Kathy Saunders sometimes thinks she gets more out of working with the community members she supports than they get from her.
Saunders is the home share coordinator at Communitas Supportive Care Society. She works with people that many would consider "disabled," but she doesn't see her job that way.
For Saunders and the others at Communitas, it's not about the disabilities of the people with work with, or what those people can't do, it's about acknowledging them having a different set of abilities, and helping them find ways to use those.
"It's about focusing on their strengths," Saunders says. "We have incredible personalities and a diverse set of strengths in our programs."
Those programs are not just their residential services – from home share in a family setting, to group homes, to full-time residential care for children with behavioural issues – but also daytime programs, where the community members they support come to their office and get the assistance they need to live more community-centric lives.
It's really about just giving them the opportunity to try, Saunders says.
"A lot of these guys have been told for most of their lives, 'you can't, you can't, you can't.' Well, yes they can. It might have to be done a little bit differently, or it might take a little bit longer, but they can."
The daytime program at Communitas is called Community Inclusion, "which means we support our guys getting out into the community," says Saunders, "whether that's getting them out exercising at the community centre, we have some guys in college, we have a small employment aspect. It's about doing what we can to help our guys get out and have the fulfilling lives they deserve to have."
And they're celebrating that work – and celebrating the community itself – at a block party next week.
"For us, it's about giving back to the community, because this community is amazing at giving back to the guys we support here," Saunders says. "We feel very grateful that we have the community support that we have here."
Next Friday (Oct. 16) from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Communitas invites the community to come have a hotdog and chips – by donation – and meet their folks.
"The day program clients will be helping facilitate the games and helping with food, we're going to have hotdogs and water and chips, as well as more information about our programs, our organization as a whole, and information about how to get into this field, as well," says Lindsay Morris, Communitas administrative assistant who also facilitates the human resources department of the organization.
Morris says they're always looking for staff, so this is a great opportunity to come down and see what they do and learn about how to get into the field, if people are interested, because it's an extremely rewarding career.
"I think we get more out of it than they do, a lot of times," Saunders says. We're very lucky. We learn so much from them."
"You really get to understand the importance of relationship. Even though you know that, you don't really understand it until you work in a job like this. What relationship is and what safe is. A lot of our guys have had trauma, and don't really know what it is to be safe," she says, which is something that most people take for granted.
More information about their organization can be found at communitascare.com, by calling 250-286-1487 or by heading down to the block party next Friday in their parking lot at 1423 16th Ave – behind Spice Hut in Mariner Square.