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Over 30 years of helping people get the services they need

'I come from parents who were invested in helping other people. We lived in a close-knit community where the neighbours were always calling my dad to come help out with things and I just had that as an upbringing'
Glenna Byers with an Attorney General's Victim Services Award received for a picture safety plan she created for individuals with difficulty reading.

“Rooted” is all about the people and places that make us proud to call our community home.

It could be someone who’s house has just burned down. It could be someone getting out of an abusive relationship. In most cases, Glenna Byers is seeing people at a low point in their lives at her job as a Crisis Response Worker at Victim Services of Nipissing District.

“Of course, the work here is diverse and interesting and there’s a new challenge here every day,” Byers says.

“We are a non-profit organization that provides short-term crises support to victims of crime and tragic circumstances. We are a 24/7 program with amazing team leads and volunteers that also help us out to cover around the clock support. That can be emotional support and practical assistance and referrals to community agencies for longer-term support.”

Byers has been doing this job for the past 30 years now and says the chance to help people is what made her want to pursue this line of work.

“I’ve always really been drawn to social work and roles where I can help people. I took social work at Northern College in South Porcupine and I got into the women’s shelter to do a placement, and spent 20 years at the women’s shelter in Mattawa part-time and on weekends while I was working in victim services.”

She says it stems from being raised in the small town of Matheson, where lending a hand was commonplace, “I come from parents who were invested in helping other people. We lived in a close-knit community where the neighbours were always calling my dad to come help out with things and I just had that as an upbringing.”

She moved south to Mattawa in 1992. That is where Byers currently resides and she makes the trek up and down highway 17 every day and says, “The drive between North Bay and Mattawa is beautiful. There are lakes everywhere and great scenery. We have family in Alberta and there’s not just beaches and lakes to go to where they are. So. I really try to enjoy and appreciate the natural beauty here in the North Bay and Mattawa area.”

She adds she is a proud northern Ontario resident and says the area has so much to offer, “Mattawa is such a beautiful little town. We’ve got the water and the ski hill that’s opened now, and we’ve always enjoyed snowmobiling and no matter what season it is, you can find something that keeps you out and about. I love North Bay’s waterfront too. You can go down there and enjoy the view, and the ice cream and the beach. The carousel and train are amazing additions, anyone that comes to visit, we tell them to go have a look at what’s down there. I’ve been around the province a little bit and I don’t think I’ve seen anything nicer and more enjoyable.”

“Sometimes you go looking outside your own community, but then you realize what’s in your own backyard is the nicest thing of all,” she continues. “I love the farmers' market. The lovely farm-grown food and all the handmade crafts, and we were raised to support your local vendors. That’s the beautiful thing about North Bay. It’s small enough to be safe and friendly and large enough to have things like the farmers' market and shopping and a museum."

Byers says the small-town feel also has advantages in her line of work. She says, “Being in a smaller community sometimes we feel like, maybe we don’t have enough services, but North Bay is very fortunate to have some very good ones to get the support they need. A big part of my job is to be aware of existing community agencies so I can help those people out who have been referred to us. We have some excellent community agencies in North Bay, and I couldn’t do my job without them. North Bay is fortunate in that way to have great support agencies. I enjoy the networking part of my job too. That’s part of knowing what’s out there and making sure we can assist the people that come to us.”

She says the referrals come in a number of ways, “primarily from the police, and sometimes other services such as shelters and courthouses. And they refer people to us who they feel could use some assistance in something that has happened. Some examples of those include domestic violence or a fire, where we would link them to the Red Cross. Anything the police go to there is a potential they could call us if there is a need.”

And Byers says one of the things people need most at that point is someone to talk to, “I feel like my job is primarily to listen. I’ve tried to learn to do that, to carefully listen to what clients are saying or maybe what they aren’t saying. Whether it's fears or concerns they might have and help them through that. People are resourceful and people are resilient, and I just try and support and guide and give the information that they may require. And for sure there is a rewarding feeling if we can help them in any way.”

She says this is a job that constantly teaches you how to assist people, “I’ve been doing this for over 35 years, and I’ve really had a good career. But I would say that it’s a wonderful avenue for a career if you enjoy working for people and genuinely care about others. It is a privilege to learn so much from the people you connect with and whose lives you touch.”

And there is always a need for more members of the community to get involved.

Byers says, “We understand that people are very busy with their own lives, but every little bit helps. If you can be on call for two or three shifts per month, that’s amazing to us because we know how busy everyone is now and so it doesn’t have to be something where someone must be available every day all day. It is a small way, but you’re giving to your community and that’s something to be largely proud of. Just a few hours of volunteering in our wonderful community brings more fulfillment than one can imagine.”

Volunteering is how Byers originally got into this line of work.

“I started at the shelter, just volunteering a little bit on the weekends when I was 17, and that turned into a job later on. There’s a lot of work that goes on at the women’s shelter in Mattawa. So, anyone that’s looking to help their community by volunteering some time, there’s always something that can be done. Whether it's with filling out forms, or you help them out with their housing situation or any discussions they may have about their children and different resources that might be available to them. Sometimes just talking on the phone and providing a warm calm voice when they need someone to talk to. But I really enjoyed my years at the shelter and connecting with those women and children.”

Her work over the last three decades hasn’t gone unnoticed as her nomination came up for this BayToday series by someone who said, “Glenna is genuinely one of the nicest people you will ever meet, and she would make a tremendous addition to the Rooted series.

Byers says, “It’s a great compliment to me. I feel honoured and humbled that somebody sees me in that light. I’m certainly happy if I’ve been a help or an addition to my community.”

If you have a story suggestion for the “Rooted” series, send Matt an email at [email protected]

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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