Powell River Model Community Project founders look back 40 years and ahead

Recent luncheon celebrates successes

Reminiscing was part of a celebration luncheon at Model Community Project for Persons With Disabilities’ annual general meeting.

Three founding members of the society, that started nearly four decades ago, attended the June 4 event, including former executive director Geraldine Braak. Susan Jersak and Carol Hamilton also were in attendance.

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“I was appalled at the lack of access at the time and that’s how I got involved,” said Jersak. “I’m still appalled that we have not come further for access in general.”

She spoke about the job creation project to build a 13.5-kilometre wheelchair accessible trail around Inland Lake. For her it remains a highlight to make the outdoors in Powell River accessible. She remembers being inspired to act after meeting a woman who was quadriplegic and never got out of the city.

“I’ll never forget the look on the face of a man in a wheelchair when he was on the trail for the first time,” said Jersak.

After she met Braak, and with other advocates, Model Community Project became a reality.

Braak served as executive director until 2007 and remains a member of the board to this day.

“We have had so many successes,” said Braak. “Parking passes, audio traffic signals, curb cuts, parking spots in front of [Powell River General Hospital], handyDART, the family room at [Powell River Recreation Complex], and of course Life Cycle Housing.”

She also mentioned a health and wellness study that covered from Lund to Saltery Bay and the business access guide.

Until recently Model Community Project (MCP) was providing employment counselling for people with a variety of barriers to employment. It was co-located with inclusion Powell River’s Employment Support Services program. As of April, the MCP component has been brought under WorkBC (formerly Career Link.)

Hamilton was working with tourism when she became involved with MCP.

“My first thought was ‘not another board’, but I felt it was important from a tourism perspective,” she said. “What the society wanted to do all made sense to me. I was in favour of everything we did. We had a great team.”

Braak said she was pleased with the relationship with inclusion Powell River and the fact that MCP is continuing in its goal to assist people with disabilities.

“It’s very, very good that it’s still here, though with a different focus,” she added.

MCP’s current role is providing oversight to K-lumet Pilot Project, a non-profit enterprise set up as an inclusive employer. Its purpose is to produce and distribute fire-starter kits made from recycled materials. More information on the social enterprise is available at k-lumet.ca.

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