Cowichan MS Society office closing doors

The South & Central Vancouver Island Chapter of the MS Society of Canada is closing its Duncan office after 15 years.

The South & Central Vancouver Island Chapter of the MS Society of Canada is closing its Duncan office after 15 years.

The group will continue to occupy its current space — #204 – 394 Duncan St., — until Nov. 30 when it will change the way it operates its Cowichan services, according to Todd Abercrombie, regional director of the Society’s British Columbia & Yukon Division.

“It’s a sign of the times for us,” he said. “We’re facing budget constraints and we’re just not able to really afford to maintain that office.”

The other regional office is in Victoria but Cowichan Valley people will still get their services in the Valley.

“We’re going to be looking at alternative meeting space right in Duncan. We haven’t finalized it yet but we’ll be serving our clients as far as their programs go the same way. It will just be in a different space.  We want to be as central as possible. We’ll be staffing from our Victoria office but we’ll still have a fundraising coordinator who will be moving to a home office situation in December.”

The programs themselves will still be offered in Duncan.

“We have no plans to move them. We do the same thing in Nanaimo, in our Central Island Region. We have staff in home offices and then we have community-based locations for different groups for meeting up.”

The practice is already well-established in other parts of Canada, Abercrombie said.

“The Society is laid out in regions and we’re kind of moving to one physical office in a region and then home offices and local community meeting places for programs,” he said.

There are a variety of things offered through the MS Society.

“We’ve got tai chi going on in Duncan, and an arts and crafts group and, also, there’s a support group that meets. It really depends on what our clients would like to do. We would like to offer more in terms of exercises and supporting folks in the exercise of their choice and their location. We’re working on that one.”

People will also still be able to contact the MS Society at the same phone number.

Call 250-388-6496 to find out when and where activities in Duncan will take place. For information specific to programs and services, call Katie Ganassin at 250-388-6496, ext. 7312.

“It would just be transferred to where our home office is and if people need to talk about programs and services then they would be transferred back to our office here in Victoria. Our fundraising side will be looked after by our staff member in Duncan.”

It will be business as usual, just not from that same old storefront location.

“It’s a difficult decision but we’re under quite a bit of budget pressure for 2016 and right across the country we’re having to make some tough decisions. This is one of them,” Abercrombie said, pointing out that it’s important to keep as much money for programs as possible.

“It is nice to have office space but we’re just going to have to do it in a slightly different way. And we know from our experience in other parts of the province that it works. I know that no doubt we’ll have a bit of a learning bump as we go but we’re pretty confident that we can make it work for everybody.”

The changeover happens as of Dec. 1.

“We’re looking for this to be quite seamless,” he said.

Abercrombie said that people have been given several months to prepare for the change.

“Yes, we’ve let everybody know. We sent out a letter this week and included a frequently-asked-questions document with it to explain everything. And then when we do get our new community meeting space we’re going to have an open house to introduce the space to everybody. Communication is key to let everybody know what’s happening,” Abercrombie said.