Community Living Essex County golf tournament attracts 108 golfers



By Ron Giofu


Community Living Essex County’s annual golf tournament was down in the number of golfers this year but did see an increase in sponsorships this year.

Manager of community relations and resource development Tony DeSantis said there were a total of 108 golfers this year. The tournament was played last Thursday at Sutton Creek Golf Club in McGregor.

“We’re down a little bit from last year,” DeSantis said regarding the number of golfers. “We’re up with the corporate sponsors.”

Leamington won the “Municipal Cup” again this year as having the lowest score among the municipal teams that competed in the Community Living Essex County (CLEC) golf tournament. From left: Community Living Essex County executive director Karen Bolger, Paul Barnable, CAO Peter Neufeld, Mayor John Paterson, Rob Sharon and CLEC manager of community relations and resource development Tony DeSantis.

This was the 28th annual golf tournament and tenth straight year where the Municipal Cup was awarded. The Municipal Cup goes to the municipal team with the best score, with Leamington winning it once again this year.

Other towns that entered this year included Amherstburg, Lakeshore, LaSalle and Kingsville.

“It was a really nice day,” said DeSantis.

DeSantis thanked the sponsors, Sutton Creek Golf Club as well as the golfers for the support. He also was grateful for the support from the municipalities.

“We provide services right across Essex County,” said DeSantis. “We wouldn’t be able to do that without the support of our municipalities.”

CLEC executive director Karen Bolger also expressed her gratitude to the sponsors and golfers that were part of this year’s event.

“We can’t thank you enough,” said Bolger.

Bolger pointed out that Community Living Essex County supports over 700 people with intellectual disabilities and their families across Essex County.

Dave Mickle, who competed in the Community Living Essex County and won for straightest drive, stands with Team Amherstburg members. The municipal team included Sandy Lindsay, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Kyle Spearing and Councillor Leo Meloche.

“The proceeds from this event go directly to the people we support,” said Bolger. “The proceeds from the tournament help families of children and youth throughout the summer months to ensure supports are provided to allow children to be involved in summer camps, recreation and leisure activities while children are out of school. The funds also support four teen groups throughout Essex County.”

A final fundraising total has not been released as of yet.

For more information on Community Living Essex County, visit or call 519-776-6483. People can also “Like” them on Facebook at or “Follow” them on Twitter at

Community Living Essex County presents annual awards



By Ron Giofu


As part of the organization’s 57th annual general meeting, Community Living Essex County (CLEC) presented awards to people it supports and those who support them.

The annual general meeting was held recently at the Ciociaro Club with people across Essex County, including several from Amherstburg, among the list of award winners.

Director of Community Living Supports for the west area Anne Garrod presents an Outstanding Achievement Award to Joshua Fex.

Mike Lefaive was this year’s recipient of the Bruce Crozier Memorial Award. The award recognized Lefaive’s accomplishments, including Lefaive’s work with ACCESS Community Gardens and the partnership he helped develop between the two agencies.

“The Bruce Crozier Inspiring Possibilities Memorial Award, presented annually, was created to recognize people who have made tremendous strides in their life while overcoming many obstacles.  This award recognizes dedication and ability to keep moving forward and inspiring others, despite sometimes facing many obstacles,” said CLEC board 1st vice president Sue Desjarlais. “It also serves as a legacy to the memory of the late Bruce Crozier – whose dedicated service as Member of Provincial Parliament for Essex was an inspiration to everyone in our community.”

The Jeremy Hart Memorial Bursary was presented this year to Benjamin Baillargeon.

“Benjamin’s goal for the future is to complete his CICE education with his elective in culinary management, in order to work towards becoming a chef,” said CLEC manager of supports Derek Roy. “Beyond his great love of food, he is really interested in what goes into preparing food and creating meals.  During his placement Benjamin was able to work as a team member in the kitchen at Heron Terrace Long Term Care Center. He really enjoyed working as part of a team. Going to school and securing a job is important to Benjamin as it will help provide independence.  Being independent also means that he will be contributing to the community rather than being supported by the community.”

The Bruce Crozier Inspiring Possibilities Memorial Award was presented to Mike Lefaive. Making the presentation is Barry Keith, manager of Community Living Supports.

Diane Neves, a director on the CLEC board, said the award is named for Hart, who “had dreams and aspirations; one of them was to continue his education to assist him with finding meaningful employment and furthering his independence. Unfortunately, his dreams and goals were not all realized given his sudden death in 2012. As a lasting tribute to his memory, Community Living Essex County, with the support of the Hart family, has established the Jeremy Hart Memorial Bursary Award.”

Four outstanding achievement awards were presented to people in the four geographies that CLEC operates in. The Outstanding Achievement Award for the west area, which includes Amherstburg and LaSalle, saw Joshua Fex be named the recipient.

