CRIS Adaptive Adventures

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Community Recreational Inititatives Socitey (CRIS)
City & State:
British Columbia
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

To provide relief to people with physical and mental disabilities by developing and implementing outdoor and wilderness recreation programs in order to promote independence and inclusion, assist with integration, reduce isolation, and improve mental well-being.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

What began as one man’s passion for the outdoors has turned into much more at the Community Recreational Initiatives Society (CRIS). CRIS is a volunteer run, non-profit, community organization that has made a big impact on lives in the Okanagan. CRIS’ mission statement is “To provide relief to people with physical and mental disabilities by developing and implementing outdoor and wilderness recreation programs in order to promote independence and inclusion, assist with integration, reduce isolation and improve mental well-being.” Through the use of adaptive equipment and a “can do” attitude, CRIS strives to break down the physical and mental barriers perceived by those with disabilities. CRIS is a grass roots organization that was built by volunteers. While there is only one full time permanent staff member at CRIS, the organization operates on over 11,000 volunteer hours yearly. Over the past eight years the number of participants and volunteers have both sky rocketed, and it has been critical for CRIS to move from pen and paper scheduling to a large-scale computer based organization system reliant on our custom built database and numerous excel and word documents. It would no longer be possible to keep track of everything that CRIS does within our community and beyond without the technology that has been put in place.


Initial efforts to computerize operations at CRIS did not go smoothly or cheaply. No one was regularly available to work through computer issues and our network and email system was patched together at best. With the original server arrangement computers around the office attempted to communicate with each other with little success. Different operating systems, installed programs, and server documents being locked by the computer using them brought productivity to a crawl. Multiple calls would be made to tech support every day, and it was necessary to wait for certain computers to be free to complete projects. Although the volunteer who was running the server was dedicated, the project was bigger than one part time volunteer could handle. Staff and summer employees resorted to bringing their own computers to work so that they could get something done during the days that the system went down, which was more often than not.


When CRIS was directed to the TechSoup website, things started to turn around. Through the software and hardware donations available on TechSoup, CRIS has been able to create a much more stable and secure system. All the computers in the office are now able to use the same Windows operating system and the same version of Microsoft Office, Dreamweaver, and various other programs. New server programs allow CRIS employees and volunteers to communicate easily between computers, share files, and increase productivity. Office operations are now much smoother, which means more hours are being put into programs for participants, improving hundreds of lives. We maintain an excel spreadsheet with the names of all participants and volunteers, but have found that CRIS has grown to the point where it is necessary to transfer this information over into a dynamic database that will allow more than one user access at any given time. Thanks to TechSoup and the donation of Microsoft Access, this database will merge several excel spreadsheets and provide one central location of information about CRIS participants, volunteers, donors, sponsors, and hours devoted to our programs.


The move to the Access database has made an immeasurable difference to CRIS’ operations. We have participants from all over the Okanagan and beyond, all with different concerns and availabilities. By using Access we are able to have an active and dynamic information set that is easy to update and search through. Our volunteers also have different availabilities and skills, and thus, along with the contact information for all our members, we require a lot of organization. With the flexibility the Access program offers, we have custom designed a database to suit our needs. Microsoft Access has proven to be an easy and more efficient system for our staff to learn to use. The security options provided by Microsoft Access allow CRIS to manage what information our staff and volunteers are able to access and change by having user names and passwords. Where in the past participants could fall through the cracks and be forgotten in the turmoil of the office, we are now working on a system to track when participants and volunteers were last able to go on outings, along with up to date contact and medical information and statuses. Instead of having all of our volunteers going through folders filled with sheets of confidential information, we are able to use the database to ensure privacy.


The updates which have been made through the Microsoft Outlook program available on TechSoup has solved our ongoing struggle with email programs. It allows multiple users to use individual and synchronized mailboxes, which provide greater ease of communication between those inside the office and outside. CRIS has non-verbal participants who can only communicate via email, and it is crucial that these messages do not get lost. Similarly, as we have visually impaired volunteers working in the office the compatibility of Microsoft Office with the JAWS speech software is very important. After battling for years with keeping our basic website up to date, it was made possible to start a new web page for CRIS, one on which we have an online schedule, up to date information, and far fewer technical problems. This allows us to reach out to a greater number of people beyond our community; those across Canada and the world have access to information about CRIS at their fingertips.


Having the server connection in the office streamlines our programming substantially. Not only are we now better able to maintain confidentiality and have separate workspaces with user accounts that are accessible on all the office computers, we no longer face the challenge of having different computers connected to different printers. We are also able to have remote access so that volunteers may work from home and still use files on the server, which can be extremely helpful. We use Excel to track finances and equipment instead of using hand drawn paper inventory lists that are rapidly damaged in our environment. These computerized inventory lists are much easier to update and streamline the ordering of equipment. Also, as we do many longer specialized trips, including camping and sea kayaking, it is very important to know what equipment is on these trips so that we do not lose items that are taken out by volunteers or participants.


We thank TechSoup and its donors for providing the solution to our needs and allowing CRIS to get where it is today in regards to participant and volunteer tracking, financial and operational structuring, and communication to members.

Submission Category
Stable and Secure Technology