Regina group celebrates unsuspecting do-gooders with 100 Acts of Kindness campaign
Creative Options Regina spent winter months handing out gifts, helping community members
By Samanda Brace, CBC NewsPosted: Mar 21, 2018 4:00 PM CTLast Updated: Mar 21, 2018 4:00 PM CT
Ecole Connaught secretary Janine Jackson is given some baking after being nominated through Creative Options Regina’s 100 Acts of Kindness campaign, which recognizes people for their work and contributions. (CBC News)
Parking enforcement officers, drive-thru cashiers and university students are just a few of the people who have been recognized by a Regina group for the often unheralded work they do.
“It gets kind of heavy during the winter months and what better way to lift people up than recognize the significant things they may not realize they are doing,” said Ben Morris, director of storytelling for Creative Options Regina.
The non-profit organization, which offers support services and programs for people with disabilities, has been celebrating people in the city with its 100 Acts of Kindness campaign.
Morris and his team have sneaked into schools, community centres and onto city buses to surprise people and thank them for their work with small gifts like baking and T-shirts.
“You don’t actually have to know the person, or know the ins and outs of their life to recognize they have value,” he said.
Dr. Gordon Chin at the Victoria East Medical Clinic was another recipient of the 100 Acts of Kindness campaign. (CBC News)
The group finds some of its recipients through nominations on its website from people who want to show their appreciation for others who brighten their day, doing 10 acts per week through the campaign since in began in late January.
Feels good to give
Jesse, one of the people supported by COR, volunteered his own time before work for the 100 Acts of Kindness street team.
“It’s pretty fun bringing the T-shirts and cookies to people,” he said.
“It makes them happy.”
Morris and his team surprised Shea Beaudry, a COR support worker, with a nomination during Week 7 of the campaign. As Beaudry drove up to a client’s home, Morris and his team were waiting in the driveway.
Shea Beaudry, a COR support worker, says she was shocked to be acknowledged for her work. (CBC News)
Morris handed Beaudry a T-shirt, a button, stickers and home baking, and read out her nomination.
“When I felt alone, down and not worthy, Shea was there to fill me up and lift me up,” Morris read from the nomination by Maria Koback.
“Shea is one of the most empowering people in this world and I am so thankful to have met her.”
Beaudry was shocked by the acknowledgement.
“It just makes you feel better for doing what you do normally and being yourself,” she said.
The campaign will wrap up once the 100 acts are complete but Morris says he hopes it will inspire others.
https://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/03/celebrate.jpg16802100Michaelhttps://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/06/gt-canada-light.pngMichael2018-03-22 08:00:092018-08-17 21:39:25CBC Saskatchewan: Regina group celebrates unsuspecting do-gooders with 100 Acts of Kindness campaign
Value. It’s something that doesn’t need to be earned. We all have value. Within our own circle of support that value is magnified and can be easily recognized. But every once in a while a person we may not even know does something special and it takes us back. Maybe they spark up a conversation with us at the coffee shop when we least expect it, or maybe they hold open a door or plug our parking meter without us even knowing. How do we recognize and give thanks to the people that brighten our days?
Well….. let me share something exciting with you!
During the remaining weeks of our wintery months here in Regina, COR is bringing to our community the 100 Acts of Kindness Campaign. Over the next 10 weeks we are going to do our very best to recognize the many folks in both our lives – and the people we support — who make us smile. We will be recognizing people who go out of their way to make our days better by doing the little things (or the big things) that reflect the value they place on all those around them. These are the very people who exemplify what it means to be become more loving (the 3rd pillar of Gentle Teaching). We are going to recognize people for making the ordinary seem extraordinary!
Do You Want to Show Someone the Love!?!
It feels great to receive kindness, but it also feels good to give and value others as well. On our website, you will find a COR A-OK! button. Simply click it and get started on brightening the day of someone connected to the greater COR family. The A-OK! team will receive your submission, review, and plan to hit the streets to bring your nomination to life!
We want EVERYONE in the COR community to get involved! Ask your team about their local heroes – big and small. Join our street team to bring joy and thanks to others. Join with us to celebrate the unsung heroes of our city who bring warmth to our hearts and smiles to our faces.
Warming the hearts of Downtown Regina on a frigid winter day…. a special thanks to Atlantis Coffee!
Our community heroes recognized in week 3.
Big Dog Radio, Save-On-Foods, Extendicare, Eastview Community Center and a few other random surprises: Week 4.
