• Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
  • Mon - Fri 8.30 - 16.30

Author Archives: CareHelps

Our 50th Stories: Did You Know?

From education to inmates, some interesting facts about our organization.

Did you know?

Cosmos School was a portable that had been previously used by the Peace River School Division.

Peace River Record-Gazette, December 15, 1971

In 1976, the Society and the Peace River School Division worked together to develop a curriculum for High School students that needed supports.

The Senior Program was running for the 1977/1978 school year and included the following subjects:

– Agriculture

– Home Economics

– Life Skills

– Recreation

– Woodwork

March 1980 saw a Language Development Program implemented at Springfield Elementary School under the direction of the Association sponsored teacher’s aides.

And in May 1985, the Association and other agencies worked together to establish the Rehabilitation Practitioner Program at the Grande Prairie Regional College.

Inmate connection

The Peace River and District Association for the Mentally Retarded had an ongoing partnership with the Peace River Correctional Institute in the early years.

In the summer of 1976, a summer recreation program was held at Sunshine House. Among the outings the youth went on were to the Correctional Institute In Peace River. In turn, ‘chosen’ inmates would visit the youth in Sunshine House.

Skilled inmates were also hired to make repairs on the house as well as paint the interior and exterior of the building. The inmates also put up a fence and installed playground equipment.

Our Stories: Victoria Kingston

This is Victoria’s story, our Communication Coordinator

Hi! My name is Victoria Kingston and I have been providing one-liners and clever quips to the general public since the 4th Grade when Mrs. McCaig was forced to add “sarcasm” to her list of prohibited classroom activities on the blackboard.

Initially aspiring to become a world-renowned chemist, I switched programs to marketing and communications after I realized I really hated math and Bunsen burners.

I started working for ASLS in November 2017. Up until then, I had only ever worked in the commercial sector. The biggest change I experienced working for a non-profit was a shift in purpose.

In previous positions, the main motivation behind marketing campaigns, projects, and deliverables were to drive revenue. At ASLS, the purpose behind my work is to generate awareness, create documents and templates that make my colleagues work easier, broadcast victories and, above all, improve the quality of life of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

My work environment is one of cooperation, compassion, and growth.

Although I was born in Grande Prairie, I only recently relocated here a couple of years ago. I suppose you could say I’m like salmon and have returned to my spawning grounds. I rent an acreage from my aunt just outside of Sexsmith where I live with my boyfriend, Brandon. Our two rescue dogs, Yoshi and Zelda, love the space and every day is an adventure in identifying what they drop on my doorstep.

Yoshi and Zelda

When I am not typing, I like to sew teddy bears by hand. My grandma taught me how to do it and it’s a tradition I have carried on. Recently, I started a small enterprise where I turn shirts and blankets with sentimental value into teddy bears.

Our 50th Stories: Youth in the Alberta Special Games

Our organization and Individuals we have supported have a long history with the Special Olympics.

Six youth who lived in Sunshine House competed in the 1973 Alberta Special Games held at the University of Alberta in Edmonton; Laura Flett, Heather Longtin, David Laboucan, J.D. Griffith, Rodney Flett, Kelly Lambert.

They competed in Track and Field and placed in a few events according to a Peace River Record-Gazette article published May 30, 1973.

The youth were able to attend the Games thanks to community support from the “Flowers of Hope Campaign”, one of the original fundraising drives of the organization.

Peace River Record-Gazette June 6, 1973

John Coristine, an Individual that our organization has supported and continues to support, also competed in the Games.

The article was published by The Post July 15, 1981.

Our 50th Stories: Community Fundraising

In the early days, many fundraising events were held in support of our organization.

Approximately 50 people took part in an over 14-mile Walk-A-Thon in June of 1970 as remembered by Sharon Fowler who attended the fundraising event. Her husband Alvin was the organization’s 1st Vice President and son Roy received organizational supports. Sharon says the farmers were still in the field but came out to cheer the walkers on.

“After the Walk-A-Thon, they had hot dogs and ice cream and juice at the old Deadwood Hall and the kids ran around and played.”

The ‘Flowers of Hope’ campaign saw thousands of flower seeds packaged and sent to residents in the Peace Country.

The campaign always kicked-off on Mother’s Day and lasted until the end of May.

The Flowers of Hope motto was “Courage-Faith-Acceptance’ and promoted the well-being and happiness of children with developmental disabilities as a social responsibility.

The campaign also funded a trip to the 1973 Special Olympics for six children of Sunshine House.

Early days fundraising campaigns also included bake sales, a baseball tournament and World’s Largest Easter Egg ticket sales. According to the Peace River Record Gazette article dated March 5, 1969, the 100-pound egg was 31 inches high and made entirely of chocolate.

The Auctioneer’s Association of Alberta were generous supporters, also raising money for the children of Sunshine House.

In March 1982, the World Championship Pig Races held in Peace River raised $2,415 for our organization.

An organizational fundraising committee was established in 1982 to raise funds to furnish a home being built in Grimshaw. The first-of-three fashion shows were held March 9, 1983, and was called “Changes ‘83”.

Another large fundraiser happened in the summer of 1984 titled ‘Truckin Rights Along’. A cyclist from Grimshaw, Darryl Aubin, travelled from Grimshaw to Edmonton and back and according to the Edmonton Journal August 29, 1984 article, Aubin decided to take on the challenge after being a model in a fashion show.

“I really enjoyed the people that I met. And I just thought if I could help them out more, I’d try if I could”.

**Walk-A-Thon picture courtesy of Sharon Fowler, ‘Giant Egg’ Peace River Record-Gazette March 5, 1969, ‘Flowers of Hope’ Peace River Record-Gazette May 12, 1971, ‘Grimshaw cyclist catches breath’ Edmonton Journal August 29, 1984

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.