Community Living celebrates 69 years of service to Manitoulin Island

MINDEMOYA – At its annual general meeting held this past Monday, Community Living Manitoulin (CLM) celebrated the 69th year since the opening of the original Hope Farm in 1950, a grassroots undertaking that created a space for those with developmental disabilities to remain near their families on the Island. That original Hope Farm would eventually transform into the Community Living Manitoulin of today, with more than 60 individuals served within our own community.

CLM has recently faced some big changes, with the departure of the former executive director. The organization is currently led by a transitional team that includes the executive director of Community Living Espanola, Louise Laplante and Tracy Love, a Developmental Services Ontario navigator. Both Ms. Laplante and Ms. Love spoke at the meeting about their roles and the positive changes that the organization is undergoing. While Ms. Love is on a short-term contract for the summer she will be focusing on staff development and programs, Ms. Laplante will remain longer term and is handling the financial oversight and ministry reporting.

“We are so pleased for the support and hard work of our executive team and their supporting management staff,” stated board chair Pamela Lambert. “We, like all others in the service sector, will face some challenges moving forward in the next four years and having great staff who can face those challenges head-on is reassuring.” Under direction from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services there is, as of yet, no plan to hire a new permanent executive director.

The board of directors of CLM recently undertook and approved a new three-year strategic plan with a focus on priority areas for improvement, which include: strengthening links within the community and enhancing individual supports and services, as well as increasing the financial sustainability of the organization.

Currently, the organization has 26 individuals in employment placements throughout the Island and are pleased to report that all are employed at minimum wage and that many of these positions have turned into full-time jobs. There are more who would love employment and the organization is always looking for new opportunities that are the right fit for the residents. “We are very lucky to have so many community supporters,” says Ms. Lambert, “and we look forward to renewing those relationships with our friends and neighbours. As a board, we thank all those who support the individuals served by our organization, through job placements, volunteering and donations.”

Additionally, the residents are always looking for volunteer opportunities within the community. This summer, at the day program building known as the Hub, residents will be participating in a full slate of activities and encourage the public to join in the fun. Activities will include live music, barbecues, lemonade sales and art socials.

A recent information session was held to provide insight into the Host Family Program. Currently, most individuals served by CLM reside in one of the organization’s five residences in Mindemoya, or participate in a Supported Independent Living arrangement. The Host Family program has as its goal the placement of individuals with like-minded host families. 

“Following from the interest we received at the first information session, we look forward to holding additional sessions on how host families work in the fall,” stated Wendy Friesen, manager of Services and Coordinator of Care. “These sort of arrangements can be the basis for wonderful and fulfilling relationships for all involved.”

Also part of the meeting was a presentation of the annual audited financial statement by Josh Blasutti of Freelandt Caldwell Reilly LLP, Chartered Accountants. The CLM finances are in a strong position and the organization has ended the year with a surplus, a turnaround from previous years.

The board of directors has been happy to increase its membership over the last few months. The board now consists of Pamela Lambert (chair), Crystal Bossio (vice-chair), Spencer Kenney (past chair), Ron Kenney (treasurer), Terry MacKenzie (secretary), Sharon Stephens, Sam Bondi and Melissa Peters. “Our bylaws call for a maximum of 11 board members,” stated Ms. Lambert. “We would love to reach that number and I would encourage anyone who is interested to contact me or any other board member for more information. Things are really on a good foot here but we’d love to do more!”

Anyone interested in more information on Family Hosting, volunteer opportunities, or board membership is urged to contact the Community Living Manitoulin by email at executivedirector@clmanitoulin.com or by phone at 705-377-6699.