Author Archives: CareHelps

Our 50th Stories: Vocational training and employment

In 1979, the Work and Adjustment Skills Training program was introduced, and a feasibility study was launched into expanding services to include a Vocational Training Centre. The Federal Government received the proposal in March 1981.

The cafeteria was up and running in February of 1982, opened by the Association in the Provincial Building’s cafeteria.

“The purpose of the Training Centre was to provide instruction and support for individuals with disabilities meet the goal of increasing self-sufficiency and integration into mainstream society.” – excerpt from North Peace Living Society History Book.

The official Grand Opening was held June 11, 1982, and was attended by over 150 people including government representatives.

In 1984, the organization was also involved in the Green Valley Project that saw the Work and Work Adjustment Program clients employed for the summer to restore the Nature Trail along the Heart River in Peace River.

The program was restructured in 1984 and in the summer of ’85, 10 adults with disabilities were employed by the Wilderness Project. The Individuals helped clear trails, install fire pits, build picnic sites as well as bird houses and bridges.

A similar project continued in the summer of ’86.

The Vocational Training Centre closed in February 1988.

Our 50th Stories: Al and Joyce Adair

The first president of our organization was Al ‘Boomer’ Adair, a former minor league baseball player.

Al was elected to the role in 1968, at the first organizational meeting in Peace River.

At that time, Al was CKYL’s Sales Manager and Sports Director. During the initial years, many fundraising events were held including one which Al and Joe Zinselmeyer raised over $1,000 throwing a baseball.

A few years later, he ran for and was elected as the region’s MLA and when the official Grand Opening of Sunshine House was held, Al attended as the elected official.

His wife Joyce later became the organization’s president.

“Mom and dad were always super involved in the community. Mom was a nurse and dad ran for politics in ’72. I was young, I was five when dad entered politics,” remembers Rob Adair, son of Joyce and Al.

“I specifically remember when they opened Sunshine House in Peace River. We went down for the grand opening of it and I ended up playing, running around the house with all the other kids. It was a big deal for mom and dad to help, be a part of getting Sunshine House in Peace River because it was such a good cause.”

Rob tells ASLS “it meant a lot to them to be a part of the community of Peace River. Dad passed away in 1996 and mom passed away in January (2019) so it is nice to have a lasting legacy that goes on.” He adds “for them it was just being part of the community, and helping, doing what they could to help the society and the community cause these kids are part of the community.”

Our 50th Stories: Sharon Fowler, a founding parent

Sharon Fowler is one of the organization’s founding parents. Her husband Alvin was the first, 1st Vice President and her son Roy received supports at Sunshine House and attended Cosmos School.

She remembers attending the original meeting and Alvin standing up and speaking even though he “wasn’t a public speaker”.

Sharon says “part of the reason why he wanted to start this school was we were told when Roy was about four-months-old was to take him home and raise him like you would a pet dog because they couldn’t learn. And this was from a medical doctor, but that was the attitude (back then).”

There were approximately eight families involved in the beginning says Sharon, and those eight families had children that were not allowed into the school system at that time.

She remembers one of the first fundraising events for the organization taking place the beginning of June 1970. It was an over 14-mile Walk-A-Thon in which approximately 50 people took part.

“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.”

Sharon says the “organization always got a lot of support from the community; monetary and voluntary.”

Walk-A-Thon, picture courtesy of Sharon Fowler

Another fond memory for Sharon was the Grand Opening of Sunshine House June 17, 1972.

She remembers the most exciting part for the children living in the home was seeing the RCMP members in their Red Serge. “The children were fascinated with the RCMP”.

She also remembers the Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta, Grant MacEwan being good with the kids of Sunshine House.

Grand Opening of Sunshine House June 17, 1972

Her son Roy lived in Sunshine House until he was 12 and then moved to Grande Prairie to receive supports.

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

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.”