Roaming the corridors of campus spreading kindness throughout the University of Regina during week 5.
Diggin’ out after the Regina blizzard and a stop at local schools: Week 6
Cris-crossing Regina with stops at local drive-thru’s, Trademark Homes, Ecole Connaught and a local medi-clinic (and a surprise visit from CBC Saskatchewan): Week 7
Recognizing the Regina Transit Titans: Week 8
Week 9 of the 100 Acts of Kindness campaign took the Street Team to new depths! We went behind the scenes to recognize the silent ninjas and superheroes that keep all of Regina’s critters big and small, safe, healthy and happy!
What do 2 Rockin’ Safeway Customer Service representatives, 1 Sask Power Employee and personal motivator, 1 Elementary School Principal and a room full of over 30 volunteers have in common? They are all AOK in our books! Week 10 marks the final week of the 100 Acts of Kindness campaign for us, but that doesn’t mean it has to end! The people around us and in our everyday lives all do amazing things. Let’s not forget to tell them how special they are.
Finale: The 100 Acts of Kindness Campaign has come to an end and we couldn’t be happier with the amount of support we received from our friends in the community to help bring it all to life! Never forget how important you are and remember that it only takes one person to create change! Huge shout out to all the groups who not only made this campaign a success, but were leaders in spreading kindness to others!
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https://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/01/acts-of-kindness.jpg32644928Michaelhttps://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/06/gt-canada-light.pngMichael2018-01-23 10:36:232018-08-17 21:25:34100 Acts of Kindness; COR A-OK!
Published on: December 15, 2017 | Last Updated: December 15, 2017 5:02 PM CST
In this season of giving, reporter Pamela Cowan is profiling some of the organizations and people working to make the lives of Reginans better. Watch for her stories for the rest of the year as we showcase the 12 Days of Difference-Makers.
Staff crowd around Andrew Ronnie and hug him as he blushes. It’s his 35th birthday.
One can feel the love inside the room.
Ronnie says softly: “Now I’m safe.”
It’s a feeling he hasn’t always felt. For many years, Ronnie didn’t feel loved and, in fact, was feared and shunned.
A number of years ago, he spent six months in the psychiatric unit at the Regina General Hospital. After his release, he was in and out of the emergency department.
No one could deal with the violent outbursts he was prone to until a group of special people uncovered his giving heart and his desperate need to feel safe.
He was the catalyst for the development of Creative Options Regina (COR) — a non-profit organization that develops personalized supports for people with a wide range of intellectual disabilities, and often mental health issues.
“They care about me a lot,” says Ronnie, the first person to receive COR services.
“What’s really important to understand is that these aren’t bad people,” says Michael Lavis, executive director of COR. “It’s just the system wasn’t flexible to be able to meet the needs of these folks to provide them with the care they required.”
And so, Lavis Says, COR started working with people “nobody else wanted.”
COR was created in partnership with the Ministry of Social Services in 2009.
A year before its creation, the provincial government identified 448 Saskatchewan people with intellectual disabilities and other complex needs who couldn’t access services — many from around Regina.
“We’ve seen families say, ‘We can’t do this anymore’ and they cut ties and that’s hard,” Lavis says. “I can only imagine how painful it is to drop their loved one off at the emergency room and abandon them. That’s happening all of the time.”
So COR, working with others in the community, connects individuals and their families with whatever services are required.
“Ultimately we’re providing support to everyone who is connected to that person’s life,” Lavis says.
The government gathered community-based organizations to discuss who required specialized services and how to provide them. Many were homeless, living in psychiatric units, shelters or hotels and two-thirds had a mental health diagnosis.
Complicating matters was that many were involved with multiple government departments.
“What happens to the people that touch two, three or four of those government departments?” Lavis asks. “What we know to be true is often they fall into these huge gaps that exist in our service delivery system.”
For example, people with mental health issues are the responsibility of the Ministry of Health. Those with intellectual disabilities deal with Social Services. Aboriginal people receive federal supports through Indian Northern Affairs Canada. Those under 21 fall under the Education Ministry and people in trouble with the law are involved with Justice and Corrections.
A number of adults connected to COR endured significant trauma while growing up in foster homes or group homes.
“Trauma that was inflicted upon them by the very people that were intended to protect them,” Lavis says.
