Local organization celebrates Community Living Month this May 

By Robin McCormick
Special to the Times

May is Community Living Month in Ontario. Fort Frances mayor Andrew Hallikas paid tribute to Community Living Fort Frances and District (CLFFD) with a flag raising on May 3, 2023. CLFFD has been an active part of the Rainy River District for over 65 years, and as CLFFD CEO Ted Scholten shared, “things are a-changing.” Ted, who has been the area CEO since last June, shared that “post-pandemic mode has been a welcome change.”

Community Living Month is about inclusion and community participation for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities. As everybody knows, the pandemic created additional challenges for social interaction, community gatherings, and participation with limited events. One of the ways Community Living Month will be celebrated is with a service awards dinner. Presentations for milestone years of service were given to 16 developmental service professionals (DSPs) recognizing a total combined 235 years of service experience. This took place at the Flint House on May 16. 

CLFFD currently employs over 110 people including the management team, finance department, administrative support — the majority of which are DSPs, 21 of whom were hired this calendar year. CLFFD provides service to 78 people and 55 in supportive employment. The agency is always looking to recruit more people who are qualified and suitable for this career. Scholten and his management team are very excited about the recent four-year collective agreement with that was negotiated and ratified with CLFFD front line staff union representatives for CUPE.

Many positives were shared at the negotiating table resulting in a win-win agreement. Staff will be provided a $50 wellness benefit that can be used for the purchase of a variety of options including running/walking shoes, payment towards golf memberships, gym costs or anything that benefits one’s physical/mental health. This is a first for CLFFD.

Other changes Scholten shared with me included the re-alignment of their six-person senior management team — three community support managers, one for quality/accreditation, and human resource manager. Supporting the senior team are the supervisors within the various programs. These programs include intensive support residents (ISR), Supported Independent Living (SIL), congregate living, supported employment program, LifeShare host family, psychotherapy, and the Passport Program.

Renovations and improvements are also “in the works” at various locations thanks to partnership renewal funding from the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services (MCCSS) totalling $144,000 in 2022-23. Moves and renos also involve creating a centralized administration suite, as well a dedicated human resources and finance suite.

The Supportive Employment and Good Impressions program offers employment opportunities and training for 55 individuals. Individual supports are provided to those who qualify. Models can vary and depending on need persons can receive support in the form of a few hours each week, LifeShare host family, to intensive support residence (24/7 care). Supports provided promote independent living. These varying levels of service are provided to 78 individuals across the Rainy River District community from Rainy River to Lac La Croix. The Passport Program is used by upwards of 60 individuals accessing the program through Community Living. 

CLFFD has partnerships with several agencies throughout the District and northwestern Ontario. The agency regularly meets with Local Service System Planning sharing best practices with Community Living in Kenora, Atikokan, Dryden/Sioux Lookout and Red Lake. These meetings are beneficial to the agency and allowing synergy in the region in terms of quality of services for the people requiring Community Living supports. 

Also partnering with CLFFD in the form of committees and working relationships are other Developmental Services of Ontario, Riverside Health, Situation Table, Rainy River and Catholic  school boards, Gizhewaadiziwin Health Access Centre, Surrey Place, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services, CMHA, and various housing partners.

Many of these agency partnerships enable best support for individuals. 

CLFFD recently partnered with the NCDS job fair which showed successful results sharing what CLFFD is all about. 

COVID was very hard on the people supported at CLFFD as the people that are provided service were stuck in their homes. Thankfully things are “moving forward” and the quality of life is improving for all, including the DSPs, as they can again provide the services that help enhance the lives of those they work with.