Soaring with Families First

I used to really be shy, now I am better at talking with people, making friends.
— Jodie Pilkington

At 18, Jodie Pilkington hesitantly attended a young parents group meeting at Families First. Her mother had heard about the centre and encouraged her to attend. As is quite often the case with other parents, experience in one program led to getting involved in other programs—and eventually, new friendships.

Families First “changed things for me,” says the married, mother of two boys. “I used to really be shy, now I am better at talking with people, making friends. I’ve met so many people.”

With six-year-old Malachy and 18-month-old Ruari, this stay-at-home mom visits the centre almost daily to check in with staff and fellow parents, and attend programs. While her husband Ryan works in Fort McMurray for two-week stretches, support from Families First is important to her everyday— and notably a source of pride. “They have known Malachy since he was six-months-old, and they have always known Ruari—they are like family,” she says of staff and other regular attendees.

Over the years, she has attended several of the programs such as Books for Babies, Park Attack, ABC Camp and also uses the toy lending library regularly. When in town, Ryan attends too. “It is really fun. I have learnt a lot. I really like the young parents group, community kitchens. We all like going there.”
Jodie came here from England with family when she was sixteen. While her brother lives in town, her parents and two other siblings moved back. She is presently working towards her Canadian Citizenship. She hopes to stay home until Ruari attends kindergarten.

Being Part of the Solution

Families First was always there to do anything for anyone, they still are.... I just want to give back.
— Allison Smith

With her husband Steve away on two tours in Afghanistan, Allison Smith found herself connecting with staff and other parents at Families First. Their three children were still quite young. They were all new to Fort Saskatchewan—having moved from Mantioba when Steve was stationed at CFB Edmonton.

“It was nice to know there was always someone to call—even if I wasn’t asking for help,” she says. “I know Families First was always there to do anything for anyone, they still are. I am grateful and I just want to give back.”

For the past six years, this professional photographer and Mix107 newscaster has done just that—using her communication know-how to get the word out about Families First; managing the website, producing the newsletter and taking photographs. She has also secured space for programs within the community.

Her inspiration? “Being part of a solution,” she says. “I choose to give my time.” Whether one gives time or funds, she believes being involved in community is vital. That it makes a difference for everyone.

Her commitment to service is at her core— despite a busy family and work life. She is also the president of Fort Gymnastics, and a regular contributor to several other organizations such as the Fort Saskatchewan Canada Day Celebrations. Her son Alex is now 17, her daughters Meigen and Emily are 15-years-old and 11-years-old; and her husband commutes from Saskatoon where he is currently stationed.