Community Living BC Board members Eileen Stewart and Diane Friedman (pictured to the right) recently visited with Prince George service providers, CLBC staff and Community Council members as part of the Board’s efforts to go to communities around the province.
“Hearing directly from people is enriching, and helps to inform and guide our decisions and thinking at the strategic level where our responsibilities lie,” said Diane.
Eileen and Diane’s visit started with a discussion with Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) branch staff. Recently, CLBC contracted CMHA to run an employment program for 11 CLBC individuals who also have mental health concerns. The program provides general job readiness skills, as well as access to Live Life to the Full, a CMHA mental health program designed to teach basic stress management skills.
The conversation with the CMHA focused on community partnerships, like the Prince George Homeless Intervention Project, which sees 19 government and community organizations come together regularly to discuss the needs of individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in order to provide them with access to a wide range of supports.
Next, Eileen and Diane toured programs delivered by AiMHi, one of CLBC’s largest Northern service providers. AiMHi provides home share, respite, employment, community inclusion, life skills and self advocacy programs. Their kitchen, bike repair shop and yard care programs also support individuals with job preparedness; AiMHi also works with individuals, like artist Randall Heppner, on self-employment. During their visit, the kitchen program served refreshments – muffins, fruit and coffee – they had prepared that day. Diane and Eileen also were greeted by people who were gathering for lunch, prepared three times a week by the kitchen program.
Penny Soderena-Sutton, AiMHi’s Self Advocate Peer Advisor, led a tour of their community garden, which is being supported this year through a grant from Telus and a partnership with Prince George Secondary for the building of planter boxes. The garden is ringed by artwork contributed by the local day care centre, and also has a fully accessible raised bed so people using wheelchairs can plant, weed and harvest.
The visit concluded with a lunch and meetings with CLBC staff and the local Community Council. These meetings provided Eileen and Diane with a chance to hear about their work, their perspectives and some of the challenges they face across the North.
“CLBC Board members come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. These visits are an incredibly effective way to educate Board members about the challenges in the community living sector and where opportunities for innovation, partnership and creativity can be explored,” said Eileen.