When we developed the strategic plan for The Semiahmoo Foundation (TSF), we committed to include in our small team people with developmental disabilities. To that effect, earlier this year, we launched a pilot project providing two individuals the opportunity to demonstrate their work skills and fulfill their employment dreams. Larry Shareski and Amanda Erlendson, who accessed services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society (SHS), eagerly embarked the challenge and started to work for us under contract.
It worked so well that we decided to legitimize their employment status as casual workers and offered them the positions they were already fulfilling as contractors, Larry as Ambassador and Amanda as Office Assistant. They both accepted and started their new jobs on October 1, 2014.
I must emphasize that hiring Larry and Amanda is not a charitable endeavour. It is a win-win situation: they have the skills that we need to perform key jobs at TSF. Larry is perfect as an Ambassador. He is well-known in the community and connected with people of influence. His gregarious and likeable personality makes him a natural networker, connecting easily with new acquaintances. He is a big believer of our cause and is not afraid to ask people for support. On the other hand, Amanda is quiet and reliable, yet labourious and ambitious. She learns quickly and works accurately. Her skills and attributes make her ideally suited for the job of Office Assistant.
This is not the first time that I offer employment to job seekers, but presenting job offers to Larry and Amanda represents a significant event in my life. I am grateful to be connected with an organization that would allow me to facilitate the dreams of two individuals, whose talents are often overlooked, and make a difference and create momentum in the community living movement. As a result, this experience has stoked my passion to foster an inclusive community. It has energized my motivation to give my best efforts to the organization that authenticates my values.
What’s more, the day that I introduced Larry to Amanda—the newer of the two recruits, he greeted her by shaking her hand and saying excitedly, “Welcome to the Foundation! I look forward to work with you here. You will have fun working at the Foundation. I sure do.” During this brief interaction with Larry, Amanda brightened up and smiled widely. The way they connected warmed my heart. I knew they would contribute to a dynamic team and I thought, “This is the best team I’ve ever created. We will do great work together.”
Going forward, I hope that Larry’s and Amanda’s stories will create successful models for other employers to emulate and breathe life to our philosophy that all people have abilities and should be valued in the community like any other Canadian.
Louise Tremblay, The Semiahmoo Foundation
Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community.
The Semiahmoo Foundation, located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.