Whistler Community Services Society incorporated in 1989. The first programs established were the Food Bank and the Christmas Hamper Program. During this time WCSS relied mostly on government grants.
In the late nineties, Executive Director Janet McDonald was approached by the Mayor at the time – Hugh O’Riley – to develop a thrift store. The concept was that in exchange for running the business and keeping goods from the landfill, WCSS would use profits to fund social service programming. In 2000, the Re-Use-It Centre opened. It blossomed quickly into a huge success story and one that truly embodies social sustainability. Since then WCSS has expanded its social enterprise to include the Re-Build-It Centre as well as bottle and electronic recycling. Together these businesses provide 85% of funding required to run social service programming. Additionally, WCSS has become a key player in the Whistler in terms of solid waste management and diversion.
The thrift stores benefit daily from huge community support in donations. In 2014 fiscal year, the Re-Use-It Centre received 33,977 equivalent garbage-size bags of donations. This converted to 60,000+ paying customers and $800,000+ in revenue. The opening of the Re-Build-It Center in 2010 has diversified the agency’s stake in social enterprise. We have also expanded to include recycling bottles and electronics which has seen steady growth since inception. Collectively, the RUI, RBI and recycling programs kept 2.6 million kg of stuff out of the landfill in 2014.
The steady and reliable stream of income of the thrift stores has allowed for a great expansion of social programs and services throughout the years, allowing WCSS to react quickly to the changing needs in the community. WCSS hired its first Outreach worker in 2000, as well as started the Counseling Assistance Program, and Interim Housing. Shortly afterwards, Parent Infant Drop In, Whistler Welcome Week, the Survival Guide and Community Greenhouses were established. Whistler has grown with, and alongside the Resort Municipality, collaborating and filling in gaps in social service programs outside of regular government operations. Together WCSS and the RMOW have helped Whistler achieve some outstanding awards such as a Green City award in 2006 and a Livable City award in 2005. In 2008, WCSS’s Executive Director Greg McDonnell travelled to Beijing China to present to a delegation from the Asia Pacific Gateway on how social programming can be funded through enterprising non-profits.
WCSS continually evolves and expands in an effort to respond to the ever changing needs of the community. From early days working with ‘Mountain Community Health Alternatives’ to undertaking actions established by Whistler 2020’s Task Force, WCSS has been responsive and responsible for a large portion of the social services available in Whistler.
In 2012, WCSS centralized it social service programs and services in the new “Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Social Services Centre” located in Spring Creek, sharing space and creating new partnerships with other non-profits servicing Whistler. These include Sea to Sky Community Services, Howe Sound Women’s Centre and Zero Ceiling.
Our success would not be possible without the continuous support and unwavering devotion from the community of Whistler.