[The Chronicle Herald] Cathy Jones to shine light on Chebucto Connections

January 15, 2018


"Cathy Jones will perform her one-woman comedy show Stranger to Work Saturday night at the Spatz Theatre in Halifax in support of Chebucto Connections, Spryfield’s bustling community development agency.

Jones will be joined during the first half of the event by fellow artists Rhys Bevan-John, Megan McDowell and Veronique MacKenzie.

She says she is thrilled to be contributing to Chebucto Connections and its collaborative approach to community outreach.

“It is so unusual in this crazy time, when the water is rising up on everyone, to have a place like that, where you don’t get an automated phone response or someone saying, ‘Sorry, we don’t have anything to offer you,’” says Jones.

Chebucto Connections serves an area stretching from the Armdale Rotary to Sambro and the staff hopes this fundraiser will draw wider attention to the range of work they do. Most of their programs also fall under the umbrella of ECHO (Eastern Chebucto Hub Operations) which, as Christina Carter, operations manager of Chebucto Connections explains, is a group of organizations looking at how to deal with the most vulnerable people. ECHO community organizations share a rotating physical presence at Chebucto Connections’ space on Herring Cove Road as well as a virtual hub online to provide information and access to services.

Carter, a single mother of two and a fixture at Chebucto Connections for 12 years, says her initial work involved going door to door.

“I asked questions like what are you missing, what do you need? When you’re not living in it, it’s easy to think you know what people need but it’s not necessarily what they do need,” she says.

One of the organization’s most successful programs is Pathways to Education, a high school program serving 300 Spryfield students in Grades 9-12.

Adrianna MacKenzie, executive director of Chebucto Connections, praises the program and says, “The graduation rate in this area was 55 per cent when we started with the Pathway to Education program. Since then the rate has gone up to between 80 and 85 per cent. It is remarkable.

“Our only prerequisite is that they have a postal code and they live in the area. We don’t look at their finances or their need to be in the program. We have kids who do really well in school and we have kids who don’t, but the idea of supporting them all collectively means they collectively support each other, too.”

Chebucto Connections relies heavily on a core group of 100 volunteers and 18 full-time staff, and MacKenzie estimates they work with 1,000 residents a year.

“I think this model is what transforms communities, and the staff we have here come from a variety of backgrounds. Some of them were young moms themselves when they were 16,” says MacKenzie.

They create a space where all organizations can come and share their ideas, whether that be on health, education or housing, says MacKenzie.

”It’s designed to spur action and share knowledge and information so we’re not all doing the same thing or re-inventing the wheel, that our services are complementing each other and that we’re moving forward collaboratively.”"