Hope in Action

December 2020


Christmas won’t be the same this year, with most of us spending the holiday apart from people we love. Sadly, many of our guests face this isolation year-round due to trauma, mental illness and unhealthy relationships. That’s why we’re excited to introduce a new program where participants experience a dog’s unconditional acceptance — and build stronger, healthier connections with people.

This program and others like it are only possible because of caring donors. In this issue, learn about the generosity of a local financial services company with a long history of community support. We thank them — and you — for your incredible support during this uncertain year. And we wish you a safe, peaceful and blessed Christmas.

Canine Companions

Ray of Hope program helps guests experience the healing power of dogs

Harlow was a dog on death row.

The four-year-old Boxer mix’s fear was so intense that she would attack other dogs and people. Harlow’s aggression grew so bad that her owner was about to have her euthanized.

That’s when Cierra Ploc, a services coordinator at the Ray of Hope Community Centre (ROHCC), adopted her. With patience, care and training, Cierra was able to rehabilitate Harlow. And in doing so, she experienced her own personal transformation.

Now Cierra is sharing her skills and knowledge with ROHCC guests through a program called Canine Companions. And Harlow, the dog that once lashed out in fear, is helping humans learn to manage their emotions.

Unconditional caring

In working with Harlow, Cierra says, “I’ve experienced a lot of growth and re-connection. She has been paramount in my ability to set goals, have self-discipline, communicate clearly what I need for success, gain emotional insight and practise patience. Through rehabilitating her she has rehabilitated me.”

Cierra and her dog Harlow
Cierra and Harlow, a once-troubled Boxer mix who now helps Canine Companions participants experience the comfort a dog can bring.

Cierra hopes that, through Canine Companions, our guests will also experience these benefits, fostering healthy relationships with dogs but also with their peers and ROHCC staff.

“Violence and social isolation are prevalent in the homeless community. In this program, dogs can be a social support. Dogs demonstrate unconditional caring, positive regard and non-judgmental support – things that many guests may not receive in their day-to-day lives,” she says.

A deeper conversation

In the program, participants interact with Harlow and Daisie, an Animal-Assisted Therapy Dog. Some of the activities involve basic obedience training; others are about learning to work as a team.

“How do you teach a dog to lie down, to walk in heel, to look at you and pay attention to you? And why is that so important?”

“We talk about different ways you can play with a dog – tug or fetch or different activities on the leash that you can do, whether that’s weaving through pylons ormaking sharp left and right turns to get your dog engaged.”

Sessions also focus on communication, goal-setting, reward and discipline, structure and routine, social and emotional regulation, and leadership.

“The neat part is that everything that I’m teaching them about dogs, I’m teaching them to recognize in themselves. I can dive deeper into a conversation about what it’s like for a dog to have those experiences and how those experiences relate to human behaviours. How they can give insight into what steps might be necessary in guests’ personal lives to allow them to experience growth and long-lasting change?”


Gord and Daisie, a black Lab
Program participant Gord with Daisie, an Animal-Assisted Therapy Dog.

Advocates and leaders

“I’m very hopeful that this program can help people take those next steps, so that they’re able to regulate their emotions better, or make better decisions, or advocate for themselves the way they learned to advocate for a dog,” Cierra says.

“I hope that participants learn to communicate more clearly with their peers. I hope they realize ‘Hey, I can lead a dog, so I can lead people.’”

In fact, Cierra’s dream is that one day she’ll be able to step back from the program.

“My goal is to set one or two people up so that they can lead Canine Companions and possible even create a career for themselves in dog training, sharing their knowledge with the community.”

“That would be amazing. And it all starts with a dog.”

A tradition of giving

Wagner Livock & Associates’ generous donation will help people who are struggling during COVID

Wagner Livock & Associates Financial Services Inc. (WLA) has been providing financial services in the Kitchener-Waterloo area for more than 50 years. Back in 1966, the company’s founders, Bob Wagner and Glen Livock, established a tradition of giving back to the community through donations and volunteerism. That tradition continues to this day and recently led to a generous gift of $3,000 to Ray of Hope.

“WLA has a variety of charitable initiatives,” says Robert Rombough, the company’s president. The company has established a fund through the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Foundation that benefits local charities such as Lutherwood Foundation and the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony. The company’s vice-president, Omar McLean, also serves on Lutherwood’s board.

This year, seeing the effects of the pandemic on vulnerable people, WLA decided to do even more. “We have decided to redirect additional resources to local charitable initiatives helping local community members who have been disproportionally impacted by COVID,” says Omar.

The company’s senior leadership asked staff to nominate charities that were most important to them. The results were screened to create a shortlist of local charities that don’t receive significant government funding. Staff then voted on which organizations they would like to see the money donated to. Ray of Hope was one of these organizations selected, “based on the work that Ray of Hope does with homeless people and those who are struggling,” Robert says.

“We really appreciate the valuable work the organization is doing in the community and want to support it.”

Share a precious gift - your time

Do you feel called to care for people in need?

We need people to serve coffee to Community Centre guests, help in the Marketplace or deliver food hampers to people who are unable to leave their homes. You can find more information on our Volunteer web page.

We are also looking for meal teams to serve during the Christmas season. Please contact Jaime at 519-578-8018 ext 224 for details.