When you walk through the community of Salmon Arm with Lori Skinner, you can feel the love. Skinner loves her hometown, and the people she lives and works with. Everyone knows who she is and she knows everyone.
“The people in Salmon Arm are wonderful,” says Lori. “Salmon Arm, Sicamous and Revelstoke are all very inclusive communities.”
Lori has been living in the Salmon Arm area for more than 10 years and working for CLBC since 2006. “I wanted to work for CLBC because I shared many of the goals CLBC was working to achieve with individuals and families,” says Lori. “It has proven to be a very flexible organization that I am proud to be a part of.”
Lori has a long history of working in the community living sector. “I worked in the deinstitutionalization movement in the ’80s, assisting individuals to move out of large institutions and back into community and I was doing a lot of one-to-one supports with people labelled ‘difficult to serve’” said Lori. “This was my real education, learning to support individuals in a meaningful way, and it’s been a passion of mine ever since.”
The importance of listening
Andree Rioux, whose son is supported by CLBC, met Lori eight years ago. “When we first met with Lori, my son had no supports and things were getting terrible for him,” says Andree. “Lori has always been very supportive and has gone the extra mile for my son. She has been able to listen and take my frustrations as a parent with a child who has a disability.”
“I believe my motivation comes from a social justice perspective,” says Lori. “I have seen what institutions and segregation can do to people. I have worked with people and their families that have been devastated by systemic prejudice and societal discrimination. Individuals have a right to have a meaningful life, which I think needs to include post secondary education and / or training to have a career that pays well. I also believe families will continue to play a large role in how their daughters and sons are supported throughout their life.”
Lori’s commitment to inclusion doesn’t just occur from 9 to 5. “I try to do my best to make sure the individuals I support have the opportunities they need to be active members of their community,” Lori says. “Sometimes this involves making sure the things I do are inclusive like inviting someone to play slow-pitch, join the painters guild or hang out at the Roots and Blues festival. Often it’s as simple as asking a group to share their passion with a like-minded individual.”
When asked about working with the families and individuals CLBC serves, she pauses for a minute and a warm smile crosses her face, reflecting the passion underneath.
Serving individuals, respecting family voices
“I enjoy getting to know the individuals and families I work with and having strong relationships that are built on trust and understanding,” says Lori “Families are the advocates for their sons and daughters. Their voices need to be heard and respected. The individuals we serve are the captains of their ships. My responsibility is to support them as best as I can. This is where the delicate balance can be, walking the line between what family feels is right and what that individual wants. Usually we can negotiate an understanding, keeping in mind my ultimate responsibility is to the individuals we serve.”
“You can tell being a facilitator with CLBC isn’t just a job for Lori,” says Andree. “My son and I have always felt she is more than a facilitator; she is a friend and a true advocate. We love her flexibility and her ability to dream. She has influenced my son and I to dream big things, even dream when there seems to be nothing but shut doors and that says a lot about her. I can’t thank Lori enough.”