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Letter from our Board of directors chair and Chief executive officer

2021 was another challenging but exciting year for Distress Centre Calgary. Hope grows in the face of challenges, and though we faced, and continue to contend with, the difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we also experienced transformation, moments of joy and substantial achievements to celebrate.

One achievement of note took place in October, when we announced the launch of 24/7 crisis chat and text. Crisis text became available in September and just a month later we expanded service hours for both chat and text to 24 hours a day, to match the 24 hour phone support we’ve offered since 1975.

This launch was incredibly special to Distress Centre. Having all of our crisis services available 24/7 is critical to providing the highest quality of support to our service users. When we first launched crisis chat in 2012, we had the vision of all service 24/7 by 2017. Little did we know at the time how resource intensive providing online services would be. But we never gave up and thanks to the continued hard work and collaboration of so many people at Distress Centre and through funding from the City of Calgary, we finally made our vision a reality.

Other achievements in 2021 include receiving accreditation from the American Association of Suicidology, the launch of Red Deer’s Social Diversion Team, in which Red Deerians can call 211 when they see someone who needs non-emergency support and the introduction of key services and programs for people at risk-of or experiencing homelessness, through our team at SORCe.

2021 marked the one year anniversary of our initial COVID response. All of our programs - crisis, counselling, 211 and SORCe - continued to step up and adapt to the difficult and constantly shifting situation the pandemic brought on.

2021 was also a year of leadership transition. We first saw the term end for Board Chair, Janet Segato, who provided instrumental leadership during our pandemic response. We then said goodbye to Jerilyn Dressler, Executive Director, who left to pursue another opportunity within the sector after almost 20 years with Distress Centre in a number of roles. With the goodbyes we also had hellos as we welcomed new leadership to the organization. Duncan Melville took over as Board Chair and Robyn Romano was appointed Chief Executive Officer after 12 years with the organization.

We are proud of what we accomplished in 2021, but it wasn’t without difficulties. As the world grappled with the ongoing pandemic, so too did our staff and volunteers. Distress Centre’s people provided support to a community in crisis while also dealing with the individual impacts of the pandemic in their own lives. We are incredibly grateful for every person who has supported Distress Centre’s mission and vision in 2021, whether it be as a staff, volunteer, Board member, donor, champion or advocate.

Thank you as well to every person who took the courageous step of reaching out for help this year.

Hope grows in the face of challenges. As we move forward, we’re excited to continue our journey of strengthening, adapting and transforming our agency to connect, empower and meet the changing needs of our community.

Janet Segato

Duncan Melville

Board of Directors Chair

Jerulyn Dressier

Robyn Romano

Chief Executive Officer