The ribbon has been cut on a new office for the Pembina Counselling Centre's (PCC) Altona location. Supporters gathered at Unit 127 in the Altona Mall for yesterday's grand opening; checking out the new, larger space that's being shared with the Pembina Pregnancy Care Centre. 

In January 2021, the organization expanded its reach beyond Winkler and Morden, and swung open the doors to its third regional office, located in Altona's Golden West Plaza. Demand for its services snowballed and before they knew it, the Board of Directors was on the hunt for a bigger space. 

"To see how we've been able to grow and people, obviously they appreciate our services and like us, and we like them," said PCC Executive Director, Chris Derksen. "And so, we're happy to be here to serve the community. Altona is an integral part of the Pembina Valley. We've had tremendous support from the community businesses and otherwise, so we're really grateful for this space and that we can serve, we believe, the community better."

The pandemic was a catalyst for tremendous growth for the Centre across the region, added Derksen, noting demand for its services hasn't let up.

"But that's our mission, to help people where they're at. To listen to their problems and what they're going through," he said. "So, we want to meet the need as best we can and do it deliberately. We don't want to just grow for the sake of growing. We're taking inventory of what's going on, is this sustainable? and the demand shows that it is. And so, we continue to move along - as the community grows, we're growing to."

Currently, the Altona office is open one day a week but will be expanded to two days shortly. "And we'll expand as the demands grows," added Derksen. 

Counsellor, Paul Penner, agreed, adding people appear to respond to their values-based, professional service.

"Whenever you have people, you have relationships. People get stuck and they want don't want to stay stuck. And so, of course, people try to work through things on their own but if they stay that way, then they do want to get input from outside and, very often, it's family. Sometimes it's their faith community. Sometimes they're still stuck, and so then they look for professionals.

We are glad, not that our numbers are growing, but that people who are going through difficulty see us as a resource, and the fact that the numbers have grown say that they do," he added. "They see Pembina Counselling Centre as a place where they can talk about their concerns, feel safe to do that. It's our goal, and we work very hard at this and to the degree we're successful, and that is just to listen well enough that people feel understood and, hopefully, in that process gain insight, better insight into their needs and gain direction."

"We're looking for direction that has hope in it, that has life in it, that has love in it and no matter where we are, in whatever situation, there is a way to understand and there are good choices that we can make that lead to those kinds of outcomes where we have hope and we can experience love," added Penner.

According to the PCC's website, the organization holds itself accountable to the teachings of the Bible and bears witness to the hope which lies in the good news of Jesus Christ as Saviour for the world.

But if you're not religious and are seeking help?

"When people come, their concern is the agenda," said Penner. "It's not our purpose to moralize or to control the agenda. We are here for the people and their concerns. And of course, we want what's good for them long term. So, we're not going to ally with anybody that wants to harm themselves. Well, we will ally with them for their good. But, in that way, anybody can come to Pembina Counselling Centre where we're going to be accepting. We're going to be involved with them for their good."

"It would be unethical for us to impose our values on to other people," added Derksen. "That's not the role of a counselor. We hold ourselves to those values, but not our our clients. And you know, it says this on our website, but we adhere to this - we provide services to all clients regardless of race, gender, beliefs, status or sexual orientation, and we hold ourselves to that."

The new 1,000 sq. ft. locally designed office boasts two counselling rooms painted in soothing colours, furnished with comfortable and inviting chairs and calming wall art. The goal, noted Derksen, was to make people feel at home. Privacy was also a big consideration in the construction and design. 

"People want to know that when they're talking about their personal concerns, nobody else is going to be hearing them," said Penner. "We have consulted on what works to keep sound in the room. And so, people can be comfortable when they come here, that their voices, their story is going to be contained with the counselor that they're sharing it with and also in the space that we've provided."

The front doors have also been glazed with frosted glass, preventing mall goers from seeing going on inside. 

Derksen and Penner thank the community for believing in PCC's service, adding they want to be able to provide them for a long time to come.


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