October is Community Inclusion Month in BC, a time to celebrate inclusion, diversity and the contribution of people with intellectual disabilities.
Since 1954, inclusion Powell River Society (iPR) has been in the forefront of a movement to ensure all people have a place in the community in which they live. Originally iPR was comprised of parents whose children were not enrolled in the school system.
Looking back on those nearly 70 years, it is apparent that iPR is living its name beyond the initial focus. From parents working to ensure their children have equal access to education, inclusion has come to be so much more. In addition to working for inclusion of its clients in the workplace and community, iPR has built inclusion into programs with offerings to others.
Things were progressing in services available to 306 infants, children, youth and families, 110 adults and 200 seniors until early 2020.
“This past year was like no other; like everyone, the COVID-19 pandemic rocked our world,” Lilla Tipton, chief executive officer, reported to iPR’s annual general meeting on September 28. “COVID changed the way we do our work, connect with the people we serve, and support one another. I’m so proud of the creativity, patience and perseverance of our staff, who continued to provide excellent service in our community.”
Last summer, Employment Services moved out of its office on Marine Avenue into Jean Pike Centre.
“We’re happy to have transformed this location into a service hub to make it easier for adults and youth with intellectual disabilities to access different services that meet their needs,” explained Tipton, “and smoothly transition between our youth and adult services.”
Tipton spoke of the many iPR programs that are inclusive. Cranberry Eco Preschool has spaces for atypical and typical youngsters who learn entirely outdoors in a transformed space. Preschool coordinator Daniela D’Onofrio was awarded the BC Child Care Award of Excellence for the Vancouver Coastal Region for her innovative preschool programming throughout the pandemic and her dedication to the preschool families.
In January, Inclusion Homes will open its doors to 42 families. A partnership between BC Housing and Powell River Inclusive Housing Society, a subsidiary of iPR, the low-market rental housing facility on Ontario Avenue will include six units that iPR clients are moving into and 36 for people in the wider community.
A concern about seniors’ needs led iPR to investigate them through surveys and in-person sessions. That resulted in a relationship with Golden Life to build Coast Breeze Village, an independent living facility.
Better At Home, an initiative funded through the provincial government and managed through United Way of the Lower Mainland, is offered locally through iPR. It provides non-medical, in-home support to help seniors maintain their independence and stay connected in the community.
Supporting Older Adults through Recreation (SOAR), supported by a United Way Healthy Aging grant, is set to start this month at the newly created Gerry Gray Centre. It will provide recreational activities and social connection for seniors.
“We’re just sorry that Gerry passed away before we could officially open the centre named for him,” said Tipton.
A strategic priority to diversify and provide new opportunities, in areas where iPR has expertise, has been addressed through a social enterprise development, Onelight Firestarter and research project, called qathet inclusive manufacturing. The research project was awarded an 18-month, $1 million grant from WorkBC to research the impact of an inclusive, social impact work environment. Currently, there are 25 participants with a variety of barriers to employment, working at OneLight.
“We have much to celebrate during Community Inclusion Month 2021,” said Tipton, “but we have more to do.”
For more details about iPR, go to inclusionpr.ca.