Making Magic Happen

This excerpt is from the article “Flexibility, Collaboration & Engagement:” Six Charities Navigate the Perks and Pitfalls of Non-Profit Work in a Pandemic by Eva Salinas for The Philanthropist, published on May 6, 2020.

Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council

The small crew — three full-time staff, one part-time — who run the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC), have hit the pavement to support their members in recent weeks, as some of those organizations deal with staff reductions. TASSC usually does policy research, advocacy, and training on behalf of 18 Indigenous-led non-profits in the Toronto area.

“Programming is not something that we offer,” says Lindsay (Swooping Hawk) Kretschmer, TASSC’s executive director, “[but] it is now something that we find ourselves doing. I’ve been driving around with my four-year-old son, picking up supplies and groceries and baby items, and delivering them to member agencies and community members alike — to ensure that folks are getting what they need. So everybody is pulling their weight and just behaving differently.”

Kretschmer says she has seen a “tremendous magic happen” within the community since emergency measures began. Member organizations such as the Toronto Inuit Association and 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations are getting creative with resources, whether that has meant opening up a makeshift food bank at an employee’s home or accessing wild game stored at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto and distributing it to the community.

TASSC itself has become a sort of “supporting call centre,” Kretschmer says, reaching out to community members via social media, phone, and email, and then directing them back to member agencies that provide the specific support needed — or, for instance, connect someone with a surplus of produce or milk with a group that could use it.

“Providing meal services and shelter and housing, and all of these other things that they do on a day-to-day basis, that is still continuing,” she said. “There’s just added pressure to do more with less . . . We’re also, as a sector, quite used to that, with all due respect and fairness. Indigenous organizations are chronically underfunded, historically.”