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Author Archives: CareHelps

Our Stories: Jane Weber

This is Jane’s story, a CSW in Grimshaw.

I’ve been with ASLS for just over a year. I’ve worked with individuals with varying degrees of challenges for most of my life. I remember at 6-years-old helping my mother (she had a brain injury before I was born).

I have 2 children and 7 grandchildren. My husband, Dan, and I enjoy spending time with our family whenever we can. We also enjoy camping and will sometimes camp and go to work from the trailer!

In my spare time, I do many crafts. I sew, quilt, knit, crochet, weave and do needlepoint. I just finished making a queen-sized quilt for my husband and a king-sized quilt for my daughter.

I also donate chemo caps to those who lose their hair to cancer. So far, I’ve made and donated 400 chemo caps (or chemo hats) to hospitals in Alberta, Ontario and some in the USA.

Our 50th Stories: Sunshine House

In 1970, the Peace River and District Association for the Mentally Retarded recognized the need for residential care in order to accommodate out-of-town students attending Cosmos School.

The process of designing and constructing got underway immediately and in 1971 both dormitory and school became operational. Sunshine House was funded by the Alberta Housing Corporation while operated by the PRAMR and was able to house no more than 14 students as well as two housekeepers and dorm parents.

Through the Peace River Record Gazette in 1971, a dormitory naming contest was created.

The winning submission came from Dr. John O’Gorman, the Director of the Peace River Health Unit. There were 25 name suggestions submitted to the newspaper according to the article published December 8, 1971.

The official Sunshine House Grand Opening was held June 17, 1972, at 11:00 a.m. and was attended by:

– The Honorable Grant MacEwan, Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta

– Captain Max Bulmer, President of the Peace River and District Association for the Mentally Retarded

– Randy McKinnon, Alberta Department of Education

– Bob Orysiuk, President of Alberta Housing Corporation

– Major John Whalley, Government of Alberta Chief of Protocol

– John Friesen, Mayor of Peace River

– Ernie Marshall, President of the Peace River Chamber of Commerce

– Rev. Bob McLaren, Pastor of Baptist Church

– Al Adair, Peace River MLA (former PRDAMR President)

It was at this time the Lieutenant Governor unveiled a plaque and planted a spruce tree called ‘Sunshine Tree’. It was planted in front of the house and we believe it still stands today.

The grand opening also served as an opportunity to recognize the organization’s perseverance and dedication as well as a ‘thank you’ to the community for the support received. Much, if not all, of Sunshine House’s furnishings, including bedrooms, were donated by local businesses and community members.

Once operation of Cosmos School was turned over to the Peace River School district in 1973, Sunshine House became a full-time group home. This change forced the organization to rethink its mandate.

In 1979, the organization added ‘physical disabilities’ to its mandate and officially became the Peace River and District Association for People with Special Needs in November of that year.

In 1983 it was decided that Sunshine House would be reclassified as an ‘Adult Special Care Facility’ to reduce the stigma associated with the term ‘Group Home’.

May 1987 saw Sunshine House close as a residence and open as the organization’s main office building for a short time.

While no longer called Sunshine House, the building is home for some Individuals ASLS supports in Peace River.

Our Stories: Zainab Ashiq

This is Zainab Ashiq’s story, our Administrative/Clinical Support Assistant in Grimshaw

Zainab has been with us for just three months and was hired on as a CSW and applied “because a lot of people had said ASLS is an amazing organization to work for.”

Why do you stay?

“I love my job. I’m working my hardest in hopes to get hired again next summer.”

Why did you want to take on the challenge?

“I thought it would fit well with my degree choice. I wanted the work experience.”

What is one of your fondest memories so far?

“Sharing an office with Laura. She taught me so much.”

What do you tell yourself when it is a stressful day? How do you practice self-care?

“To take deep breaths and stay calm. I love to self-care by taking a bath (lush bath bombs are my favourite) and spending time with my family.”

What are you most surprised about working here?

“How easy everyone is to get along with and how hardworking this team is.”

What would you say to the founding parents if they were here right now?

“That they’ve built something incredibly special.”

How has ASLS impacted your personal life?

“I’ve learnt to appreciate a lot more and be more open with myself and others.”

Quick facts about Zainab:

– She has two older brothers and no pets, yet!

– She loves to shop online and spends a lot of time at the gym

– She would eventually like to work at an accounting firm somewhere in the city

– She is surprisingly good at jumping hurdles for how short she is

– She would love to have lunch with Michelle Obama and it wouldn’t matter where. “She’s one of my biggest inspirations and I would love to sit & chat with her.”

