Cultivating Community

September 12, 2017

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Community Living Parry Sound is not resting on its laurels; after 55 years the organization is finding new strength and growth by returning to its roots as a local social justice movement. As one part of an innovative family engagement project supported by Community Living Ontario, the organization is spearheading a unique community development event. To truly advocate for the full inclusion of people with all abilities, we must engage our community in the conversation. Cultivating a Friendly Parry Sound was inspired by veteran Developmental Services leader Kimberley Gavan’s story of social acceptance, the ‘Nairobi Story’. This simple story reveals how a village in a developing nation taught a Canadian expert in developmental services that everyone needs a place where they belong and are valued by their community.

When I first arrived in the Parry Sound area I wanted to find out what Community Living Parry Sound did, and it took some high level sleuthing to figure that out. Why was the work of Community Living so elusive? I think in an attempt to overcome the pervasive stigma that many people with intellectual disabilities face from birth to death, CLPS intentionally stopped using words that would identify the people that they support as developmentally delayed; such a negative description of a person.

Working with staff at Community Living Parry Sound has enlightened me, and ignited me, to help continue the work originally started 55 years ago by families who made up the Parry Sound Retarded Children’s Association. The name of this organization has changed five times since 1962 but the hope for equality and social acceptance of people with all abilities has remained the same.

With participation from the West Parry Sound Health Centre, the Museum on Tower Hill, the YMCA, St. James Community Centre and the Town of Parry Sound Cultivating a Friendly Parry Sound will bring citizens together on Monday, October 16, 2017 at the Stockey Centre. As one community, made up of many unique individuals, the residents of Parry Sound District are invited to discuss the true meaning of Community Living.

Al Condeluci, a specialist in building inclusive communities, will facilitate this evening event at the Stockey Centre.  100 people from the community of Parry Sound district are invited to attend this extraordinary evening.  How do we build a welcoming place for people, regardless of ability, cultural background, sexual orientation or economic status? How can we bring people, who are excluded, into the heart of our community? Why would people already at the centre of our community care about this? How do people who have been excluded from participating in typical community activities begin to trust fellow citizens again?

Our simple ask is that people come out, gather and converse together.  The first 100 people to RSVP will have the opportunity to participate. Reception and a light dinner will start at 5:00 pm, followed at 5:30 -8:30 pm by guest speaker Al Condeluci and guided conversation with fellow citizens.

– Tricia Bain, Facilitation & Planning Coordinator.

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