Like many other charities in Ontario, the Robbie Dean Family Counselling Centre faces a never-ending struggle to raise funds. With no government funding, the organization relies on community support to provide free mental health support to vulnerable older youth in Eastern Ontario's Renfrew County.

The six-year-old Pembroke agency had over 1,800 visits last year and receives 200 phone calls per month from people looking for help. Clients are mostly in the 17-to-25 age group, a difficult transition period in life that for some can lead to depression, anger, anxiety and even thoughts of suicide.

"It's getting harder to fundraise as we are a small community, and people and businesses are overwhelmed with donation requests," says Monique Yashinskie, who founded the Centre to help others following the devastating suicide of her son. "However, the Centre is still here and somehow manages to not only survive but grow to better meet the community's needs."

Desjardins Agent David Minns, based in Pembroke, is proud to be helping the Centre survive and grow. He recently presented Yashinskie with a $4,000 Desjardins GoodSpark Community Grant.

Minns has a personal reason for supporting the Centre - his oldest son lost a close friend to mental illness last year and subsequently helped raise $21,000 for the centre through a ball hockey tournament.

"The Robbie Dean Centre is a much-needed resource in the community," Minns says. "They receive many referrals from local medical personnel and they provide care to everyone who walks through their door. The community is helping to keep them going and I was so happy that the Desjardins GoodSpark Community Grants program also contributed."

Raising money to help needy children and families is a challenge even in the much larger Peel Region, which includes Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.

The Peel Children's Aid Foundation raises money to fund programs and services provided to children under the supervision of the Peel Children's Aid Society. Although the Society's core services, which includes investigating and protecting abused or neglected children, are funded by the Ontario government, other programs are not, including various childhood enrichment and education programs.

The Foundation supports these programs and others by reaching out to businesses and individuals in the community.

Desjardins Agent Snezana Marinkovski was happy to respond late last year with a $4,000 Desjardins GoodSpark Community Grant for the Foundation. She has been a supporter of the Foundation since 2011 when she asked that her employees to donate to the Foundation's Holiday Wishes Campaign, rather than buy her a Christmas gifts. Since then she has regularly donated to the Holiday Wishes campaign.

"I strongly believe in helping the communities where we live and work, and I can think of no better way to do that than by supporting an organization that protects children and assists local families who are struggling," says Marinkovski.

The donations to the Foundation and to the Robbie Dean Centre are both part of an initiative announced late last year by Desjardins Insurance. Under that Desjardins GoodSpark Community Grants Program, more than $271,000 in grants were presented to 76 community organizations in Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick.

Each of the grants included a donation from a local Desjardins Agent. The Agents were invited to nominate organizations that are important to them and their communities.

All told, the Desjardins Agents donated over $73,000 of the $271,300 total.

This was the second year that Desjardins Insurance and the exclusive Desjardins Agent Network have teamed up to support Canadian communities. In 2018, a total of $190,000 was given to community initiatives in the three provinces where Desjardins Insurance offices are located.

For journalists only: Joe Daly
905-306-2711, ext. 5515305