The Mission Friendship Centre has been helping aboriginal and non-aboriginal people adjust to living in urban settings for 40 years.
Some clients at the First Avenue Centre have been a part the organization since the ribbon was first cut, said MFC executive director Grace Cunningham.
There are 25 friendship centres in B.C. and Mission was one of the first 10 that opened. B.C.’s friendship centre movement began in 1954 when a group of concerned aboriginal people in Vancouver formed the Coqualeetza Fellowship Club, explained Cunningham. The group was incorporated as the Vancouver Indian Friendship Centre Society in 1963 and 10 years later, helped establish a similar organization in Mission.
“The first centre was located at a basement of a house on Seventh Avenue,” said Cunningham. As the society grew, it moved downtown and eventually purchased the building at 33150 First Ave. in 1985. MFC still operates out of that location today.
It’s a central facility where staff can offer counselling, support and referral services to its clients.
“We’re a large community service agency and the only one that provides hot lunches Monday to Friday for free,” Cunningham noted.
Despite being one of the largest social service agencies, many people still don’t know what MFC does, said Cunningham. “We spend a lot of time in the community setting up tables at events to bring awareness to the important work that happens here.”
Programs at MFC are available to all age groups and ethnicities.
Cunningham is hoping the community will take the time to find out more about MFC by being a part of its 40th anniversary celebration on Friday, Oct. 18 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Mission Central elementary school, 7466 Welton St. There will be a buffets dinner, awards, cultural entertainment, including traditional drumming and dancing, and a video presentation highlighting 40 years of MFC events. Elders will also share stories about the early days.
It’s a free event open to everyone in the community, said Cunningham, noting the first 200 guests will receive a gift bag with items, such as a customized MFC pen and notepad, prayer ties, a blessed rock, cedar rose, and treats. Everything in the gift bag relates to a quadrant of the medicine wheel, which covers mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health.
The group has been fundraising for two years in order offer the celebration to the community for free.
For more information about MFC visit www.mifcs.org.