Nancy Wallace-Gero

Community Living Essex County celebrates “REAL Change” initiative

 

 

Community Living Essex County (CLEC) celebrated its “REAL Change” initiative last week as the agency seeks to modernize the way it delivers services.

REAL Change is described as “a robust undertaking to transform the agency’s business and service delivery models in order to offer modern, relevant supports within a sustainable and innovative infrastructure. REAL Change has the potential to be a demonstration project for other service providers within Ontario’s developmental service sector.”

The project has been undertaken over the last two years, but CLEC executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero indicated that the celebration was not the completion of the project.

Sara Gavrelets, a Community Living Essex County support worker and a “REAL Change” champion, discusses her experiences with CLEC’s modernizations efforts during a celebration last Thursday afternoon.

Sara Gavrelets, a Community Living Essex County support worker and a “REAL Change” champion, discusses her experiences with CLEC’s modernizations efforts during a celebration last Thursday afternoon.

“It’s really not the end of the process or the end of anything,” said Wallace-Gero.

Wallace-Gero said the agency plans on continuing to go down the path of modernization and but noted “this is a very exciting day for all of us.”

Sue Desjarlais, a member of the agency’s board of directors as well as a REAL Change committee member, said the first few months were devoted to “taking things apart” and looking about how services were delivered.

“We’ve done something dynamic over the last couple of years,” said Desjarlais.

CLEC engaged the consulting firm People Minded Business (PMB) to guide it through the process with Janeen Halliwell and Jennifer Keilty-Friesen helping CLEC engage families and stakeholders in an effort to modernize services. Halliwell noted that it was important to develop “a culture of innovation” and that the strategic planning was both dynamic and diverse. She said the process was to not only find out what their goals were but to align them with a strategic direction.

Keilty-Friesen said over 200 stakeholders were part of the process. Direction that came up as part of the process included improving access to services, offering families innovative and affordable supports for those with intellectual disabilities, designing a responsible and sustainable business model and to provide leadership in the developmental services sector.

Janeen Halliwell discusses the REAL Change initiative during a celebration last Thursday. Halliwell and Jennifer Keilty-Friesen from the consulting firm People Minded Business (PMB) helped guide Community Living Essex County through the REAL Change process.

Janeen Halliwell discusses the REAL Change initiative during a celebration last Thursday. Halliwell and Jennifer Keilty-Friesen from the consulting firm People Minded Business (PMB) helped guide Community Living Essex County through the REAL Change process.

Consultation took place with a number of groups, including Ensemble and New Day. The former is a parent-driven group with parent consultant Kelly Runnalls noting their voices were heard throughout the REAL Change process.

Marilyn Goddard, also representing Ensemble, said there was no time when the voices of parents not get heard.

“Change is a good thing,” said Goddard. “It presents us with exciting possibilities.”

Karen Bolger, director of operations with CLEC, outlined the five pilot groups that were part of the REAL Change process. Forward First Marketing helped establish communication and marketing strategies to reach all audiences, while CLEC also joined the Central 33 Leamington Hub in order to foster greater collaboration with multiple organizations in order to improve response to families. Another pilot was “My Support Link” with the purpose of that being to be an innovative web-based application for people with intellectual disabilities and their families to connect with one another and to share resources and access.

“Select A Break” was developed to provide “right fit respite options” that are affordable, flexible and sensitive to individual and family needs. That program is expanding into Amherstburg and Tecumseh.

“The Right Support in My Home” group is to develop a full range of community residential support options which provide the right level of support to promote independence, self-determination, community involvement and contribution. Part of that is the Smart Support options, something CLEC’s director of supports Corey Dalgleish called “a game changer.” Smart Supports involves the ethical use of technology to aid in providing supports including medicine dispensers, cooking assistance, video calls and more. Dalgleish added that technology will be used with full permission of everyone involved.

Keilty-Friesen said CLEC took a “huge stop” by not only developing plans, but actually putting them in motion.

“People have more support options through this initiative,” added Halliwell. “This agency is leading the way in providing supports in a modernized sector.”

For more information on REAL Change, call 519-776-6483 or visit www.communitylivingessex.org/about-us/realchange/.

Community Living Essex County celebrates employment project

 

By RTT Staff

Community Living Essex County (CLEC) celebrated the end of one employment program but it was a program that launched others within the agency.

