Amherstburg Community Services celebrates 35 years

By Joel Charron

It’s been a long road for the Amherstburg Community Services, but for the past 35 years, the non-profit organization has provided essential social services to the community.

In 1973, the Amherstburg, Anderdon and Malden Social Planning council established a grass roots organization whose focus was to bring social services to the community where they could be easily accessed. Particularly it was set up to help the residents who had difficulty getting transportation to the larger city centers.

It immediately began to oversee the operation of A.A.M. Community Service, a multi-service center for a number of social service agencies, information and a referral for many others.

The group was incorporated as a non-profit, charitable organization in 1976.

In 1998, to reflect municipal amalgamation, the agency was renamed “Amherstburg Community Services.”   The organization now has expanded into LaSalle,

Harrow and McGregor. ACS is also the satellite office for everything from counseling, financial counseling, probation services, Service Canada and much more.

The Mission of the ACS is to study the social, recreational, health, education and other human needs of the Amherstburg area. The services available aim to satisfy those needs and to promote the orderly development of a well balanced community.

Laura Rebidoux, Kathy DiBartolomeo and Branka Stewin are the smiling faces behind the programs at Amherstburg Community Services.

Over its 35 years of existence, ACS have provided a cornucopia of social programs such as Meals on Wheels, Coats for Kids, Keep the Heat, Friendly Visits, the Care-A-Van and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. ACS offers roughly 24 different programs.

According to Executive Director Kathy DiBartolomeo, in 2010, the Meals on Wheels program served 19,253 meals and transported 11,842 people who were in need of rides.

Last year ACS had 8,047 callers requesting information for local programs that were available to the public.

“What started as a grassroots organization has now become a vital hub of services in this community,” said DiBartolomeo. “It’s really important in this day and age to have these services available locally for people.”

DiBartolomeo said ACS is looking forward to the next 35 years, stating that the non-profit organization will be revealing new programs in the near future. She also said ACS hopes to consolidate under one building, as the Meals on Wheels kitchen is located offsite.

“That’s our biggest goal right now,” she said. “We want to put everything under one roof.”

DiBartolomeo added having a new building will allow ACS to keep expanding and bring in more services to benefit the community.

The executive director credits her staff and board of directors for working “tirelessly” to provide

these types of programs and services.

“I’m proud to be working with a staff and board of directors that share the same vision in helping our community,” said DiBartolomeo. “We know we have a big responsibility here and we come into work everyday and fill that obligation.”

Although DiBartolomeo gives a lot of credit to her staff and board of directors, she said the real unsung heroes are the volunteers, who play “a vital part of ACS.”

ACS currently has over 90 volunteers who assist them in all services and programs.

“We definitely need our volunteers,” she said. “We appreciate everyone who gives up their time to give us a hand. We know an agency like this relies heavily on volunteers.”

DiBartolomeo stated that the community also deserves a pat on the back.

“Our community is very generous,” said DiBartolomeo. “They are the ones who ultimately use the services. If it wasn’t for their support we wouldn’t be here.”

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