Distress Centre 2020 Annual Report
Volunteering with Distress Centre has changed a lot over the past 50 years. Explore stories from every decade to see how we’ve grown and adapted to support Calgarians in their times of need.
Distress Centre was established in 1970 as the Drug Information Centre—a grassroots, on-the-ground agency run by volunteers.
The Centre was created to handle “bad trips or freak outs” and be welcoming to all, in person or on the phone.
Volunteers and staff set up shop in Banff to support youth travelling across Canada experiencing drug, medical, and emotional crises.
A place to call to make things right
Volunteers were on the streets and clients were dropping in to stay.
In 1979, Jeanette McEachern began her 18-year tenure, always fighting to keep the agency alive.
Through the 80s, Distress Centre/Drug Centre grew and became more formalized. Staff never lost sight of the tremendous value of volunteers.
Finding new ways to connect with teens, before they experience a crisis.
The move from the Old Y to 11th Ave SW allowed for expansion, but created a need for renovation.
There can never be enough staff, so volunteers keep Distress Centre viable.
Distress Centre was the only agency that offered free, confidential, immediate counselling.
After 20 years, Distress Centre had a new, expanded mission to reflect the needs of a changing world, but its core functions remained.
In the 90s, the number of staff and volunteers grew in order to offer more specialized supports for a more diverse Calgary.
The Youth Drug Line was opened in 1990, giving teens in recovery a way to help other teens with addictions.
In 1994, with VLTs in bars and casinos, Distress Centre began a gambling addictions line in partnership with AADAC.
Throughout the 90s, volunteer numbers grew and services reached a more diverse community, including refugees, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community.
Glenda Nyberg volunteered for 19 years between 1983 and 2002.
The first World’s Largest Garage sale created a welcome 400% increase in money raised.
Changes in leadership and technology ensure constant innovation, but volunteers continue to be the heart and soul of Distress Centre.
Barb was not only an effective leader, staff appreciated her kindness.
With the move to a bigger space and generous donations, Distress Centre entered the new millennium.
Despite many predictions, the world did not end at the start of 2000, and volunteers continued to be the heart and soul of Distress Centre.
The desire to meet the evolving needs of the teen community was a constant, and a driver of change.
With the retirement of Barb Litchinsky, Carol Oliver assumed the role of Executive Director in May 2008.
In the past 10 years, Distress Centre has grown to support more Calgarians than ever, by phone, chat, text and in person.
The professional qualifications and duties of Distress Centre counsellors continue to evolve, as does the complexity and number of clients they see.
From the 2013 floods to the Fort McMurray wildfires, refugee crisis and COVID, Distress Centre has always been there.
In 2013, Distress Centre returned to its 1970 street-level roots by offering a walk-in only service for Calgary’s most vulnerable.
A leader with many roles, from City Crisis Project to Human Resources to agency leadership.
Distress Centre would not exist today without the original group of volunteers, so it seems only fitting that the 50th story focuses on our volunteers.