Foster and group homes aren’t equipped to provide the supports these kids need, so they’re bounced around in the child and family system, he says. When they reach adulthood, they’re bounced around some more.
Supports through COR are tailored to each individual’s dreams.
Services range from daytime, recreational, supported living and employment supports. Depending on an individual’s needs, home supports might be provided for a few hours a day to 24/7 care.
Based on a companionship model, staff promote each individual’s independence.
“They might help them get up and get ready, grocery shop, prepare meals, do medication management and then help them connect with the broader community, both socially and recreationally,” Lavis says.
Many under the care of COR are society’s most disenfranchised.
When Ronnie moved to a home, he required two-on-one support around the clock. He couldn’t have a roommate because of his violent history.
“(He) came with case file after case file of all the horrific things he’s ever done in life,” Lavis says.
Candidly Ronnie confides he’s “had lots of temper and anger.”
But gradually Ronnie’s life was transformed. In 2012, he moved into a new home with a roommate and now receives one-on-one care.
“I’m working on no self harm and I’m working on not trashing the house — that was in the past,” Ronnie says proudly.
He hasn’t been to the hospital for more than a year, which Lavis credits to COR’s “gentle teaching” philosophy.
When dealing with behavioural issues, staff are taught: “Go for the centre. Mend the heart. All else will follow.”
Among those they had to mend was Gerald, a man with cerebral palsy who was unable to speak.
The first time Lavis met Gerald he was trussed tightly in his wheelchair with restraint upon restraint upon restraint. Boxing gloves and a helmet with face mask prevented the young man from hitting, pinching and biting those around him.
Gerald’s wheelchair was bolted to plywood to prevent him from toppling because of his constant thrusting.
“I remember looking at Gerald and thinking, ‘This is horrifying — straight out of a movie.’ Imagine, in 2009, that this exists in our own community,” Lavis says.
When COR staff started caring for Gerald the first thing they did was remove his restraints. There were ongoing struggles as he continued to pinch and bite.
“He couldn’t walk because he’d been in this wheelchair for so long that he had zero muscle capacity in his legs,” Lavis says.
While the team tried to build trust with Gerald, they gained a champion in the health-care system who discovered he had a bowel obstruction and dental issues.
“When we dealt with those underlying health conditions, the pain stopped and the hitting of the head stopped,” Lavis says. “Some of that violence that we saw was him trying to tell us, ‘I’m in pain. I hurt.’ ”
Eventually Gerald moved into a home with a roommate and has learned to walk unassisted.
“He has to hang on to the railings in the home, but there’s no helmet, no gloves, no restraints,” Lavis says.
Over eight years, the non-profit organization has grown to 170-plus employees who support more than 50 high-needs people.
“If there was a blanket diagnosis that I could give to everyone that we provide services to, I would say that it is a deep sense of loneliness,” Lavis says. “A deep sense of disconnect. These are folks who have very few, if any, true friends — unpaid, natural supports in their lives.”
In Saskatchewan, 170 community-based organizations provide services to roughly 5,500 adults with disabilities.
Within that group of people, approximately 100 have been identified as having complex and challenging support needs. COR supports 19 of the 100 people.
Funded by the provincial and federal governments, COR has an operating budget of $7.8 million.
A number of COR participants have had lengthy stays in the mental health unit — the shortest being three months, the longest being 19 months.
“When you sit down and evaluate the cost of daily police interventions and all of the emergency room visits that happen weekly and the stints in the acute care settings — this is a fraction of the cost,” Lavis says.
To meet a growing need, Rory McCorriston, director of people and culture at COR, hired 30 employees in the past year.
“The majority of our organization is made up of support people,” he says.
The average age of staff is 28 — a good fit for the people they serve who are, on average, in their 30s.
It’s not uncommon for COR to hire people without previous disability experience.
“In some situations, it’s almost preferred because often if you have people who have done this type of work in a more traditional setting or have done it for a long time, they come in with their own set of ideas about caregiving,” McCorriston says.
Staff turnover is low and jobs aren’t posted because people send in unsolicited resumes after hearing COR’s story.
“In this industry of disability work, it’s common for an organization to have high staff turnover,” McCorriston says. “But when the basis of our philosophy of caregiving is building relationships, it’s hard to build a relationship if you’re only there for under a year.”
Staff help people gain abilities and return power to those who have felt helpless for years.
“Every day we’re hoping to come in — not to dress them, but to help them pick out the right outfit,” McCorriston says. “It’s not cooking and cleaning for that person, but doing it together.”
