Alyssa Blais Panhandles Council – Should the Agape Centre Be Sold to Create a Fund to Feed Those in Need in Cornwall Ontario?

Alyssa BLACKCFN – Alyssa Blais is s lovely woman.   Kinda smart, nice most times when she’s not under the influence of people like Gilles Latour, but she’s caught in the headlights as her patronage appointment to run the Agape Food Bank facility has led to crisis within the community.

Ms Blais just went before council asking for $60,000 cash, probably enough to just about cover her salary.   For someone that’s being groomed for a council run, an odd gesture.

Agape sadly, under her management, has changed as you can see from this interview we shot for our former sponsor, Paul Lefebvre of  the Best Western in Cornwall.

Surely there’s a need in our city of 46,000 people as there are in most cities.    Surely a position of this importance should be given on merit and not cronyism?        Ms Blais shared the salaries paid out at the Agape which amount to over $500K per year.

You can feed a lot of people on those salaries and probably far better than some of what’s given out or fed at the Agape kitchens.

Ms Blais complained to the budget council about volunteers?  Volunteers are the backbone of strong communities.  Maybe the issue isn’t with the volunteers, but how they are treated?  Maybe some of the Agape’s best volunteers have left or are discouraged by Ms Blais’s team?   Again, shouldn’t it be part of her management team to build a strong corp of volunteers?

One anonymous former volunteer volunteered this comment:

They, in my opinion got rid of most of their volunteers to put in friends on their payroll. They kept the volunteers mentally or physically challenged as they get money to keep them

Ms Blais also complains about having to buy so much food.   Again, if stronger out reach into the community was made perhaps she’d get better results?

CFN for example is the largest newspaper in our city and we do not receive press releases from this group because Ms Blais’ feelings were hurt by our previous stories.    Who loses in the end?  Good professional management requires communications skills.   When CFN tried to organize an event when the video above was shot we were not met with enthusiasm so we let it slide.  (We wanted to sponsor lunches)

The question becomes why would this facility’s board allow cronyism to in the first place, and how can they justify their budget?

This scribbler looks at the numbers and I just shake my head.   If you can’t run this place with more volunteers and open up to the community so that they’ll publicly support it then it would probably be best to sell the facility and create a fund to feed the poor in Cornwall.

After all how many people a year rely on its services?  1000?  2000?  You can give out an awful lot of gift cards to grocery stores for the Agape’s budget.   Of course Ms Blais might not have the same platform to run on in less than two years, and she might have to find a non patronage job too.  (Her gig before Agape was via the graces of Bob Peters ( running the Business Development service thingy hosted in city offices)

Sadly some people in this city don’t get it.  If you are earning your bread on the backs of the tax payer you can’t play personal politics and silly monkeys.  You have to be professional.  You can’t exclude people.   You can’t just keep giving contracts and gigs out to your friends at the exclusion of those with talent.   You have to get tangible results.

Hopefully one day we get better at this.    In the meanwhile Council has to decide to scratch her a cheque for $60K or not while they are scrambling for dollars.

The last time Agape scored big with the city was in 2009 when Cornwall coughed up $200K something that caused many to stop donating completely.

The people of Cornwall; though not the wealthiest in Ontario are very generous; but if smells funky you get funky.

The poor should never be the fodder of political folly.    Those that need our help should receive it, and this sort of circus show should be fixed.    Agape either needs a new board or the current one to clean up its act and make sure that this desperately needed service is run properly.

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  1. The Agape Center was originally set up as a temporary service provider to help the less fortunate people living in our community. Why now do they pay lucrative salaries to people working there taking from the people they are supposed to be helping. Paid volunteers are employees and not volunteers in my opinion. Maybe if faith based organizations living in our community were to step up more to take charge of the Agape and to run it more like the food bank in South Mountain using community unpaid volunteers and not crony employees the problems at the Center might not be as dire as Ms. Blais is telling us. Before the city starts handing out tax dollars to the Agape for salaries and not services an HONEST, QUALITY AUDIT should be done and made public to find ways for it to continue giving out services and not become a financial liability to the community.

