By RYAN KING
PORT AUX BASQUES – Non-profit organizations address cultural and social issues that are often overlooked by society, contribute to social and cultural wellbeing, and they can fill the gap often left by government agencies or private businesses. Unfortunately, awareness of these organizations and what they can offer is often lacking in the communities they serve.
October was Disability Employment Awareness Month, and two local nonprofits that address community issues like this are Peaceful Communities and the Community Employment Corporation (CEC).
Peaceful Communities is a volunteer, non-profit organization with a focus on violence prevention, education, and public awareness. Among its annual events are Mental Health Awareness Week, Block the Bus, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, National Violence Prevention Month and many more.
The CEC is another non-profit that provides employment services to individuals with intellectual disabilities and individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The CEC supports clients through several programs as well as an Autism Employment Pilot Program (AEPP).
The two organizations often work together, and much of the staff serve on both committees.
Corey Lomond is the Executive Director of the CEC and Chantell O’Quinn is the Autism Facilitator for the AEPP. Both are also members of the peaceful communities committee. Maisie Anderson-Osmond is the Career Development Specialist with the CEC and Chair of Peaceful Communities.
Lomond stated that there have been many successes with those finding employment through the CEC, and what they do supports individuals beyond just finding work.
“We did have a young girl here who, before she began work, was very high needs. She was wild to say the least. She was very to herself, very much in a shell, and she just never had a good environment. But as soon as she started working, that broke her right out of her shell and she turned into a different girl,” shared Lomond.
Anderson-Osmond said there is a noticeable positive impact.
“She became more independent and made big life choices and decided to move. So we no longer have her on our caseload, but she has moved out of the province.”
O’Quinn shared that one of her clients who had been out of school for 10 to 12 years was set up with a job. The client said that before that he felt like he was wasting his life.
“When he said that you almost want to cry,” said O’Quinn.
Different clients have different support needs.
“Basically anybody that self identifies with a disability, we can help them,” said Lomond.
The organization tries to match clients with a job that interests them, but with a small rural area, that is not always possible.
“We do have one client who’s at a place she wants to be, and that’s at a daycare,” said Lomond. “But a lot of other times our jobs are, pretty much, wherever we can get them.”
“We had another guy too who wanted to be on the radio,” said Anderson-Osmond, who went on maternity leave. “When I came back, he actually was on the radio. He announces sports, the weather, plays music.”
Anderson-Osmond would like the community to be more aware of available resources.
“Even though we do all these events people still really don’t know that we exist,” said Anderson-Osmond.
There can be 150 seniors attending events, hosted by guest speakers who talk about relevant issues.
“One year was about STDs, believe it or not,” added Lomond.
The community groups often overlap and support each other.
“We partner with a lot of different people, like the Women’s Centre, the REC House. We partner with whoever wants to do something to connect with violence prevention,” said Anderson-Osmond.
The Peaceful Communities committee is seeking new volunteers. Anyone who is interested in helping out or those in need of some support are invited to call (709) 695-2112 or alternatively visit the CEC building at 62 Main Street in Port aux Basques.