History of ACS

Just as our name suggests, we are and always have been a community organization.

In the mid-sixties Walter Paetkau was working for the Mennonite Conference. His assignment was to organize activities for local churches to get involved in - meaningful and community wide activities. So an ad-hoc committee of local pastors and volunteer group representatives started talking.

One of the first tasks undertaken by the group was to conduct an informal survey and to print a directory of all available community resources for people looking for help of almost any kind.

MSA Community Services is officially organized as a society. It began in a small office above James Fraser TV on Essendene Avenue in downtown Abbotsford. It was staffed by concerned community citizens who volunteered their time and expertise.

Who Were the Key Players?

  • Father Paul Foran – St. Ann’s Catholic Church
  • Rev. Bob Pollock – Calvin Presbyterian Church
  • Lloyd Wilson – Lawyer
  • Mauritz Vanderveen – District Supervisor Welfare Office
  • Peter Adrian – Mental Health Worker
  • Dr. John Buirs
  • Dr. John Krahn

A lot of things have changed over the decades. The organization, whose name changed a few times as well, grew and changed as the communities of Abbotsford, Matsqui and Sumas grew and changed.

  • During the 1970’s programs like Meals on Wheels, a Christmas hamper distribution program, legal aid services along with family services, youth and counselling programs were added.
  • In the 1980’s multicultural services, the recycling and food bank programs expanded very quickly. It was a decade of rapid growth due to the changes and growth of the region at the time.
  • In 1990 the New Beginnings program began at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School, and many existing programs moved their physical location to the Old Courthouse building on Laurel Street in downtown Abbotsford.
  • In 2001 the Community Employment Development Office (CEDO) opened and during the next eight years it served over 10,000 unemployed people in Abbotsford & Mission return to work.
  • In 2008 the Abbotsford Community Services Food Bank opened a free dental clinic for the homeless and people living on low incomes as a direct response to the needs of people in the community.
  • In 2010 our Youth Health Centre opened, offering professional medical practitioners providing health services in a youth friendly, safe, confidential and non-judgmental environment for individuals 12-24.
  • In 2012 the Abbotsford Community Services' Food Bank's Starfish Backpack program started, providing food to local students in need for over holidays and weekends.
  • In 2015 we launched our pre-arrival immigration service, India2Canada, in Chandigarh.
  • In 2017 we opened Hearthstone Place, our supportive housing project and the OAT centre, an opioid agonist therapy clinic.
  • In 2018, along with multiple community partners, we opened Foundry Abbotsford, a "one stop shop" inclusive centre offering health and wellness resources and integrated health services for youth 12-24.

Executive Directors:

ACS Executive Directors from past to present.

Rod Santiago

Rod Santiago
Executive Director
2010 to Present

In March 2010, Rod Santiago stepped into the role of Executive Director and continues to lead the still and ever changing role of Abbotsford Community Services in this community.

Thelma Schrock

Thelma Schrock
Executive Director
2000 to 2010

In July 2000 Thelma Schrock was hired by the Board of Directors to become the new Executive Director . Ms. Schrock retired from the position in early 2010.

Walter Paetkau

Walter Paetkau 
First Executive Director

Walter Paetkau became the first Executive Director serving for 30 years in that role until his retirement in 2000. He was assisted in the early years by one staff member, Helen Layton. And from day one, it has always been about People Helping People.