  2. Great story CFN,thank you for bringing this to our attention….who knew!!! so much BS & under the table happenings in this city that keep the & the poor even poorer

  3. I second the great story CFN ! I believe it was just prior to Christmas that I read an article pertaining to someone connected to the Agape Center lamenting costs of food items. Being a savvy shopper a quick calculation determined that I personally without the benefit of buying wholesale would have paid roughly 40% less. I drew the conclusion rightly or wrong right then and there that there had to be some (mis)management issues with the daily operation of the center. My donations are now solely limited to my tax dollars that are given out so freely by the powers that be. A volunteer based organization utilizing as much as possible the very people who directly benefit from its existence would be preferable to the seemingly corrupted system that we have now. When an individual in the public spotlight cannot handle criticism to the point that it potentially affects the very individuals they are serving then perhaps the time has come to step aside and let someone with broader shoulders take over. I agree with Gary W. Samler on all accounts but most importantly the need for an audit and an independent determination as to possible hiring improprieties. The important issue remains why in the face of the problems associated in the operation has an investigation yet been initiated or completed for that matter ? Is it possible that corruption within our municipal organization is so entrenched that no one individual wishes to point a finger lest they also come under scrutiny. Sad.

  4. obviously hasn’t a clue how to develop a strategy.

    obviously doesn’t know the organization she works for is one of many competing for charitable donations and volunteers.

    obviously doesn’t realize CFN readers might do more if awareness was higher.

    obviously doesn’t know how undervaluing volunteers makes for damaging word-of-mouth news

  5. Unfortunately, the Agape has had management issues almost since inception. Anyone remember the Snowsuit Fund and wonder why the Cornwall Lions Club, the founding sponsor, pulled the suits from the Agape location? Questionable behavior and this organization seem to go hand in hand.

  6. Perhaps it is time that we closed places like the Agape and simply set up a system of Green Stamps such as many usee in the U.S.

    Has this idea ever been researched? IF NOT, WHY NOT.



    Time to come to grips.

  7. Author

    Dave there are two other food banks in Cornwall; one run by the Salvation Army. I’m sure if Agape did close that they would help fill the void as is necessary.

  8. Two other foood banks in Cornwall? I never realized that. Then why are we paying big bucks for Alyssa Blais and co.?!?!?!?!
    You’ve got to be kidding me. These wages could go a long way to feeding some of the needy, especially the children! That’s when people stop donating. Again, another example of bad management, wasted $$$$ that could be better spent. There are lots of good people here in this town willing to help, they are just so sick of the mismanagement.

  9. As I am sure we all know these scenarios are not unique to Cornwall.

    I know of instances where people working for places such as Agape, Salvation Army, Habitat for humanity, actually go through products donated and take the best for themselves. I have seen it done, or more so the result of it being done.
    That is something that would be very hard to eliminate as it is one of those odd human nature issues.

    As for paying a person to manage a volunteer organization, that in itself is wrong. It merely makes people such as local council, Mr. Guy Lauzon, and former MPP Mr. Jim Brownell sleep well at night believing they have done their due diligence to ensure we keep these businesses in good standing.

    Gary, it is and always has been the structure of society for a select few earning personal revenue and sociological stature off the backs of the needy.

    Another way around this is to take a section of a comment made in “A Pillar of Iron” cold as it sounds it will work “assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest we become bankrupt. The mobs should be forced to work and not depend on government for subsistence.”

    My SO uses the habitat for humanity for many home renovations and I use some of the goods for crafts. I think it is a good idea as we have a disposable life style so much can be found there. One weekend we went to look for something’s and a good portion as closed off. They mentioned Leon’s had donated a good portion of furniture and they were going through it and pricing the goods. Over the next few weeks we went back hoping to find some of the furniture for our University student’s new digs. I never saw one piece of that furniture on display. I was told that it all went fast, that is possible but I guess I would really like to have access too see what was donated and what was sold

  10. Perhaps it is time that we discontinued the practice of permitting OUR corporation (The City of Cornwall) to collect tax dollars with the purpose of making charitable donations on our behalf (as if we ourselves were not capable of this task). There are other organizations in place that could definitely meet the needs of our community if we backed them DIRECTLY as suggested by ADMIN. Does it not seem apparent to enough of our community that these duplication of services are placing a stranglehold on our ability to assist those in need ? Does know one consider the administrative costs of raising money for charities ? (This information is made public by the way) Look at the costs to collect ONE DOLLAR by the CCH Fund raising organization. Time for this community to embrace reality stop the unnecessary depletion of resources and take it upon ourselves to use volunteers from the community to meet the demands. Remember, we do have a large retirement pool of talented and capable people out there that simply need a little inspiration/motivation. Perhaps all we have to do is ask them and through leadership provide an organizational model if required . Just thinking.

