As it so often does, life presented the Placentia Area Development Association (PADA) with a simple problem. Either you change or you go down. It’s your choice. Well, PADA made their decision and the result has been close to a re-birth.
PADA is a not for profit Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that is comprised of a democratically elected volunteer Board of Directors whose mandate is to drive social and economic development of the area and region.
Dealing With the Challenges
Like the rest of the world, Covid presented PADA with numerous additional challenges. However, even before Covid, the writing was on the wall. Already Tiffany Hepditch, the Executive Director and only full-time employee of PADA, along with the board, were fighting a losing game. The days of core funding for rural development groups like PADA had been discontinued and many Rural Development Agency’s didn’t survive. But PADA has.
PADA is well known in the region for their sponsorship and facilitation of federally and provincially funded programs. These are largely focused on skills development and employment strategies for those actively seeking employment, but are struggling to do so.
Likewise these projects also generate economic spin-offs for local businesses. All the funding is reinvested back into the business community through local spending. Still, while these initiatives are considerably extremely beneficial to the community, the financial kickback to PADA is minimal.
Finding A Way Forward
Since its inception in the early 1970s, PADA had always been largely focussed on programmes that stimulated the economy. PADA has been involved in a vast amount of development activities. But following a Targeted Initiative for Older Workers (TIOW) programme, where they took seniors and re-immersed them into the labour-market, things began to change. The approach of PADA became more concentrated on the social-cultural needs of the people who participated. And having done the TIOW, they were left wondering “what else can we do?” Tiffany explained how initiatives such as TIOW were “based on a need from the community. And once we did it, it was like people were knocking on our door.”
PADA responded and placed more attention toward providing projects that served the community. Tiffany explained how “that’s where we are and so it’s more a response to the community as a whole. People come in still and say, ‘when are you doing another computer training course?’ or ‘when are you doing another paint class?’
Always with their eye on the community they serve, PADA realised the community was craving programmes that were more focused on the social aspect and inclusiveness. However, at the same time, PADA is hyper aware of the importance of its role to the economic grindstone of the community. They will continue to inject money into their community through programs and projects. Through these initiatives, PADA are able to, on average, employ 50 people annually. PADA Board and staff have always felt that PADA is a group built upon the heart of the community. They like to say they don’t provide a hand-out, but rather a hand up.
PADA’s efforts and evolution since the early seventies have clearly been no small achievement. In addition to their sponsorship of projects focused on social and economic development, they work in partnership to facilitate a children’s summer recreation program. They operate the Argentia Sunset RV Park in partnership with the Port of Argentia. PADA is also involved with salmon enumeration activities at Northeast River.
Determined to Survive
The challenge that lies ahead is survival, especially after the economic impacts of Covid. It is the only alternative if PADA is to continue serving their community. Luckily, they are up for the challenge, much as they have always been.
The organization is shifting to meet the evolving needs of their community and region and are actively seeking opportunities to improve the economic and social well-being of the community. In the end, that’s what it is really all about. As Tiffany explains, we are really lucky in Placentia. There’s a lot happening in the area and PADA has an exceptional partnership among stakeholders who are always striving to do more and to do better to accomplish the common vision.
Perhaps the only downfall is that more often than not, it is short-term. So, when a particular project has run its course, everything is packed up until another project is found. Tiffany explains that such an outcome doesn’t take away from the unquestionable benefits of short-term projects. However, the ultimate goal would be sustainability of these types of initiatives year round. Many would note how to be ongoing is a great idea, but show them the money.
Surviving and Thriving
Tiffany’s response is a feeling there has actually been almost a “co-dependency on funding.” In response, she explains how PADA is shifting away from the need for funding and the idea that if there is no funding, the project can’t go ahead. Her response would be, ‘well, why not?’
She notes it can be easy to find “the ten reasons why we think we’ll have a problem instead of talking about the one reason we can get past it to get to the solution. I find that’s where we can all get caught up sometimes. I think that’s normal.” Still, in order to accomplish their goal towards serving their community, PADA needs to side-step the invariable obstacles. And they’ve learned they can. Tiffany explains, “it’s just about being willing to take a leap and being super creative in how we do it.”
There’s a line from a song “Fallen Man’s Daughter” that encapsulates the plight of PADA since inception: “Balance your goals, turn your back to the cold and move forward.” According to Tiffany, that’s exactly what she and her board have been doing. And it’s very much what they will continue to do.
Source: Tiffany Hepditch