ties the two organizations most strongly. 

Allan Mills (or Al as he is known to his friends) is the Executive Director of EAFWR, and is a life-long learne. He brings this passion to his organization and encourages and enables his staff to dive into development opportunities whenever possible. He believes that investment in leaders is good for his organization and good for the community. EAFWR staff have attended several of LWR’s learning events like the Annual Leadership Breakfast, EAFWR staff members are Core Program alumni, and more recently staff attended several of LWR’s newest learning opportunity for non-profits: the Non-Profit Leadership Series. 

The social profit sector took a hit during those first few months of COVID-19. As citizens and businesses reeled from the changes resulting from quarantines, physical distancing and working from home, donations and volunteerism dropped and non-profits were tested to find innovative ways to move forward. 

LWR staff wanted to find a way to support those organizations, like themselves, that were struggling. Leveraging their leadership training relationships and resources, the free to attend Non-Profit Leadership series was developed to support the local non-profit sector as they battled their way through the impacts and ramifications of COVID-19. Topics like navigating change, mental wellbeing, governing through uncertain times, leading with an infinite mindset and asset-based community development were covered. 

Now, Al and his team at EAFWR had already attended a few leadership series sessions before one in particular, focused on securing government funding during COVID piqued Al’s interest. He like many non-profit leaders were confused about what funding they were eligible for and how to access it.  

EAFWR supports over 2000 children, adults and families across Waterloo Region. Their goal is to help those they support achieve their goals. One example, their Passport program supports over 600 adults with developmental disabilities across Waterloo Region. Those who receive Passport funding have the opportunity to pursue what they enjoy, their personal goals, and what they want to achieve, as well as purchase respite. People may choose to develop work skills, volunteer, or be involved further in their community, building skills to help in their everyday life. The services EAFWR provides to people who have Passport funding are entirely based on service fees. When the community shut down, so did the Passport spending and EAFWR lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in service fee revenue.

Al feared staff layoffs would happen if funding wasn’t found soon. 

“Hearing from the experts from KPMG at the Non-Profit Leadership Series cleared the muddiness of the government funding opportunities, and let me know exactly what Extend-A-Family was eligible to apply for.” Shares Al, “after participating we applied for wage subsidy funding that resulted in several hundred thousand dollars in support. We are grateful to Leadership Waterloo Region for hosting this session and look forward to learning together in future.” 

EAFWR remains committed to continuous learning at all levels. And Leadership Waterloo Region is proud to call them a partner in the journey to developing the future leaders of our community. 

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