May is Community Living Month throughout Ontario and Community Living North Grenville has jumped into the celebration with full force.
On May 3, they hosted their 15th annual pancake breakfast at the Municipal Centre which drew a record-breaking crowd. The morning ended with a flag raising ceremony to hoist Community Living’s flag to the top of the flag pole at the Municipal Centre to show the municipality’s support for the work that Community Living NG does in the community. On May 4, they hosted a free movie night at the Municipal Centre which was extremely well attended, and if you drive by the Community Living NG building in the evening, you will also see it lit up in blue and green – the colours of Community Living.
“[We want to] raise awareness around inclusion for people with disabilities to be full citizens in their community,” says Sandra McNamara, Executive Director of Community Living NG.
This year is special for Community Living NG, as it marks their 50th anniversary in the community. It all began in 1967 when a group of passionate parents came together because they wanted better options for their children with intellectual disabilities. In 1968, Maplewood School in Oxford Mills (now Maplewood Hall) opened its doors to 17 children with intellectual disabilities. This was the first time that those with intellectual disabilities had access to education in the area. “The journey to inclusion [everywhere] really started in the 1950s and 60s,” Sandra says.
Since then Community Living, North Grenville has grown to support over 110 people in the community and employs 70 full and part time staff. Community Living NG runs 8 residential homes in the area, supports people living independently in the community, runs recreation and leisure activities and provides respite care. Community Living NG has been recognized over the years for advocating, improving living conditions and raising awareness in the community for people with intellectual disabilities. “Full inclusion is to treat everyone as people,” Sandra explains. To recognize the parents who were the catalyst for creating Community Living NG, they gave carnations to all the mothers and mints to all the fathers at the pancake breakfast this year.
In the past, Community Living NG has hosted a comedy night as their main fundraiser of the year during the month of May. This year they have decided to make the event into a gala, complete with a three course dinner catered by AJ’s Catering and a show featuring Canadian comedians Bowser and Blue. Sandra says this year they chose to focus on giving back and celebrating with the community rather than raising money. “We want to put a call out to the community to come celebrate with us,” she says. The Gala will be held at the North Grenville Municipal Centre on May 27 starting at 5:30 pm. Tickets are $75 each and can be purchased at the Community Living NG office, the Municipal Centre and Scotiabank.