Chris, another young man, was a conduit for great change in Saskatchewan.
“He fell victim to that trap of living in the psychiatric ward for 19 months,” Lavis says. “Can you imagine, at a cost of $2,000 a day? He was there because there was no place for him to go.”
COR worked with Social Services and Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region’s Mental Health and Addictions Services to create supports for him. Provincial funding was used to hire a psychiatric nurse. Together they provide proactive mental health supports.
“Much better than queuing up at the emergency room and waiting for a six-month appointment with a psychiatrist, which is the norm,” Lavis says.
Another initiative rolled out two years ago after COR was asked to help a 14-year-old boy with autism who had significant behavioural challenges.
“The system was really challenged to provide supports to him,” Lavis said. “Through that process, we changed our mandate to include youths and get involved earlier with these kids so we can put an end to that revolving door and they don’t fall off that cliff when they graduate to adulthood.”
Now COR supports youths who have intellectual developmental disabilities and mental health issues.
“Our hope — and I say hope because it hasn’t happened yet in the province — is that these kids are going to be able to transition from Child and Family programs to Community Living — the department within Social Services for disabilities — and the transition doesn’t disrupt their lives,” Lavis says.
This summer, COR opened its second youth home and currently provides 24-hour support for three individuals.
“The plan is to add another one or two kids this winter, but we’re also providing support to children who are living in the family home,” Lavis says. “Often the system forces the families to the brink and they have no other option, but to hand their child over to the system.”
More avenues opened four years ago for those with disabilities when COR partnered with Campus for All, a unique program at the University of Regina.
Every year, 12 students with intellectual disabilities participate in the inclusive post-secondary education program and convocate after four years.
“Campus For All was doing a fantastic job of the academic and social piece, but where they were struggling was the employment part,” Lavis says. “We have a number of folks really starting to thrive in the community and they want to work. They want a paycheque and they want meaningful work.”
To address that need, COR and Campus for All partnered to create 4 to 40, funded through the Ministry of Economy.
The employment initiative connects individuals involved in Campus For All and COR with employers who provide a flexible four-to 40-hour work week.
“Community employers want to be inclusive, they want to have diverse work forces and they understand the importance and the value that diversity brings, but they don’t really quite know how to do it and they need help — particularly with the demographic that we’re serving,” Lavis said. “There’s a lot of fear and apprehension around what that looks like.”
COR participants work at individualized jobs at businesses including SeedMaster, SaskTel, Dutch Industries, Meyers Norris Penny and Farm Credit Canada.
Employers are not subsidized and the paid employment includes benefits and pension.
Job descriptions and work hours vary, but the benefits of a meaningful job are the same — greater self esteem and inclusion.
“We have a guy working at the SaskTel warehouse that went from a few hours and now he’s up to 30 hours a week,” Lavis said.
Job coaches from COR help individuals integrate into the workplace.
“It’s really helping to set that person up for success,” Lavis says. “When I talk about success, I mean developing not only their skills, but connecting them to the relationships that come with any place of employment.”
Lavis is passionate about his work.
“So many people that we serve have been given such horrific labels and diagnoses — this laundry list of all these bad things they’ve done and these are some pretty amazing people… How do you give them that opportunity to shine so others can see that value as well?”
Prior to becoming one of the founders of COR, Lavis spent 12 years working with marginalized children and women in post-conflict zones around the world.
The 38-year-old worked on projects funded by the Canadian government, Oxfam in Great Britain and other international development organizations in places like northern Uganda and southeast Asia.
Back in Regina, Lavis insists he’s one of a team working to make a difference.
“We have this incredibly passionate young board made up of community professionals from varied backgrounds that are really committed to social change,” he says. “They don’t have a background in disability — most have zero connection, like myself, to disability. They’re very supportive of what we’re doing because they believe in the vision.”
When Serena Bernges, one of the younger residents of Valley View Centre in Moose Jaw, moved to COR in 2016 she was adamant she didn’t want to live with roommates or a group of people.
She wanted her own place in Regina.
Bernges has a soft spot for Valley View where she had friends throughout the institution, but she has new-found freedom in Regina.
The 43-year-old lives in a self-contained suite in a small bungalow with another woman. No longer does she share a bedroom and best of all, she gets to cook her own meals.