Director of Community Living Supports for the west area Anne Garrod said Fex’s goals include to finish high school, live independently and get a job. He is accomplishing his goals and Garrod said he is a valued employee at Mac’s Milk and assists at ACCESS Community Gardens.

David Golden was the Outstanding Achievement Award Winner for the north area, with Steven Boal and Elly Taylor receiving awards for the south and central areas respectively.

Fiona Klein won the Kevin McMullan Award with other staff being recognized including Cynthia Castellucci, Ann Laramie, Erin Lettner and Shaylene Lev for their 20 years of service. Unable to attend were Tara Dufour, Michelle Hoare, Terri Cameron, Cheryl Moffat, Carol Young, Donna Rocheleau, Susan LaRue and Lana Quinn.

Heather Hannigan (left) and Michelle Jones-Rousseau were honoured for 25 years of service at Community Living Essex County’s recent annual general meeting (AGM).

Heather Hannigan and Michelle Jones-Rousseau were honoured for 25 years of service while staff members recognized for 30 years of service included Elizabeth Beaudoin and Margherita Vachon. Deneane Mineau and Janice Bondy also are celebrating 30 years of service but they were also unable to attend.

Newly-inducted CLEC board president Robert Tomek congratulated the award winners and praised them for their involvement and passion.

Community Living Essex County hosts 13th annual “Luncheon with the Mayors”


By Ron Giofu


Community Living Essex County (CLEC) invited mayors, political leaders and business people to see what initiatives the agency has been working on.

CLEC held its 13th annual “Luncheon with the Mayors” last Friday afternoon with the program consisting of discussion of what programs and initiatives the non-profit agency is up to. CLEC supports more than 650 people with intellectual disabilities and their families across Essex County.

Tony DeSantis, manager of community relations and resource development with CLEC, pointed out that May is “Community Living Month” in Ontario and that local businesses and municipalities either have been or are invited to light up their buildings blue and green for the month.

CLEC executive director Karen Bolger said the luncheon gives the agency a chance to bring community leaders together and show what the agency is doing. She added she is excited to build on the “positive relationship” Community Living Essex County has with community partners and municipal leaders.

“We can’t do it alone,” said Bolger.

Bolger said the agency was accredited in 2014 with FOCUS Accreditation leading the agency through a re-accreditation process, something Bolger is confident the agency did successfully.

Natalie Crawford, project manager for community engagement, spoke on the “My Community Hub” project. The networking website, found at, is described as an “online registration space for activities, classes, programs, workshops, respite and camps offered by developmental service agencies across Ontario.”

“We’re really excited to be part of this,” said Crawford, who pointed out CLEC is the only service provider in southwestern Ontario currently enrolled in My Community Hub.

Julie LaSorda, manager of administration with CLEC, spoke on the “REAL Xchange” initiative, with the goal being to provide more options to the people it supports yet do so efficiently. The project came out of the “REAL Change” initiative and currently has 77 unique users and 56 developmental services agencies in Ontario registered since its launch Jan. 30.

LaSorda outlined that pillars of “REAL Xchange” include exchanging knowledge, collaborating and mentoring, passing along their knowledge and even being able to create a revenue stream from it.

“We didn’t have to take (the REAL Xchange project) on but it’s the right thing to do,” said LaSorda.

Community Living Essex County held its 13th annual “Luncheon with the Mayors” Friday afternoon. Back row (from left) CLEC 2nd vice president and LaSalle Councillor Sue Desjarlais, Tecumseh Councillor Rita Ossington, Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos, Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale, Essex County Warden and Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain, Essex Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, Lakeshore Councillor Tracey Bailey and Essex Mayor Ron McDermott. Front row (from left): CLEC manger of supports Derek Roy, project manager-community engagement Natalie Crawford, manager of administration Julie LaSorda, Brigitte Gagnon from the self-advocate group, New Day – Leaders of Today, executive director Karen Bolger, director of Community Living supports Corey Dalgleish and manager of community relations and resource development Tony DeSantis.

Corey Dalgleish, director of Community Living supports, outlined the “Smart Support” technology-enabled services with that coming out of the “REAL Change” project. The agency uses a variety of technological devices and apps, many of the latter being free or carrying a modest cost.

“Not all of this is customized technology,” said Dalgleish. “It’s available to all of us.”

Dalgleish added that technology “isn’t a support, it’s a tool,” and “the focus isn’t to replace supports with technology, it’s to enhance supports with technology.”

Derek Roy, manager of Community Living supports, outlined the “Career Compass” employment service where people with intellectual disabilities are matched with employers. The Career Compass team works with job seekers and employers to find the right matches, with current statistics showing that 58 people are employed, 38 more are actively looking for work and five people being hired in April.

Roy also outlined the “Job Path” project with that being pre-employment consultation and the “Youth in Action” project where youth with intellectual disabilities are assisted with co-op placements as well as part-time and summer job placements.

