It’s been two years in the making, but last week the Merritt Integration Project (MIT) unveiled a new way for Merrittonians to find businesses and services in the area with both a pubic service directory and a youth directory — in print and online at

Chelsea Morrey, director of the Gold Trail at Interior Community Services in Merritt and chair of the MIT said the directory allows the various agencies, businesses and the city to all work together, where before they were working in isolation.

“Lots of folks have a little black book that they share amongst themselves, but there was no collaborative link to any of us,” she said

“Rather than saying, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you,’ and close the door, we can say, ‘It may not be me, but let me make a phone call or let me get the address of where you can go — they’re the folks that can get you where you need to be,’” said Morrey.

That distance also meant that a lot of the time services overlapped, or they were competing for the same government funding.

Morrey started to recognize this lack of communication and duplication of service back in 2013.

Starting a conversation was the first step.

“We starting bringing together senior management of agencies across the community to get together on a monthly basis and talk about the gaps the barriers the needs of Merritt and the Nicola Valley,” she said.

It was important to her and others involved that it was senior level management — people who could actually make decisions right there at the table.

Often there isn’t a large window in which to act, and taking proposals back to directors to sign off on isn’t something they can afford to wait for.

“When funding is available and you have 30 days to apply, you need to act on it now,” said Morrey.

Funding is also easier to secure from government when there are multiple groups involved in asking for it. When groups unite to ask for joint funding, government sees that as a positive.

“Funding is so essential for nonprofits in any community,” explained Morrey. “Rather than pitting against each other, let’s apply to get funding together to service everybody. It’s tough enough out there for funding.”

She said she hopes that this co-ordination will grow local services. “Rural communities are often looked past, and they move on to city centres like Kamloops and Kelowna,” she said. “We have been able to identify the gaps and needs for that funding to come back to our rural areas.”

So what started out as something that would benefit Morrey in doing her job, MIT decided — why not share it with the public?

“It helps me do my job at the agency, and our staff, but then how does it help the family that doesn’t want to walk through our doors?” she said. “Now they know the physicians, they know what the parks and recs do, they know what facilities are here — it just allows people to make a better choice towards their health and getting help for themselves.”

Funding for the directory was secured from the Interior Health Authority as well as United Way. She said the city council has been supportive, and since MIT began meeting, there has been increased communication and co-ordination between agencies in town.

The MIT also looks at other areas lacking in Merritt. Morrey said there were three areas: housing, health and social planning co-ordinator. “At MIT we can band together and write letters of support, we can join funding, we can join services.”