“I make stuffed mushrooms, lasagna and sausage and hot dogs,” Bernges says. “I live in the best house in the world.”
https://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/mend-the-heart.jpg11812100Michaelhttps://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/06/gt-canada-light.pngMichael2017-12-17 13:19:532018-08-17 20:54:41'Mend the heart. All else will follow': Creative Options Regina creates new life for many with disabilities
https://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/09/COG-Header.png320925Michaelhttps://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/06/gt-canada-light.pngMichael2017-03-17 16:33:362018-05-24 22:36:07Culture of Gentleness: A Promising Practice for Supporting Vulnerable Individuals
We need to rethink how we define “community”. People will say things like, “lets go out into the community”, when in fact we’re already IN community. We all make up the community; just being you makes you a part of it! Embrace what’s around you!
https://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/07/What-is-community-feature-image.jpg7892000brandonwumecomhttps://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/06/gt-canada-light.pngbrandonwumecom2015-07-04 21:38:162018-05-24 22:36:26What is Community?
“Our approach is based on moral development. This is not a church thing. It is an internal feeling that we develop over time about what is good, who we are, and why we are on this earth. It is an inner change, a change of the heart. It is what most children learn early in their life about feeling safe and loved. It is what many of us have to re-learn when we are crushed by life’s sorrows.
So, we have to develop an understanding of basic moral values and teach these in an authoritative manner, not coming down on the person, but patiently and repeatedly teaching them. Morality is the way we feel and view our role in life. It is made up of our basic beliefs that are learned through our own life-experiences and ongoing reflection on our place in the world. It is formed deep down in our memories over time and with many experiences. Morality is on the fringe of our consciousness. We often do not have to stop and think, “Should I do this or not do that?” Our life-decisions come out of deep, deep memories. A spirit of gentleness focuses on teaching deep moral memories to people whose hearts are broken. Our primary strategy is repeated acts of love.
The first moral rule is found in a feeling of companionship– safe, loved, loving, and engaged. We know, without even thinking about it, that we need to feel safe and loved on this earth. We gravitate toward those who fulfill this sense and move away from those who make us fearful. Yet, many people whom we support are filled with fear of themselves and of others. We look for meaning in our lives and find it in our relationships with others other family, our children, our friends. Many whom we serve do not have this type of meaning.
The second is found in community– the goodness of being with others, engagement with others, and reaching out to others, and a sense of connectedness with others. It is a feeling of being collectively safe, loved, loving, and engaged. It moves from a singular relationship with the caregiver to a collective relationship with a circle of friends.
Companionship and community occur in a spiral. The initial relationship is at the center, but slowly spins outward to others. Everyone needs the feeling of being safe and loved to also feel loving and engaged. This evolves with one person, then two, then many.”
-John McGee, ‘Mending Broken Hearts’
https://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/03/Our-approach-is-based-on-moral-development-Feature.jpg11852592brandonwumecomhttps://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/06/gt-canada-light.pngbrandonwumecom2015-03-29 10:00:272018-05-24 22:36:31Our Approach is Based on Moral Development
“Mentoring is a way to help teach others about gentle care giving, to enter into terrifying spaces and teach others to feel safe and loved.” Mentoring is an approach to do this. It is a way to share with others a spirit of gentleness and justice.
A mentors role is to define the empty and sometimes violent spaces that exist between caregivers and marginalized individuals in institutions, shelters, homes, prisons, nursing homes, schools and wherever we happen to serve. These places have to be filled up with the caregivers’ laces of affection–their loving touch, warm words, and kind gazes. Caregivers need to stop and reflect on the formation of companionship and community and the role of helping individuals feel safe, engaged, loved and loving. From this foundation, caregivers can then create communities of caring. Mentoring is a process for teaching caregivers to establish companionship and community.
Mentoring is an ever-deepening task that calls for the development of trust among caregivers and the formation of a sense of companionship and community. This trust starts by the Mentor entering into the caregivers’ space with a deep sense of humility and justice and helping each caregiver feel safe and respected. It is the informal coming together of the Mentor and caregiver around the kitchen table and the sharing of the meaning of companionship and community. It is working together and finding ways to teach marginalized people these feelings.”
https://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/03/Mentoring-is-a-way-to-help-teach-others-Feature.jpg6671000brandonwumecomhttps://gentleteaching.com/ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/06/gt-canada-light.pngbrandonwumecom2015-03-23 20:10:462018-05-24 22:36:32Mentoring a Spirit of Gentleness