The evolution of Beaver Valley Outreach can best be described as “organic”. Through the years, the organization has been guided by visionaries who looked ahead and created a path for BVO. They have identified gaps in social services, initiated programs to meet community needs, and secured funding through grants and innovative fundraising.
In 1983 two significant things happened to create Beaver Valley Outreach. A small group of women from the community and local churches met to co-ordinate efforts to provide Christmas Hampers to families in the Beaver Valley. About the same time, the Children's Aid Society presented a film series titled 'Focus on the Family' in Thornbury. This helped to recruit more people to the new organization.
Soon, food, toys and clothing flooded in. So much clothing was left over that the group decided to make the items available to the public health nurse and teachers at the local school. 'The 'Clothing Depot' began operating out of the basement of Ian and Muriel Shaw. Word spread and more donations accumulated.
In short time the women realized that training was essential in order to address the real needs of the people of the community. Hazel Rogers South arranged a leadership training course called "Opportunity for Advancement" which broadened the scope of BVO significantly. Support groups for women were started; some women were single moms, most had small children and needed various kinds of support. Special needs transportation and provision of emergency food were identified as vital needs. BVO continued to serve the community using volunteers and a small amount of Christmas cash donations from churches, service clubs and businesses. Expanded services included year round assistance to those in need and programs for children and seniors. Inevitably, more funding was required and several small projects including the first BVO cookbook were developed to meet financial needs.
BVO became known in the wider area, resulting in talks with the Ministry of Community and Social Services in late 1987 to apply for a Community and Neighbourhood Support Services Program grant. By 1988 BVO was incorporated, by-laws were written, charitable status was obtained and an eight member Board was formed with wide community representation. Government funding soon arrived and the organization hired its first paid program coordinator. A year later, BVO's retail store, the 'Clothing Depot', the Crayon Box Nursery School, and the Coordinator’s office moved into its first official headquarters in the Village of Clarksburg.
At incorporation on February 29, 1988, the Board included:
By 2000 BVO was operating 18 programs and it was clear that the organization required more space. In 2001, under the leadership of coordinator Teresa Pearson and Board Chair Rita Mary Coté, BVO purchased the former fire hall on Bruce Street in Thornbury. The building was later renovated to suit BVO’s needs. The following year, BVO was asked to become the Thornbury site for the Ontario Early Years Centre.
Today Beaver Valley Outreach offers approximately 20 programs and services for children and adults. We employ twelve people from our community. Filling the gaps in community and social services has always been a primary mandate at Beaver Valley Outreach. In the early days, that meant focusing on essential programs such as before and after-school care, a breakfast club for school children and emergency and referral services for young and old alike. More recently, led by Executive Director Carolyn Letourneau, BVO stepped up to take over two important children’s programs which were no longer able to operate on their own: a summer day camp and a preschool facility.
Volunteers are the heart of Beaver Valley Outreach. The growth of BVO volunteers - measured in knowledge and experience as well as numbers - has been phenomenal since the organization’s beginning. Today over two hundred and fifty volunteers, working with staff and a hands-on Board of Directors, generously offer their time and talents to deliver twenty vital programs and services to residents of the community.
2013 marked 30 years of meeting the changing needs of our growing community and we hope to achieve great feats in the future! Today, BVO is well-known and respected, touching the lives of many in the community. It is a grassroots organization that lives by the spirit of its visionaries, the hard work and generosity of its volunteers and leaders, the confidence of its supporters and the kindness of its personnel.
We take great pride in "making good things happen in our community".