Provincial cabinet ministers visit CLEC and honor award winner



By Ron Giofu


A pair of provincial cabinet ministers visited Community Living Essex County (CLEC) recently.

CLEC Ministers vertMinister of Community and Social Services Ted McMeekin was on a tour of the area and was joined by Minister of Children and Youth Services and Windsor West MPP Teresa Piruzza with CLEC being one of the main stops on the trip.

McMeekin explained that the provincial tour they are on is to help learn what the issues are from people actually facing them.

“We’re listening carefully, we’re getting a lot of good ideas,” said McMeekin. “We want to find creative, entrepreneurial ways to respond to things we are seeing. We are not afraid of change.”

Piruzza stated they are speaking with individuals receiving services and finding out where the “gaps” are and what changes need to be made. The “grassroots” effort will help the government decide where to proceed moving forward.

Last Friday’s leg of the 20-day tour a “great” one, McMeekin said. He added that he and Piruzza co-chair the government’s poverty reduction committee as well as they are getting a lot of insight during the tour.

“We have some real challenges with respect to social services particularly as it relates to social assistance,” he said.

McMeekin, who is also MPP for the riding of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, said it is important people tell them their stories so that they can have a good quality of life. Part of the job, he added, is to make their colleagues aware of the challenges that exist.

Attitudes can also be barriers, McMeekin stated.

“We need to be able to change attitudes and perceptions,” he said. “It’s not an easy go. We’re working hard at it.”

McMeekin and Piruzza also wanted to meet and congratulate Andrew Banar, who founded the “Group Hug” clothing line with mother Karen Pickle. Banar won a community inclusion award at CLEC’s recent annual general meeting.

“When I heard about Andrew, I wanted to meet him,” said McMeekin.

McMeekin called Banar a “pace setter.”

“You are cutting new turf,” the minister told the 22-year-old. “You work hard at what you do and it shows. You are a good role model and I’m proud of you.”

“It’s my life, helping people and taking care of people,” said Banar. “My mom does a great job. We work together.”

CLEC executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero said that Banar’s story is “an amazing, wonderful story that needs to be shared.” She added she was pleased that McMeekin and Piruzza visited the agency.

Diane Bourbeau, president of CLEC’s board of directors, said she has an adult daughter with a disability and she and her husband want to make sure their daughter is well taken care of when they are unable to continue. Bourbeau said her daughter feels included in the adult community and wants that to continue.

McMeekin said a lot of people are feeling anxious about that very topic and noted he is part of the team helping to try and deal with those quality of life concerns.

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