For the past two years Community Living Essex County, in partnership with several community partners including the Greater Essex County District School Board, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, Workforce Windsor Essex, Community Living Windsor and others formed the First Choice Employment Committee to promote awareness and employment of people with intellectual disabilities. The success of the project was celebrated last Friday afternoon, but although that project has ended, it has served as a “launching pad” for the highly successful Job Start and Career Compass programs.

Back Row: Lynne Shepley- CLEC-Manager, Chad Sutherland-CLEC Board member, Steve Kwasnycia , Self Advocate,  Cindy Kwasnycia-Self Advocate, Derek Roy-Project Coordinator-CLEC, Rosa Amicarelli- Director-CLEC, Lorne Rocheleau (Special Education Coordinator –WEECDSB), Lisa Vincent-Support Worker, Tammy Westwood-Support Worker, Tony DeSantis- CLEC-Manager Community Relations. Front row: Karen Bolger-CLEC-Director of Community Living Operations, Beth Renaud-Self Advocate, Colette Warnock-Support Worker, Nancy Wallace-Gero-CLEC- Executive Director, Michelle Karr- Manager-Workforce Windsor/Essex.

Back Row: Lynne Shepley- CLEC-Manager, Chad Sutherland-CLEC Board member, Steve Kwasnycia , Self Advocate, Cindy Kwasnycia-Self Advocate, Derek Roy-Project Coordinator-CLEC, Rosa Amicarelli- Director-CLEC, Lorne Rocheleau (Special Education Coordinator –WEECDSB), Lisa Vincent-Support Worker, Tammy Westwood-Support Worker, Tony DeSantis- CLEC-Manager Community Relations. Front row: Karen Bolger-CLEC-Director of Community Living Operations, Beth Renaud-Self Advocate, Colette Warnock-Support Worker, Nancy Wallace-Gero-CLEC- Executive Director, Michelle Karr- Manager-Workforce Windsor/Essex.

Nancy Wallace-Gero, executive director of Community Living Essex County, called it “an important moment in time” as the programs that First Choice Employment has launched have given people CLEC supports a chance to enter the workforce.

“First Choice Employment has resulted in tremendous success for a lot of people,” said Wallace-Gero. “We are extremely proud of the success that has been achieved over the last couple of years.”

Wallace-Gero said they are grateful to the province for “believing in Community Living Essex County” and to all of their partners. She paid tribute to the staff and the employment team as well.

Derek Roy, manager of Community Living supports overseeing Career Compass, said First Choice Employment led to a number of positive outcomes and that without all the players at the table, they wouldn’t have been able to get as far as they have.

“First Choice Employment was a way to guide us,” said Roy. “We found the direction we needed to go.”

CLEC

First Choice Employment had subcommittees that dealt with employers, marketing and organizational aspects with Roy also paying tribute to the employment team that actively works with families and employers.

Other members of the Career Compass team include director of Community Living supports overseeing Career Compass Rosa Amicarelli and employment services workers Michelle Jones-Rousseau, Tammy Westwood and Lisa Vincent.

For more on Career Compass, visit www.communitylivingessex.org, call 519-776-6483 or visit their Facebook and Twitter pages.

 

Two big fundraising totals roll in for Community Living Essex County

 

 

By RTT Staff

 

Community Living Essex County (CLEC) is celebrating a pair of large fundraising totals.

From Nov. 24 to Dec. 24, Community Living Essex County benefited from over one hundred dedicated volunteers who operated the annual Gift Wrapping Booth fundraiser at Devonshire Mall in Windsor.

For the past 24 years the gift-wrap booth annually raises a significant amount of money in support of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. These funds assist CLEC to respond to people who live in Essex County and help address a variety of needs. The gift-wrap booth also provides a unique opportunity to acquaint thousands of holiday shoppers with an understanding of the goals and work of Community Living Essex County.

Volunteers and staff with Community Living Essex County help out at last month's gift wrapping booth at Devonshire Mall. The booth raised $18,000. (Photo courtesy www.twitter.com/clessexcounty)

Volunteers and staff with Community Living Essex County help out at last month’s gift wrapping booth at Devonshire Mall. The booth raised $18,000. (Photo courtesy www.twitter.com/clessexcounty)

With the help of a variety of local service clubs, church groups, students, businesses as well as families, staff and those supported by Community Living Essex County, the 2016 Gift Wrapping Booth raised $18,000.

