Opening doors while creating opportunities

Marcus Purdaby is very clear about how much he enjoys working at the local RCMP detachment.

Working: Shuswap Association of Community Living client Marcus Purdaby works at the local RCMP detachment through the organization’s Employment Services Program.

Marcus Purdaby is very clear about how much he enjoys working at the local RCMP detachment.

Over the past year, Purdaby has shown up Tuesday and Thursday mornings to attend to a job list that has grown as office manager Bonnie Nunn has seen he can accomplish them well.

“We’re finding all sorts of jobs he can do for us and I don’t have to shadow him much any more,” says Nunn, of the young man who is employed through Shuswap Association for Community Living’s Employment Services program. “He fits in really well and everyone treats him well, and he has a good rapport with the police.”

Like many people with developmental disabilities, Purdaby is well able to do many things, including sweeping out the garage area, washing police cars, taking care of recycling and garbage, raking leaves and more.

“Just this morning, he was telling me how much he likes to come here,” laughed Nunn last Thursday morning, recounting how Purdaby had groaned his displeasure about being sent out to weed on his birthday.

Complaints morphed into wide grins a few minutes later when Nunn led him into the darkened parade room ostensibly to fix something.

Instead, several voices shouted “Happy birthday,” before the lights were turned on and one elated young man was treated to a surprise party, complete with cake and a belt with an RCMP buckle.

“I think it’s an excellent program,” says Nunn. “It’s nice to see people being given the chance to be productive.”

Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane is equally impressed.

“He does a wonderful job for police and has been a great addition to the detachment.”

Over at All My Flowers, owner Tricia Leggett is also happy with the work done by another SACL client Ellen Zilke.

“I hired her to come and water plants and do other regular shop maintenance,” Legget says, noting Zilke confided she had long desired to work in a flower shop and enjoys the atmosphere. “She’s very helpful, she’s delightful, she’s a chatterer and there’s a lot of that in here.”

Leggett describes the Employment Services program as a great asset that shows the community that many SACL clients are employable.

“And I am happy to be a part of it,” she says.

Also an enthusiastic supporter of the program, Lynne Wickett says Julie Bustin has worked for the Shuswap Children’s Association for a long time.

“Julie has been doing cleaning in various forms since we ran Lady Bug Preschool and that’s 15 years or longer,” says the association’s retiring executive director. “She fits in really well, she’s just a part of the SECA family and we’re really happy to have her as part of the family.”

Wickett says the association is also pleased that another SACL client, Nick Anchikoski, has been with them for over a year, doing some of the heavier cleaning projects.

Some communication challenges exist with him, says Wickett, issues that are solved by picture symbols being applied to the door of a room, explaining what staff want the young man to do.

For example, a picture of a broom indicates he is expected to sweep, while a mop identifies his task as washing the floor.

“It’s the same way we communicate with the children we work with, and that’s just carrying on to an adult who needs that support,” she says. “I think the way the community is able to include adults with developmental disabilities, just the way we’ve been including children, is wonderful.”

SACL employment specialist Merrilea Young says  46 clients are currently included in the Employment Service Program with only 22 of them working at 31 different businesses and non-profit agencies. Efforts are always underway to find employment for the rest.

Young says each job seeker is prescreened and specifically chosen for their compatibility to each business. As well, clients receive as much support from the program for as long as is needed.

October is Community Living Month and anyone who would like to celebrate that by giving an SACL job seeker a chance may contact Young at 250-515-1818 or Lee Holden at 250-517-9189.


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