May is Community Living Month in Ontario and Muskoka’s two branches have multiple fundraisers and celebrations planned.
Suzanne Willett, Executive Director of the Huntsville organization, says the theme for the month is “inspiring possibilities.”
“It celebrates inspiring possibilities for the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities and their families as respected valued and contributing members f their communities rather than limiting them,” she explains.
There will be events happening throughout the month in Huntsville, but Willett says it will be highlighted by community living’s flag being raised at the Huntsville town hall on May 9 at 11:30 AM. “This will be our first in-person event in a couple of years,” she says. The flag raising will also mark the 60th anniversary of Community Living Huntsville.
Willett asks everyone to wear green and blue, the colours of community living’s logo, on May 6 to show support for inclusion in the community. The day will be capped off with the “Shine a Light on Community Living” event at the organization’s building on 99 West Rd. There will also be a month-long window decorating contest involving all the businesses in downtown Huntsville. Willett says they are in the process of reaching out to them now. She asks any interested businesses to message them on social media if they want to participate.
She says you can participate by going to the Huntsville organization’s website.
Likewise, Community Living South Muskoka will have a month-long fundraiser. Taylor Watson, Events, Promotions, and Volunteer Coordinator for the South Muskoka branch, says last year it raised around $6,000 with the money split between the winner and community living. You can buy a ticket on the organization’s website.
Watson says they will be partnering with the A&W in Bracebridge for the second year in a row. All the money made from pancake sales until May 9 will go to community living. He adds a pancake breakfast is planned for May 27.
“It’s an opportunity to remind everyone on the importance and necessity of inclusion and how we each play a role in advancing inclusion,” Willett says on the importance of the month.
She adds that inclusion doesn’t need to be made difficult. “It’s saying hello,” Willett says. “It’s inviting them into their community activities. It’s spending a little bit of extra time having a conversation with someone you might not have conversations with and this doesn’t just go for people we support, this goes for the community in general.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Watson says keeping people connected has been their focus. “It’s been difficult for the people we support,” he explains. “They used to be able to see each other every day, and now people are feeling a lot more isolated.”
He says they have helped individuals and families purchase webcams, tablets, and other things to help them stay connected while restrictions are in place. Watson adds that even as those restrictions are being lifted, helping people stay connected is still a “large part” of their focus.
“We love our community,” Willett says. “We have so many friends of community living that are very responsive in a positive way to the work that we do.”