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Rotary puts a chunk of change toward children's health and welfare (5 photos)

After outgoing president Tony Gallagher passed the bell to incoming president Dino Biasucci, three rather large cheques were also passed out to Algoma Family Services, Pauline's Place and ARCH Hospice respectively

Sault North Rotary marked the changing of the guard and dropped some heavy cash on local charitable organizations helping to improve the lives of children in Algoma on Wednesday evening.

After a scrumptious dinner at the Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site Heritage Discovery Centre as part of its President's Night event, the club bid farewell to outgoing president Tony Gallagher, at least in his role as president, anyway (He'll be continuing his service to Rotary).

Dino Biasucci was inaugurated as the new president and he marked the occasion by renewing his declaration of support for charities that help improve the lives of children.

"We want to see children grow," Biasucci said. "The youth are our future and we need to invest in the youth."

Biasucci is a relatively new Rotarian with only three years under his belt, but what he lacks in experience he more than makes up for in enthusiasm and a strong desire to serve his community.

Algoma Family Services Foundation received $20,000 at the President's Dinner on Wednesday. 

"Over the past four years, folks at Sault North Rotary have donated about $50,000 to the Algoma Family Services Foundation (including the $20,000 donated Wednesday)," said Sony Spina, chair of the Algoma Family Services Foundation. "It's going to help us provide a lot of very needed services to people on some of the waiting lists that we have." 

Algoma Family Services Chief Executive Officer, Ali Juma, elaborated.

"In the last five years, we've had a 22 per cent increase in demand for child and youth mental health services (in Algoma), and at the same time we haven't had an increase in the financial support to meet that," Juma said, "As a result, we have, unfortunately, significant wait lists for services."

Juma used the example of psychological assessments as an illustration of the urgent need for funding for children's mental health in Algoma. 

He said that although the situation has improved significantly, Algoma families can still expect a six- to eight-month waiting period to get a psychological assessment for a child.

Three years ago, the wait time was almost double that, he added.

"We've been doing all that we can, internally, to try and find ways to reduce wait times but without the financial support it becomes a unique challenge."  

While applauding the provincial government's decision to fund pharmacare for children in Ontario in it's last budget, Juma was critical of the lack of support for child and youth mental health in that budget.

"We could actually reduce the cost of medicine by providing treatment," he said.

He also said the issues faced by children in Algoma are becoming more complex and children needing support are, on average, coming for care at younger ages.

"Five years ago, our children were 16-years-of age... Now they're about 11-and-a-half."

This results in an increased service demand to an organization that already faces a lack of resources to meet the changing and increasingly complex needs of children needing mental health support and care in Algoma, Juma said. 

"That's why the donation from Sault North Rotary goes a long way." 

Sault North Rotary also went further by donating $15,000 to Pauline's Place, which is a non-profit home that is well-known in the Sault and area as a place young people, women and families can go for temporary emergency shelter and the necessities of life during times of crisis.

Pauline's Place also assists and supports people to transition from the home to independent living as stable and active members of the community. 

ARCH Hospice was the recipient of a $10,000 donation from Sault North Rotary to go toward Paediatric Palliative Care, which ARCH has been providing since 2015. 

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Carol Martin

About the Author: Carol Martin

Carol has over 18-years experience in journalism, was raised in Sault Ste. Marie, and has also lived and worked in Constance Lake First Nation, Sudbury, and Kingston before returning to her hometown to join the SooToday team in 2004.
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