West Island Citizen Advocacy will close its Dorval satellite office on Dawson Avenue at the end of the month when the office's sole employee, Mimi St-Aubin, will call it a career after 27 years of serving West Island residents living on the fringes of society.
"Community groups are always in a tough money situation," said West Island Citizen Advocacy director Mary Clare Tanguay. "What we decided, since we have so many requests for matches that we wanted to centralize them in one place and consolidate here," at the group's head office in Pointe Claire," she said. "It's very sad in a lot of ways, but we have to be as efficient as we can," Tanguay added.
The closure of the small office in the Elizabeth Russell Centre, a Dawson Avenue edifice that houses other community groups such as l'Equipe Entreprise and Friends for Mental Health, will save the community group about $157 a month, Tanguay confirmed – but the group's ability to meet with potential protégés will not be hindered, she said.
"I know people in Dorval might not be happy about this, but I'm sure that if we need to meet with a client who can't come in to our offices, we can borrow a corner of an office in Dorval if we need to. We work all across the West Island, and sometimes, we borrow a corner in Dollard (des Ormeaux) or Pierrefonds if, for some reason, the client can't make it to our office or their advocate can't meet them at their home," she said.
The organization matches individuals living on the fringes of society – seniors living alone, people with mental-health issues or living with a mental or physical limitation – with advocates who will keep them company and help them with errands on a regular basis.
St-Aubin was the kind of WICA employee that went above and beyond in her service to the agency's clients, Tanguay said.
"She went the extra mile for people. She loaned them money out of her own pocket if they needed to make the rent, she went with them to court. She was special and I think all her advocates and protégés would agree that she's a wonderful person," she said.
St-Aubin said what she would miss the most in retirement were her clients – and the advocates she found to match up with them.
"We have some (advocates) who have been with us for 25 years. Hey'l work with someone, that person might pass away, and they'll wait a few weeks and begin volunteering all over again. They have big hearts and want to help," she said, adding that despite the West Island's well-off reputation, there is poverty here – and those who are living I that situation must be given a chance to flourish.
"Some are very sick. Some need a lot of help. In the West Island, people think that's rare, but it's not rare," she said, adding she "loved the work right away," when she started with the organization in 1982.