  11. get rid of allyssa excutive director and lori operations mananger and use there salaries to get whats needed

  12. Some would have ‘faith based’ entities, visa a vie churches to basically fulfill their calling…the giving to and support of the needy. Many certainly do.

    Two problems come to mind with this expectation.

    1) Churches have been downsizing due to a lack of participation. Upsizing their responsibility would over burden those dedicated to such a cause. Many do participate with the Agape now. Others as with the Sally Ann and virtually all churches now would seldom redirect those in need.

    2) The dumping factor. The expectations of the community as a whole are misplaced as this problem is a community wide issue. It is not a religious only issue it is generic, secular issue whether agnostic, atheist, Protestant, Catholic, Jehovah Witness, Muslim or Ben a’ Brith. It involves everybody. Some skip out to avoid there innate obligations to those around them.

    The simple factor is that we have lost our personal intake as to whose job it is to clothe and feed those in need. It is yours, mine and all others. Some give openly while others give in silence but all of us must be attuned to the needs of our neighbours to help with a hand up, not necessarily with a hand out.

    Just getting it out there for what its worth. So if it is necessary to demand oversight, as I believe we’ve had but not in depth enough, then so be it, pay someone. Do we not ‘pay our priests and ministers” WHY then would we not pay the Agape for its leadership management at the very least…its dedicated daily cooks as well.

  13. They are always looking for places for co-op students. They could work and earn credits.

  14. Dave Windsor makes some good points. I don’t think “faith based entities” should be depended upon to alleviate the misery that has been created by our economic ruling masters. By all means, they should be encouraged to help, with no religious strings attached, but they should not be expected to fix the problem. Canadian corporations are sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars thanks to tax breaks, while at the same time moving thousands of jobs off-shore where labour is cheaper. These corporations, with the aid of our political rulers, are the ones who have created this huge gap between the rich and poor, and should be compelled to undo the damage they have done. Fat chance of that happening, but we can dream.

  15. Author

    Ed if people take actions things change one step at a time. The problem is getting people united and working together productively on key issues.

  16. A key issue might be electing governments (provincial and federal) that do what’s best for ALL Canadians rather than just the corporate elites. The “trickle-down” economy has failed, except for the fat-cats who really run the world.

  17. Author

    Well Ed whose fault is that? It’s not a crime for any group to support their “guy” or “gal”, right?

  18. Somehow there has to be a way to provide A WORK FOR FOOD senario whereby a client can produce produce to receive produce.

    This phenomenal way of come in and get it for no return is as much causing the food bank need as it is in helping the client develop a self help confidence building sense of self worth.

    Hard to put it into succinct words or phrases without sounding dogmatic or demeaning to the issues here. Points or credits seem only to work for students for thier year at school. If points or credits could be given to those using the food banks fewer volunteers form the grater community wouild be required.

    I know I’m drawing at straws here, just like my earlier suggestion of bring in the USA ‘Green Stamps’ for food idea. However drawing straws to fit the better ideas is what wee’re dooing here anyway.

    We can be people of reason and understanding but dkkpeople still need to eat.

  19. Author

    Dave if our Social net was adequate there’d be no need for food banks.

  20. ADMIN do you not truly believe that if the “Social Net” provided as close to the bare necessities as possible that fewer recipients would rely upon the system for a much shorter time? It would seem that this would provide a much greater reason to escape living on the bottom. I am referring, naturally, to people ABLE to look after themselves and not the TRULY less fortunate that we as a society ultimately do have a responsibility to look after. In my opinion when a system becomes a generationally accepted alternative life style, we definitely have a situation for concern. As Dave Windsor so well stated people need a hand up not a hand out. Back to topic directly, 500k would secure a hand up position ! Hands up for that !