“We are extremely appreciative and thankful for the support we receive each year from Devonshire Mall-Windsor, all of our volunteers and the public for keeping the holiday spirit alive,” states Tony DeSantis, manager of community relations and resource development with Community Living Essex County.

The results from September’s Ruthven Apple Festival were also noteworthy and celebrated by the agency.

The Ruthven Apple Festival committee hosted a luncheon recently and presented a cheque to CLEC for $50,000. It was the largest donation ever made to CLEC from the Ruthven Apple Festival.

“This is truly a special presentation today,” said DeSantis.

Remarking that it “seems like a long way off” since that beautiful weekend in late September at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens where the festival was held, DeSantis recalled the “army of volunteers” that helped work at the 37th annual event.

Money raised goes towards transportation, either purchasing new accessible vans or repair existing vehicles. Vans are used throughout the agency, including some to transport people that are supported in Amherstburg.

Planning for the festival starts early in the year, DeSantis continued, and there is a lot of “behind the scenes” work that goes on to ensure the festival gets presented every year.

“There are a lot of moving pieces, a lot of pieces that have to be worked on,” said DeSantis.

“The members spend a lot of time on this (festival) and a lot of dedication,” added festival committee co-chair Gary Johnson.

Johan Klassen, a person supported by CLEC, also gave his thanks.

“I am very happy to be hear today,” he said. “I want to say thank you to everyone who helped make the festival a big success. See you again in 2017!”

The Ruthven Apple Festival raised $50,000 for Community Living Essex County. The presentation was made at Colasanti's Tropical Gardens last month.

The Ruthven Apple Festival raised $50,000 for Community Living Essex County. The presentation was made at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens last month.

CLEC executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero expressed gratitude on behalf of the agency.

“From the bottom of our hearts, thank you very much,” said Wallace-Gero. “It’s just absolutely fantastic.”

Wallace-Gero praised the dedication of the committee members and volunteers that worked at the festival. She also pointed out the funds go towards accessible vehicles, adding those who use them will benefit.

“Our staff are grateful because they are driving safe, up-to-date vehicles,” said Wallace-Gero.

Wallace-Gero added they the people the agency supports will also be grateful, as the donation will allow them to ride in reliable vehicles to ensure they get where they want to go.

Community Living Essex County supports over 650 people with an intellectual disability and their families, with many of them in Amherstburg.

For more information on the agency, visit their website, “Like” them on Facebook or “Follow” them on Twitter.

MCSS announces funding for numerous agencies, including CLEC

 

 

Ontario is investing $388,100 in four agencies in the Windsor-Essex area for upgrades and repairs as part the government’s Partner Facility Renewal program, it was announced last Wednesday.

Dr. Helena Jaczek, Minister of Community and Social Services, visited Community Living Essex County to announce that the facility will receive $161,500 to update its roof as well as to install multiple fire alarm systems and a fire sprinkler system.

Jaczek visited the Community Living Essex County (CLEC) main office in Essex before touring a home where people with an intellectual disability live with the aid of supports.

The provincial funding will directly impact a home in Amherstburg, the agency points out.

“The care and quality of all of our properties is of tremendous importance to our organization and to the people we support,” said Nancy Wallace-Gero, executive director at Community Living Essex County. “For example, three young adults who share a very well maintained-home in Amherstburg now have a new roof, thanks to the timely funding received from the Ministry of Community and Social Services.”

Dr. Helena Jaczek (second from left), Minister of Community and Social Services, visited Community Living Essex County Aug. 15. Part of her visit included a stop at a home where Craig Demers, Reggie Wilson and Tim Wilson are supported.

Dr. Helena Jaczek (second from left), Minister of Community and Social Services, visited Community Living Essex County Aug. 15. Part of her visit included a stop at a home where Craig Demers, Reggie Wilson and Tim Wilson are supported. (Photo courtesy of Community Living Essex County Twitter account)

The province issued a media release advising of that and other grants to nearby agencies with other agencies that will be receiving funding include Community Living Windsor, which is receiving $109,300 to replace its front porch, install a furnace and air conditioning units, and repair its roof, driveways and walkways.

Christian Horizons is receiving $99,300 to replace windows, build a ramp and install a furnace, as well as repair a chimney and install a privacy fence while St. Francis Advocates, which is receiving $18,000 to install a new roof.

