Nanaimo residents showcase passion for including everyone

Visiting Supporting Advocates in Leadership (SAL) – standing, left to right: Kara Anderson (Self Advocate and Central and Upper Island Community Council member), Caitlyn Sassaman (CLBC Community Relations Specialist), Barbara Anderson (Self Advocate and Central and Upper Island Community Council member), Ross Chilton (CLBC CEO), Barbara Carle-Thiesson, Julia Louise Payson, Simon Philp (CLBC Board Members), Rob Brownlee (CLBC Integrated Services Manager). front row, left to right: Richard Chisholm and Gwen Harmen (of SAL) and Charmaine Johnson (Self Advocate).

“I am blown away by the passion, commitment and dedication of the CLBC staff and service providers we met with today,” said Barbara Carle-Thiesson, veteran CLBC Board member, during her day-long tour on October 10 of Nanaimo services and supports.

She and Board newcomers Julia Louise Payson and Simon Philp, and CLBC’s new CEO Ross Chilton, packed in a full day visiting community inclusion services, a new housing project, outreach support staff and self advocates.

Clay Tree Society welcomed the Board and CEO into their renovated school building where they recently transformed their service delivery from seven programs to 50 interest groups people sign up for.  “We transformed our services to reflect what individuals, families and staff told us would help people improve their quality of life and meet their individual goals,” said manager Rachel Pearsall.

CLBC Board members and CEO Ross Chilton check out the progress on a new townhouse development in Nanaimo that will provide 12 accessible, affordable rental homes.

Board members next toured the construction site for a 28-unit townhouse development, a culmination of 10 years of effort by Nanaimo Association for Community Living (NACL). When completed in July 2020, the site will have a mix of accessible rental homes for people with developmental disabilities and one-bedroom homes for people with moderate incomes. Against a backdrop of freshly framed homes and the sound of hammers and heavy machinery, Leanne, a self advocate, shared her excitement about moving in to her first independent home, and Graham Morry, NACL executive director, told Board members he already has a waitlist of people who would like to become part of this new community.

“Housing is so critical to people’s health, well-being and safety, and like many other B.C. communities there is clearly a need for affordable housing in Nanaimo,” said Julia. “It was eye-opening and inspiring to hear about the journey NACL and families took to get these homes built. I wish them all the best.”

At lunch, Board members and the CEO joined local CLBC staff and Central and Upper Island Community Council members for discussion and a viewing of “Fun, Food and Advocacy”, a documentary created by Self Advocates of Nanaimo, Food Share Nanaimo and Paul Manley, the local Member of Parliament. Community Council members shared highlights of their work, and staff were able to ask questions of their new CEO.

“I have been with CLBC now for two months and am gaining a deeper understanding of the organization and our staff,” said Ross. “I am impressed by the creativity of staff and their dedication and care as they work to meet people’s needs.”

Visiting Clay Tree Society – left to right: Rob Brownlee (CLBC Integrated Services Manager), Rachel Pearsall (Clay Tree Society), Barbara Carle-Thiesson, Simon Philp, Julia Louise Payson (CLBC Board Members), Ross Chilton (CLBC CEO), Susan Easter (Clay Tree Society).

After a quick drive down the Island highway, Board members reached the Carmichael Outreach and Drop-In Centre, a place where over 40 people in the Nanaimo area who are homeless, street-entrenched or living independently can access laundry facilities, a kitchen, showers, support and a chance to connect with others. Mike Taylor, executive director, and Dave Nicolls, manager, gave Board members and the CEO a tour and talked about plans to expand the space to include a movie theatre, crafts area and more space to lounge as the population they serve expands.

“The dedication and commitment of the staff at Carmichael is truly remarkable,” said Simon. “They work hard and yet continue to have a focus on wellness. As we left, they were starting to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for 40, including roasting three turkeys. Impressive!”

The final stop of the tour was at Supporting Advocates in Leadership (SAL), an outreach program that is in the same building as the Nanaimo Food Share program, Community Gardens program, the Good Food Box and Cultivating Abilities program, which prepares people for work in the food industry.  The co-location of services has led to a natural collaboration and partnership between the programs. Self advocates Kara and Barb presented with SAL staff Gwen and Richard to give the Board members and CEO an overview of the evolution of SAL and the impact it has had on people’s lives. The tour concluded with a discussion in the garden with members of the Food Share, Good Food Box and Cultivating Abilities programs.

“We had a fantastic day and it was great to finish our tour with a stop at SAL,” said Ross. “They are a grassroots service that has clearly had a really positive impact for the people involved.”

For more information

You can watch the documentary Fun, Food and Advocacy here.

Read news reports on the NACL housing development from CTV here and from the Nanaimo New Bulletin here.

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