Any message you would like to share?

“I would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been so welcoming and kind since I’ve started here.”

Our Stories: Amanda Werny

This is Amanda’s story, our Residential Administrative Coordinator

Amanda has been with ASLS since September 2018 and was hired on as the Food Program Coordinator.

She grew up in Red Earth Creek before moving to Slave Lake in 2006 and settling in Grande Prairie in the summer of 2015. Amanda has a sister and is a dog mom to Daisey.

Why did you take on this challenge?

“I took on this challenge because I have a passion for helping people with disabilities and improving their quality of life.”

What do you tell yourself when it is a stressful day? How do you practice self-care?

“When I have a stressful day, I remind myself it is just a bad day, not a bad life and the reason we are all here. I self -care by going hiking with my dog.”

What are you most surprised about working here?

“I am most surprised at how everyone in the office is like a little family and always willing to help each other out.”

How has the company changed/evolved since you started?

“Since I have been here my role has evolved from the food program and administrative to now Residential Administrative Coordinator (PCP, over-seeing food program, assisting the Program Manager and other tasks for the organization).”

What do you do in your spare time?

“In my spare time, I enjoy spending time in the mountains with my dog. I love to cook and try new recipes.”

What do most people not know about you that you would like them to know?

“Most people don’t know I was Corporal Werny in Army Cadets in Slave Lake.”

What message would you like to share?

“My message would be, no matter how difficult things can be, always find a way to smile and laugh.”

Our Stories: Julie Babbitt-Byrne

This is Julie’s story, our Program Manager- North

Julie has been with ASLS for six years this August. She began her career as a CSW and has been both a Supervisor and recently a Team Lead in Peace River. She is originally from Zimbabwe and I loves the heat. YAY SUMMER!

Julie has 2 sons and 2 dogs and more cats than she would like to admit.

What position were you hired for?

“I was hired as a working supervisor for Bluesky residence. I have worked as a PCAP Mentor, a Working Supervisor, a Team Lead and just recently as a Program Manager. For some reason, I am drawn to the behavioural homes.”

Why do you stay?

“I stay because I truly believe I am making a positive difference in the lives of people in my own community. I love connecting with people and there are LOTS of people at ASLS.”

What is one of your fondest memories so far?

“I have had the opportunity to make great memories with all of the clients I have worked with directly and equally as many great memories with the staff members I have worked with. Even when complex behavioural clients have rough days I feel like I have a connection to them and that we have made it through 100% percent of the tough days together. One of my favourite memories is having an impromptu dance party on the beach while some clients were fishing.”

How has the company changed/evolved since you started?

“I have been working at ASLS since ‘B.S.’ – before ShareVision. We used to have to document everything on paper and had binders everywhere. (I loved the label maker). ShareVision has been a huge change and it makes my job overseeing multiple houses MUCH easier. I also saw the building of Stonebrook in Grimshaw which was totally cool.”

How do you de-stress and self-care?

“I love to laugh and sing. If I can find something to smile about then the stressful days become less stressful. For self-care, I like to do something creative like paint by number or cross-stitch or I just get outside with my sons and fly a kite.”

What is your hidden talent that can be shared with the public?

“My mom taught me how to juggle silk scarves. Only three at a time. Nothing too crazy.”

Accessibility: Eliminating Barriers

Accessibility has more than one meaning to us and as such, we have Implemented an Accessibility Plan.

The plan addresses accessibility barriers in the following areas:

· Attitudinal

· Architectural/Physical

· Environmental

· Financial

· Communication

· Transportation

· Technology

· Community Integration

Just recently, one of our Peace River homes faced an Attitudinal barrier from a neighbour with one concern raised being We no longer feel safe because of many visits by the RCMP to the home.” Our Director of Programs addressed the concerns in front of the Subdivision & Development Appeal Board Hearing and in the end our Development Permit was approved. (You can read more about that in our blog post)

We have tools in place to ensure Individuals receiving ASLS supports are able to access their community without Architectural/Physical, Environmental or Transportation barriers.

That comes in the form of two 4×4 trucks at our rural property in the County of Grande Prairie. This means that no matter the weather or road condition, a safe, reliable vehicle is available to transport Individuals to and from their home.

At Stone Brook, our Designated Supportive Living Facility in Grimshaw, there are two vans able to transport Individuals with their wheelchairs to any location in their community.

Many of our homes are fully wheelchair accessible and have wide doorways with open concept designs.

One of our newest homes in Grimshaw has been renovated to accommodate wheelchairs.

