Calgary

Venerable Alberta sex-ed group shutting down

Sexual Health Access Alberta, one of the first groups to promote sexual health in the province, is closing its doors after 35 years.

Sexual Health Access Alberta, one of the first groups to promote sexual health in the province, is closing its doors after 35 years.

Like many non-profit groups, it has struggled for donor support, but in shutting down its program, its executive director says, it is opening doors for other groups in the field.

When the group began in 1975 under the name Planned Parenthood, few saw a need for it, Laura Wershler recalled.

"As a culture we weren't as open about sexuality," Wershler said. "Comprehensive sexual health education wasn't a part of the school system."

But things have changed in a big way since then. Sex education has become part of school programs, and a network of agencies offers services and counselling on sexual health.

 

The downside is that it's become that much more difficult to raise money.

Facing a shrinking pool of donors and grants, Wershler said, she realized her group was not going to be financially sustainable five years down the road, leading her to decide to call it quits.

And she is encouraging other struggling charities to consider their own viability.

"I think there are many funders that are hoping some organizations will have the courage to start talking about dissolving their organizations, perhaps merging with others," Wershler said.

"I think we have to all be mindful of the most efficient and productive use of both public and private funds for the for the work that we do."

Wershler now plans to offer a course for other non-profits on how to "bow out" gracefully.

"Don't fade away, be proactive if you think it's the right thing to do," she said. "Be in control of the process, and make sure its done in a strategic, honourable way."

Pam Krause with Calgary's Sexual Health Centre admires Wershler's decision.

"I think it takes a lot more courage to look at things in a realistic way and determine sustainability rather than hold to what you can for as long as you can," Krause said.

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