Organization recognizes individuals who have sparked change to foster greater inclusion for all people, including those with intellectual disabilities
Acting Mayor Dianne O’Brien’s first official duty as head of council was one that her predecessor Robert Quaiff helped start and proudly championed over the past three years.
Tuesday morning before a crowd of about 100 people at the Waring Hall, O’Brien was able to proclaim May Community Living Month as part of the fourth annual Community Living Prince Edward (CLPE) Mayor’s Breakfast. As Quaiff introduced her, she said she hoped she could follow in his footsteps as an advocate for the inclusion of all members of society, including those with intellectual disabilities.
“After 12 years on council, I have come to realize our sense of community is very strong. People here do look out for each other and we understand the importance of forming bonds with our neighbours,” O’Brien said. “Our municipality is vast and the people are scattered around many wards, but I do believe we are united in our desire to treat each other with compassion and respect. The sense of belonging within our community is not reserved for a select few.”
O’Brien said she would join others to respect individuals and organizations who are working hard to ensure people with intellectual disabilities are included in the life and economy of the community and urged people to appreciate the work done to that end throughout the year.
“I’m truly impressed by your commitment in enhancing the wishes, goals, and desires of the people you support,” she said.
CLPE board chair Linda Conley said not only is Community Living Month being celebrated in Picton and across the county, the community is also joining others across Ontario to celebrate. Conley expressed how fortunate she is to be involved with an organization she believes is second to none in finding solutions to help people find ways to fit in.
“The things they do are innovative and creative and absolutely wonderful. It never ceases to amaze me,” she said. “We have volunteers who are valued and respected. We see people working in our stores and different work activities in our community. We see a new house being built where people are going to be able to live in respect and independence. How exciting is all that, and how exciting is the whole premise that everyone is important? That is what this organization does.”
Executive director Susan Treverton added that while staff do an amazing job in helping individuals achieve their goals, it also doesn’t happen without community partners, volunteers, and directors — many of whom she said she recognized in the room that morning.
As part of Community Living Month, Treverton said CLPE is continuing with a province-wide recognition campaign called Spark Change to congratulate people who make a difference in their communities by promoting inclusion. Five such champions were honoured that morning.
Supports and services supervisor Nancy Dyer recognized Amber Wren for her efforts to support people at home and reach their personal goals.
“She approaches her work with creativity and perseverance and believes in finding ways for them to live as independently as possible,” Dyer said.
“She is a strong advocate for people to have friends and family in their lives and support them to be active in the community and part of the community.
Laura Egerton recognized Michelle Guernsey for taking the approach of getting to know the people she serves and understanding their passions and interests. As a result, she said new opportunities have evolved including a community craft group and an avenue for one person to advocate for accessibility.
Community and family services director Johanne Strome recognized Kim Gagner for her work at Heart of the County to help people enhance their employment readiness skills. Through Gagner’s initiatives, staff at the store have become more independent in opening the store and providing customer service.
Youth-in-transition worker Lisa Rashotte recognized PECI teacher Hilary-Anne Clarke for finding ways to make careers and civics education more inclusive and giving all students opportunities. Clarke was also recognized for the innovative CHAT program that allowed students to meet with employers.
“She sees no barriers, just ideas,” Rashotte said. “It’s about teaching students, not just the subject.”
Lastly, supports and services director Dennis Markland recognized OPP officer Sean Guscott, who has been working with CLPE for over 10 years after joining it’s rights committee. Guscott has served as liaison between the police and the organization on many occasions and has always been willing to provide insight and advice.
“He’s a strong advocate to make sure they have a better life,” Markland said while presenting the award to Staff Sgt. John Hatch, who accepted on Guscott’s behalf as he was away at training.
Treverton closed the breakfast by sharing some of the activities ahead this month. Tomorrow, buildings across Ontario will be illuminated in blue and green to raise awareness as part of a Shine a Light on Community Living campaign. Some 12-14 local businesses have agreed to have spotlights in their storefronts to take part. Blue-and-green awareness ribbons will be circulated throughout the municipality and May 25 will be a blue-and-green t-shirt day.