by Threads of Life founders Shirley Hickman, Executive Director and Sharon Freeman, Coordinator

A compass points north on a forest pathWhen Tim Hickman died in 1996 and Amanda Peat in 2000, there was no support system for our families. Sharon and Shirley were connected to each other through the common need to prevent other family members from having to live in similar situations. The seeds of Threads of Life were started while we worked with various government agencies and community organizations. The needs of family members for peer support were clearly identified and our two-part mission was developed. Community groups and employers joined in the support and over two decades Threads of Life grew to this stage, where we can actively provide supports and services to more than 3,600 family members in all regions of Canada. You made and continue to make it possible. You volunteer, sponsor, and donate. And this year, you celebrated our 20-year anniversary along with us.

So what is next?

With an increase in awareness, we have more individuals and family members reaching out for support or information each year. And that leaves us with the question: how will we care for them? 

We will embrace change, foster resilience, and always prioritize empathy. In the next 20 years we need to stay agile, adapt to evolving needs of our family members, and offer un-wavering compassion to help families navigate their journey toward healing.

How will we accomplish this?

Our staff and board reflect on our mission, vision and values regularly and at each meeting we ensure these statements are as relevant today as they were yesterday. We see it being truly relevant to the future of Threads of Life and all programs and services will be built from those statements to ensure we hold both family support and prevention as our twin priorities.

We will continue to ensure that funding and resources are available to grow the number of family members utilizing Threads of Life services and support programs and the number of stakeholders. We will rely on our current model of working collaboratively with government resources and support, grants, sponsors for our programs, fundraising through events such as Steps for Life, and supporting community or employer initiatives with 3rd party events. We are the ‘Charity of Choice’ for employers, and employers have embraced this opportunity more each year. That will continue as long as we continue to uphold ethical principles and be transparent, maintaining the trust and reputation we have built.

We will embrace technology to connect families on an ongoing basis for services such as more FamiliesConnect sessions, sessions for newcomers, and sessions in different time zones. There is potential to develop online training for new Volunteer Family Guides or Speakers and sessions for ongoing training. We know it will be very important to keep the balance between these online opportunities and in-person opportunities.

With that in mind, we hope to develop community peer support programs in regions across the country, allowing family members to attend a one-day mini-family forum in their community. This would provide an in-person option for those not able to travel or be away for a weekend regional family forum.

We know that understanding and meeting the evolving needs and preferences of our members is the solid foundation for Threads of Life’s future. We will need to continue to be careful listeners. Volunteers both from the family and the community started Threads of Life, and that model will ensure continual growth.

It would be amazing if by the end of the next twenty years, we did not need Threads of Life; that every worker came home as well as they were when they left for work.

It is a privilege to be part of this organization, helping families just like ours to navigate through this journey of grief and healing. Threads of Life has been and will be a healthy and caring organization. Our overarching goal in the coming years is that all Canadians who may benefit from our programs and services will be aware of the organization. We are grateful that you are supporting our ongoing growth. Thanks to each of you.

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