According the province, the Partner Facility Renewal program is “helping hundreds of community agencies provide better, more secure and accessible facilities for the people who use their services. This year, the province is investing a total of $16 million for upgrades and repairs at more than 170 community service agencies for approximately 840 projects across Ontario through its Partner Facility Renewal program.”

“We are proud to continue supporting safe, accessible and welcoming spaces for those who need community services. Community service agencies across the province, like Community Living Essex County, play an invaluable role in providing critical services to thousands of people across Ontario,” stated Jaczek. “Investing in repairs, renovations and upgrades, and ensuring they are in good working order helps those who work at these vital agencies focus on what they do best: helping people thrive in our communities.”

Career Compass aiming to link employers with those with intellectual disabilities

 

By RTT Staff

A regional employment service for those with intellectual disabilities has been officially launched though it has already has some success stories.

Career Compass, a group that operates under the umbrella of Community Living Essex County (CLEC), was launched last Friday afternoon though it has already been won the 2016 Ontario Disability Employment Network’s (ODEN) “Innovator of the Year” award for “promoting innovation in employment services for people who have a disability.”

An official launch was held for Career Compass last Friday afternoon at the office of Community Living Essex County. From left: Ryan Couture of Access Community Gardens, supported employee Steve Kwasnycia, manager of supports overseeing Career Compass Derek Roy and CLEC executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero.

An official launch was held for Career Compass last Friday afternoon at the office of Community Living Essex County. From left: Ryan Couture of Access Community Gardens, supported employee Steve Kwasnycia, manager of supports overseeing Career Compass Derek Roy and CLEC executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero.

Derek Roy, manager of supports overseeing Career Compass, said the idea came from ODEN with CLEC then re-branding its former “Ready to Work” strategy with a more business-minded initiative. After fielding more than 200 suggestions for a new name, it was decided that “Career Compass” would be the brand they would use going forward. The program was one of 37 recipients of the Employment and Modernization grant from the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

The name came from the idea of providing career options to job seekers and their families while guiding “forward-thinking” businesses in their inclusive hiring practices. Roy said Career Compass can give guidance to employers who want to hire someone with a disability and said the notion that the employment has to be full-time is unfounded. Many people would like part-time work to ease them into the workplace.

“Business owners are often under the impression that they must hire full-time,” said Roy, “but this really isn’t the case. We’ve found that starting at fewer hours and evaluating from there is ideal.”

Career Compass is also working on a summer student program with Roy stating the Career Compass team is working with local school boards on the matter.

Roy emphasized that Career Compass is connected with CLEC.

“We are one of the many arms of Community Living Essex County,” said Roy, adding that Career Compass has already exceeded many of its targets in terms of getting people hired.

Nancy Wallace-Gero, CLEC executive director, said the agency is very happy with the growth of Career Compass and called Friday’s event “a big celebration” of the employment services group’s early successes.

“Career Compass is a fabulous example of how organizations can modernize its services and meet the needs of the people,” said Wallace-Gero. “We are very proud at Community Living Essex County of Career Compass.”

Wallace-Gero added that Career Compass is “growing very rapidly” and that “it’s growing quicker than anything we are doing right now in terms of real success.”

Steve Kwasnycia, a supported employee at Access Community Gardens, said his employment is “going good for me” and it allows him to support his loved ones. Ryan Couture, nutrition workshop facilitator, credited the Career Compass initiative for its help in allowing his own business to grow.

“The support you guys ave been giving has been crucial,” said Couture.

Couture said he doesn’t want to lose Kwasnycia, calling him the “best partner I’ve ever worked with.” He urged other employers to give Career Compass a shot and said it is not about the disabilities, but rather the abilities of the workers.

Tony DeSantis, manager of community relations and resource development, shows the award Career Compass recently won.

Tony DeSantis, manager of community relations and resource development, shows the award Career Compass recently won.

Tony DeSantis, CLEC’s manager of community relations and resource development, added there are a lot of success stories like that of Kwasnycia.

“We have a lot of people with direct supports that are looking for work,” said DeSantis.

For more information about Career Compass or for employers looking for someone to hire, call 519-776-6483 with Roy’s extension being 211. People can also stop by CLEC’s main office at 372 Talbot St. North in Essex or e-mail Roy at droy@communitylivingessex.org.