Bolger called the presentations “only a sample” of what Community Living Essex County is doing in the communities it operates in.

“We have lots to celebrate,” she said.

For more information on CLEC or its programs, call 519-776-6483 or visit The agency also is on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Flickr.

CLEC receives provincial funding, funds evaluation of employment services


By Ron Giofu

Community Living Essex County (CLEC) received $27,400 from Ontario’s Local Poverty Reduction Fund and used it to evaluate its employment service.

The funding was put towards an independent evaluation by University of Windsor researchers into Career Compass, a CLEC-sponsored employment support service geared towards promoting inclusive hiring and finding employment for those with intellectual disabilities.

The research was performed by Kelly Carr, Laura Chittle, Sean Horton, Patricia Weir and Chad Sutherland from the department of kinesiology. Carr, a PhD candidate, along with CLEC executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero and director of supports overseeing Career Compass Rosa Amicarelli presented the results at a media conference April 4.

Community Living Essex County (CLEC) received $27,400 from Ontario’s Local Poverty Reduction Fund and used it to evaluate its employment service – Career Compass. From left: University of Windsor PhD candidate and researcher Kelly Carr, CLEC director of supports overseeing Career Compass Rosa Amicarelli, Community Living Essex County executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero, self-advocate Reggie Wilson and Essex MPP Taras Natyshak.

Carr explained there was a 2004 report that showed that people with disabilities were traditionally paid $8.66 – slightly higher than the minimum wage at the time – and mainly held sales and service industry jobs with no health benefits. The results of the research recommended a “strength-based employment service” which marketed job seekers for their strengths, promoted an untapped talent pool of employees and adopted more of a business-like approach.

Such recommendations would result in increased hourly wages and jobs outside the service sector, further income security by increasing hours of work including at permanent jobs outside the sales and services sector and allow for long-term considerations including medical and health benefits. Carr noted that qualitative and quantitative evaluations of workplace attitudes were taken with a strength-based employment services, as opposed to a social service approach.

Carr added that strength-based employment services resulted in “significantly higher wages” as well as an estimated 55-times greater likelihood of working outside the sales and services sector.

Amicarelli said that the University of Windsor’s results will be shared with the employment team, which consists of herself and four others.

Kelly Carr, a University of Windsor PhD candidate, fields a question during a media conference held at Community Living Essex County’s main office April 4. Carr was one of the researchers that evaluated CLEC’s employment service Career Compass.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak was also on hand for an official cheque presentation, and said that upwards of 30 per cent of people in the next decade could be faced with some sort of disability. He said it makes business sense to hire people with intellectual disabilities as it is reflective of what is happening in society.

“We were very fortunate to get this grant,” added Wallace-Gero, adding Community Living Essex County was one of the few agencies in this end of the province to receive such funding.

“We will document proven strategies that move people with disabilities toward meaningful employment within a diverse and inclusive workplace,” she said. “This research will demonstrate the real shift occurring for people with disabilities; that is, a shift away from unemployment, isolation and poverty to a real career, inclusion and income security.”

The study originated in January 2017.

For more information on Career Compass, visit, call 519-776-6483, “Like” them on Facebook at or “Follow” them on Twitter at

Community Living Essex County appoints new executive director


By Julianna Bonnett


An Amherstburg resident will soon be taking the helm as Community Living Essex County’s new executive director.

Following an extensive search process led by an executive search group that was appointed by the board of directors, Community Living Essex County (CLEC) has announced that Karen Bolger will become the new executive director.

Bolger will become the new executive director in April. She has been with Community Living Essex County since 1985, working her way up through progressively responsible positions within the agency.

Bolger expressed that she is thrilled to be stepping into the executive director role.

“My entire career has been devoted to the work of the developmental service sector and in particular in Essex County so it’s a great fit for me. I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead,” said Bolger.

Karen Bolger will become Community Living Essex County’s new executive director next month. Nancy Wallace-Gero retires April 13 after a distinguished 32-year career.

Bolger’s current position has been as the Director of Community Living Operations, a position she has held since 2011.

“I will continue to build on the success of the agency in working towards achieving the goals and strategic directions established by the membership and our board of directors. To offer modern, relevant supports and services to our stakeholders. To provide leadership in innovation through strengthening existing and developing new partnerships,” said Bolger.

The current executive director, Nancy Wallace-Gero, will be retiring April 13 after a distinguishing 32-year career with the agency.

Bolger said the community and the organization is very important to her.  Everything she does will be to better the community of Essex County with a focus on improving the lives of people they support.

Community Living Essex County supports over 700 people with intellectual disabilities and their families throughout Essex County, including operating the Channel Resource Centre and a number of homes in Amherstburg.

For more information on the agency, visit or call 519-776-6483.