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Closing the books on an era
Executive director to leave friendship centre after 13 years

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The curtain will fall on the end of an era when Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre executive director George Dunkerley leaves his position Oct. 31.

NNSL photo/graphic

Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre executive director George Dunkerley will be leaving Rankin Inlet in November after spending 13 years on the job at the centre in Rankin. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

Dunkerley, 53, has spent 13 years at the centre, becoming its longest continuous serving executive director.

His decision to retire was announced this past week.

Dunkerley, his wife Elizabeth and the youngest of their five children, Mason, are scheduled to leave Rankin on Nov. 1.

The programming at Pulaarvik Kablu has changed substantially since Dunkerley took the reigns.

When he became executive director, the centre had $900,000 in annual revenue and 14 staff members administering four full-time programs in Rankin Inlet.

Today, the centre runs 15 programs, has a combined staff of 44 full- and part-time employees (as well as 40 casual employees, mainly elders, who teach traditional knowledge), an employee in every Kivalliq community except Whale Cove, and operates on an annual budget of $3.8 million.

Dunkerley has overseen an expansion that includes numerous outreach and counselling programs (spousal abuse programming was in place when he became executive director) through Kivalliq Counselling and Support Services, addictions programming and community justice work.

The decision to leave the centre and relocate to the south with his family was not an easy one for Dunkerley.

He said he's thought about making the change for the past couple of years.

"My main reason for leaving is I'm no longer able to keep up with the routine that I've followed for the past 12-plus years," said Dunkerley.

"The centre requires someone in this position who can work more than I'm capable of right now.

"You have to be a believer in the centre and its programs to hold this position.

"I've always taken my work home with me and my reason to leave is based upon my desire not to do that anymore."

Dunkerley cites the expansion of the centre's programming as his biggest accomplishment during his time as executive director.

He said, in his opinion, the centre has become a truly regional operation now, as compared to being strictly focused on Rankin when he took the post.

"Hopefully, the next executive director will continue that expansion, he said. "We did a major expansion into Baker Lake this year by taking over the Community Justice Outreach program, and we'll be restarting its addictions program once the hamlet is finished renovating a building in the community for our office space.

"We're looking at providing similar activities in other Kivalliq communities, but there's no solidified plan for that to happen just yet."

Dunkerley said while the new executive director will have their fair share of funding challenges, nothing is impossible.

He said if he thought securing additional funding was impossible, he would have closed the centre back in 2004.

"It's not going to be easy for the new executive director, he said. "A lot of what the future holds is going to depend on the results of the Oct. 19 federal election.

"Most of the Urban Aboriginal Strategy programs that fund us federally come to an end on March 31, 2016, and new agreements won't be worked on until a new government is in place.

"In the past, we've always managed to find a way to maintain and grow our programs - whether it was the change from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to Health Canada, the creation of new programming, or finding new avenues from which to receive our program funding."

Dunkerley expects the priority of the new executive director will be establishing Pulaarvik programming in the other six Kivalliq communities outside of Rankin.

Because Kivalliq communities are so small, their relatively low population bases can often make it hard to justify new programming.

So, explains Dunkerley, the only way to grow is to expand the programs into another community so the centre can add people to its client base that way.

When asked to reflect upon his time at the Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre and how history may view his tenure, Dunkerley said he hopes to be remembered as "the guy who got things done."

Dunkerley said when you're looking at a career spanning 13 years, there are things that never happened, for one reason or another, that probably should have.

But having said that, he adds, he's proud of what's been built at Pulaarvik and hopes the communities are too.

"I can honestly say I'm leaving with no regrets, and, for the most part, I'm at peace with my decision.

"I keep becoming a little more at ease with everything as Nov. 1 nears, but I am still going through some interesting emotions.

"I'm both looking forward to Nov. 1 and feeling guilty about looking forward to leaving, but it's time to go.

"I've accepted the fact in two months I'm done!"

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