Family social services agency that started with $25 donated car celebrates its 90th anniversary

Ninety years ago this week, Family Services of Greater Vancouver was launched with a start-up fund of $25, pulled together from the sale of a donated second-hand car, and just one caseworker.

Family Services of Greater Vancouver grew and evolved with the socio-economic shifts of the city

Children playing at a Parents Connect Program in 2017. Family services have remained a central part of the organization for 90 years. (Family Services of Greater Vancouver)

Ninety years ago this week, Family Services of Greater Vancouver was launched with a start-up fund of $25, pulled together from the sale of a donated second-hand car and just one caseworker.

Back then, in 1928, the non-profit's main focus was on family breakdowns, marital problems and domestic violence — all issues that continue today but were viewed very differently then.

"They weren't talked about. They happened in the shadows," said current CEO Karin Kirkpatrick.

Marriage counselling, one of the key services offered by the organization in its early years, was significantly different in the first half of the century.

Family therapist Gael Paddack looks on in a counselling session in 1995. The way family issues were talked about and dealt with has changed significantly since FSGV first started, says CEO Karin Kirkpatrick. (Family Services of Greater Vancouver)

"The wife would come in and you would have a conversation about all the things she could do differently to make that marriage work," Kirkpatrick said. "It's a very different process now."

The services offered and mandates followed have also evolved over the years to reflect the socio-economic shifts of the city, Kirkpatrick told CBC  Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

A baby class in 1995. A previous executive director of FSGV once quipped, 'you have to go to four years of agricultural school to raise pigs. To raise a family, there is no support — you’ve got to learn that on the fly,' CEO Karin Kirkpatrick said in an interview with CBC. (Family Services of Greater Vancouver)

FSGV now runs 90 social services programs from parenting classes and foster family support to  low-barrier youth homes and trauma and victim counselling.

"It's hard for us to articulate the work that we do because it's not focused on just one area," Kirkpatrick said. "That's one of the reasons why many people haven't actually heard of the organization."

FSGV staff at Pride Parade, date unknown (Family Services of Greater Vancouver)

Operating out of the public spotlight makes it harder for the non-profit organization to attract donations, she said.

"We spend a lot of time worrying about funding," she said. "The problem with not having high profile in terms of our name is that it is hard to attract donors."

Kirkpatrick said she hopes the organization's 90th anniversary will provide a chance to draw attention to the work it does and attract more support from the community.

Ninety years ago this week, Family Services of Greater Vancouver was launched with a start-up fund of $25, pulled together from the sale of a donated second-hand car, and just one case worker on the job. 7:48

With files from The Early Edition.