A wheelchair lift gives access to the main level where two bedrooms have ceiling lifts; a system used to transfer a person from their chair to bed by way of a sling-seat attached to tracks on the ceiling. This system is also installed in a bathroom, making for an easier transition to those facilities.

Another main floor bathroom has a fully accessible shower with a movable powerhead.

Stone Brook is fully wheelchair accessible including elevators and two Spa Tubs. The facility is also home to a Community Garden that is accessible. It has raised flower boxes and paths that are wide enough for wheelchairs, walkers and strollers. This Community Garden is accessible to and used by the community.

Accessibility and Inclusion in the Workplace

Our #Accessibility week features continue with an Individual in our Independent Living Services program and his employer.

Les Schur, a Rocky Mountain Equipment employee

The following is a letter from Rocky Mountain Equipment in Grimshaw:

Les Schur has been working for Rocky Mountain Equipment since November of 2012, going on 7 years.

But he has been at the same premises for over 20 years, as he worked for Houlder Automotive ltd. Prior to the sale of the Farm Division to Rocky Mountain. He started April 29, 1998, for Bud & Ken Houlder so he has been here for 21 years.

Les has always been an eager employee and takes his job seriously. Over the years he has assisted the Parts Department, through Shipping and Receiving, running both the skid steer and forklift to unload the larger pieces from the trucks. He seemed helped the Shipping and Receiving department a lot more when that person happened to be female. He always said, “I’m nice to all my Sweeties.”

For Sales, he detailed the inside of the cabs of equipment and filled in at the wash bay when we were short a wash person. And for all the departments, he is paged often for various duties or assistance. He helps a lot but the odd time you will hear him sigh when he is paged because he doesn’t like to be interrupted from his daily routines.

Besides his janitorial duties, he makes coffee for us every day, opens the Parts and Service yard gates before anyone else gets to work. And Les is the main caregiver of our two resident cats Stumpy and Stripey.

Les is the yard maintenance person also. He runs the lawnmower, whipper snipper and the sprayer when needed. He does not like dandelions and the “white daisies” (scentless Chamomile) and he loves to “fix them” with the lawnmower and sprayer.

From Troy Houlder: Branch Sales Manager

Les has always been a key part of Special events with Houlder Automotive and then Rocky Mountain Equipment whether it was a combine clinic or Canada Day parade. Les was ready to help and participate. Les with his “Santa Suit” is an annual visitor to our Christmas parties along with some special karaoke songs including “North to Alaska”. He is a well-loved and special member of our team.

From Dusty Szmata: Parts Sales Manager

I have fond memories involving Les, but one of his proudest moments that I was a part of was when we all pitched in and bought Les a new TV and I delivered it and set it up for him. Another memory I have is when Les and I built the Tarp Shed together at work. We had a good time and got the job done. I also get to spend a lot of time away from the branch with Les on weekends in the wintertime. He helps with both my boy’s hockey teams. He is very reliable, and I can count on him being there to lend a hand. Les means a lot to me and my family. Thanks, Les!

Over the years we must confess that many a joke was played on Les, some very cute, some not so cute that made Les mad at us. But mostly jokes were in fun like hiding his Owl, greasing his closet door handle etc. But the is when Les tells us these stories again and has all of us laughing with him.

Thank you Les from the Rocky Staff.

Preparing for an Emergency

With wildfires unfortunately upon us once again it seems appropriate to share some information on the Emergency Preparedness Programs of ASLS.

The following is a statement from our Health and Safety Coordinator Cori Freemark.

If unplanned events occur, ASLS has plans and processes in place to ensure an effective response. If there’s an emergency, people expect to be notified and provided with guidance to remain safe. This is precisely when our planning and preparation come into action.

ASLS has a very detailed disaster/emergency plans and contingency plans in place that extend beyond normal procedures. Effective disaster preparedness helps alleviate some of the chaos brought on by an unexpected crisis.

ASLS has clearly written policies that designate a chain of command, listing names, duties and emergency contact information as well as checklists and evacuation procedures. Drills are also conducted regularly for practice and to test the plans for problems. Disaster plans are regularly reviewed and revised with the participation of management, employees and third-party representatives to ensure the most effective resources and procedures are in place.

The Stone Brook facility’s contingency plan includes procedures for coordinating with other services such as the Town of Grimshaw Municipal Emergency Plan, the MD of Peace #135 Emergency Plan and Alberta Health Services. It is essential that we can quickly pull together, collaborate, assess and respond to an unexpected event.