  21. Author

    David I think people don’t have a real perspective of who abuses the system and who doesn’t. Nor how rich we in the West are. If we had fair taxation there would be enough money to have a real Social net. IE the profits from our society. If you look at Alaska, Norway, and at one point Alberta they issued cheques to residents or had more social services because of excess revenue from resources.

    There is no legitimate excuse for the poverty we have in Canada. None.

  22. @ Admin. I know whose fault it is, and it’s pretty clear that the filthy-rich keep getting richer, and the poor and homeless just get poorer and colder.
    So far, the filthy-rich are winning, as always, because they have the power.
    Food banks and homeless shelters are just band-aids to keep us from seeing dead bodies on the streets. That would be ugly.

  23. If Ms. Blais were so “nice and smart”, she wouldn’t be under constant scrutiny. This latest plea for OUR tax dollars is ridiculous. They just got an enormous amount from the Trillium Foundation some of which they plan to use to create two new positions; an assistant for Ms. Blais (at $18/hr) and a sorting coordinator. They just promoted two of their existing staff to Thrift Shoppe Supervisor (because apparently the one or two staff there need supervision) and a Sorting Supervisor. Why the need for a Sorting Coordinator? Couldn’t that money be put to better use? A research and Development Coordinator? Go to their web page, read the posting, sounds like Ms. Blais’ overpaid job description! Good grief, when does it end? Your source was correct, they replace volunteers with paid staff, family members no less I.e. Ms. Greer hiring her husband, former Thrift Shoppe/Sorting Supervisor hiring her daughter ….. even though there was then a policy against hiring family. That policy must have been changed after Ms. Blais hired her long time friend, Ms. Greer. If they weren’t so busy alienating volunteers, the funds spent on staff could be spent on those who really need it. The Board of Directors is there in name only. If they truly cared about the organization and its mission, they would take a proactive approach, look at that mess and work hard to change public opinion. Their lack of action speaks volumes!

  24. Ooh! Methinks there is something smelly in the kitchens of the Agape Centre; hopefully it will be rectified before Maggots begin to appear.

  25. I am not sure that this forum with 24 concerned people will help to enable a change at the agape center. It is very unfortunate that supposidly good meaning people, and “they” the agape center do sound like well meaning people, are so intent on hiring, when volunteers is what is needed. It would seem that new management is in order. There were openings for the board of directors, but one had to apply to Alyssa Blais. Does this make sense? I know a volunteer who was able and giving and helpful, but left because they were always negating her work. Hopefully it will get bad enough there and the public will wake up and start to understand that this place needs not only new management but a new board who are aware of the “real” needs of cornwall and can help to create an atmosphere where the people can help themselves. Such a waste of time and money just to employ a few.

  26. Author

    Phoebe I think that donations being down and the cupboards not as full as they were are indicative that the public smells the stink. They need a total house cleaning and bring in some people dedicated to the task at hand that embrace everyone in the community that wants to help.

    Food banks are not the place for patronage appointments….as if there is a good place for any…..

  27. I was at one point volunteering at Agape and was asked for my police clearance report, so I did in fact go to get it. I was told that the price for one for a volunteer purpose was free or reduced, I cant remember which. So I went to Agape and asked for a letter stating that I was volunteering there so I could get the report and was told that they would not give me a letter and didn’t need me to volunteer anymore?!?!?! I have always been a volunteer weather at my kids schools or charities or fundraisers. I have never been NOT NEEDED to volunteer. I feel if they were in need of volunteers then they would take care of the ones they have.

  28. I use to volunteer at the Agape for five and a half years. I was a Volunteer in the soup kitchen. I remember all the times the old cook would go in to the management team with problems that occurred In the kitchen like no hot water at lunch time, air conditioner problems, etc, but nothing was done. Agape desperately needs new management. Alyssa Blais has hurt so many people at the Agape center and I don’t blame them for not supporting the Agape anymore.

    As stated above “Get rid of allyssa executive director and lori operations manager and use their salaries to get whats needed”, This could solve the Agape’s problems. Even if we eliminate the Operations manager job and only have the executive manager job, Agape would be saving approx 60-65k a year that could be used to improve food in the food bank and to improve the facility itself. Also why are they even making that much anyways? Their never their when you need them and when they are their “busy”.

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