For nearly 30 years, a dedicated nonprofit organization based in the heart of Thunder Bay has made a significant difference in the lives of children and families.
Our Kids Count is a grass-roots community development organization that works with families to promote the health and development of young children. Since the organization’s inception in 1995 and charitable designation a few years later in 1998, Our Kids Count has become a cornerstone of Thunder Bay’s social services network. The community development approach includes programs and services such as parenting workshops, nutrition, pre/post-natal support, home visits, mentoring, and counseling.
One of the many valuable programs provided by the organization is addressing food security. In 2021, the organization provided 9,574 meals and snacks to Thunder Bay families and served 4,824 individuals through its emergency food cupboard. In addition to hosting community breakfasts and dinners, the organization has a community kitchen where families can learn and develop their cooking and nutritional skills. The kitchen-focused programs feature a Kids in Community Kitchens (KICK) program and specialized kitchen workshops for parents.
While the organization offers programs aimed at enhancing and nurturing the physical well-being of children and families, it also provides programs that support the mental health development of a growing family. The organization offers free short-term counseling to individuals, couples, families, and children and hosts free walk-in counseling on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon and Thursdays from 1-4 p.m. If a family lacks the resources to travel to Our Kids Count, located on McKenzie Street in downtown Thunder Bay, the dedicated staff and volunteers conduct home visits to support new parents, perform in-home workshops, and supply informational resources as needed.
Overall, the programs at Our Kids Count garnered 10,997 visits in 2021 and have continuously expanded their impact while contributing to community development within the region.
All of the valuable programs and support provided to the children and families in the area would not be possible without the commitment of the staff and the financial backing from generous donors, grants, organizations, and the Canadian government. Our Kids Count core funding is received from the Public Health Agency of Canada through two funding streams: the Community Action Program for Children (CAPC) and Canada’s Pre-natal and Nutrition Program (CPNP).
Although Our Kids Count depends on grants and governmental programs for its financial sustenance, the staff has effectively implemented a variety of creative fundraising concepts throughout the years, ensuring a steady source of support. Earlier this fall, the organization participated in the Kam River Ultimate Duck Race. Think of those cute yellow rubber ducks rather than wild Canadian duck races. On Sept. 23, crowds gathered along the Kam River’s edge at Fort William Historical Park, eagerly anticipating the sight of 4,000 rubber duckies drifting toward the finish line. The lucky person who had purchased a rubber duck for $20 and saw their duck emerge as the first to cross the finish line, wins a grand prize.
More recently, Our Kids Count hosted a Haunted Harbour Monster Mash Bash in early October in collaboration with the Transportation Museum of Thunder Bay, All the DAZE Productions, and the Nanabijou Childcare Centre. Kids and participants dressed in Halloween costumes and participated in a guided spooky tour of a ship, crafts, face painting, and singing and dance performances. The funds from the festive and creative fundraisers filter directly into the Our Kids Count programs to support Thunder Bay families in need.
As Our Kids Count continues to evolve and serve the Thunder Bay community, it invites others to join in the effort or take inspiration from their unwavering commitment to support and invest in young children and families. By doing so, Our Kids Count and other organizations can nurture and empower generations of individuals, ensuring a brighter future for all.