With the support and dedication of our employees, management, individuals and our board of directors, not to mention all the outside supports we can and will be prepared for these unexpected events.

The health and safety of our individuals, employees and the public will remain our number one priority.

Setting Individuals up for successful inclusion #AccessAbility

Inclusion is defined as being “the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.”

To us, it means that Individuals receiving ASLS Supports are a part of their community and accepted as they are.

How do we contribute to Inclusion? At ASLS, we provide Individuals with the environment that is right for them and provide supports that facilitate community inclusion.

Our rural property in the County of Grande Prairie allows Individuals to be supported with fewer restrictions than those that would be imposed in an urban location. Supports are also customized per Individual so they can be in the community based on their decision to be.

At Stone Brook, our Designated Supportive Living Facility in Grimshaw, many Individuals were isolated in their homes but upon moving to our facility, have created a community within Stone Brook with their peers. There are also numerous opportunities for community members to visit Stone Brook and its residents through events held, booking an appointment with the in-house hair salon or planting and tending the fully accessible Community Garden.

We are providing the tools needed that set up Individuals for successful inclusion.

Inclusion really shouldn’t look or feel like anything, it just is.

It just is going to get groceries, going out for supper, going to the library.

It just is someone living their life in their community the only way they know-how.

Yes, some Individuals we support have complex needs and yes there may be instances when they feel overwhelmed, but that is allowed. That is allowed because every one of us has been in that situation of feeling overpowered by emotion or barrier.

Know that sometimes it is difficult for people to express themselves. What may seem like an act of aggression is an expression of happiness, surprise, frustration or panic.

Sometimes people express themselves by raising their voice, or waving their arms or walking fast, know that that behaviour is not a sign of anger. It is a sign of being human.

Please don’t let it discourage you from reaching out, from saying ‘hello’, from holding a door open, from smiling. That one kind gesture can make all the difference in someone’s day.

Our Stories: Krista Winsor

This is Krista Winsor’s story, our Golfworld Coordinator and an ILS & CSW Team Member in Peace River

Krista has been with the organization for 14 and a half years and was hired on as a Community Support Worker in our Wilcox Residence and was the Wilcox Residential Coordinator for over 13 years.

Krista is originally from Eastern Canada, born in Labrador and has lived in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia and finally Alberta where she lives on a hobby farm. Also, on the farm are five cats, five working dogs (a full dog sled team) as well as chickens and rabbits.

Before joining our team, Krista assisted an Individual diagnosed with FASD and severe behaviours in BC and after moving to Grimshaw in 2005, worked at a women’s shelter.

What is one of your fondest memories at ASLS? “I think one of my fondest memories is at Easter Seals Camp Horizon. Most of the individuals I care for are physically disabled. They cannot experience the things in life that you or I can experience. For example, you or I can go on hikes, we can go for bike rides, we can do obstacle courses, or we can even go rafting. People with physical disabilities have huge barriers and cannot experience these things at all. Well at this camp, the individuals I care for are able to do a high ropes course, they can ride a bike, they can even go river rafting! To see the smiles and the excitement on their face makes the job worth every day!”

What are you most surprised about working here? “I think it is the versatility and drive that our individuals have. The joy that they have in every single situation, it puts a smile on my face every day.”

How has the company changed since you started? “There have been so many changes. The company has become huge! When I first started there was the ILS program, the 49th residence, Wilcox residence and Peace River residence. Now there are so many homes! It’s exciting to see the changes and growth.”

Quick facts about Krista:

– If she could get paid to travel, she would!

– If she could have lunch with anyone, alive or dead she would choose Mary, Queen of Scots.

– She has an ear for music, she can play many instruments, including, baritone, flute, all the Irish whistles, Saxophone, some piano and bass guitar. She can also sing, after many years of voice lessons. She can pick up almost any instrument and learn it.

What do most people not know about you that you would like them to know? “When I was 19 years old, I went on a trip to Africa, a place in Zimbabwe called Tshlenemba, it was a mission trip. While there we did some pretty amazing things. We helped rebuild the maternity ward, Tuberculosis ward and the AIDS ward in the local hospital. We went to 7 different schools and made lunch for all the children. We taught the women to cook and to sew and the men to do some mechanics. We built some houses for some orphans and hired people to care for them. We worked very closely with the children while there. Watching the way that they live. It was a life-changing, amazing and very heart-breaking experience. It was a trip of a lifetime that I will never forget, and if the opportunity came up, to work in an orphanage, I’d be there in a heartbeat!”

Krista and friend Cassidy Taylor