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Communitas Receives Excellent Review

After achieving a standard of excellence during its accreditation process in 2017, it might have been tempting for the organization to relax and assume that the same standard would be easily achieved in 2021. But as the Council on Accreditation (COA) process rolled out this year, it was clear that this was not the case.

“You are not resting on your laurels. You take each day for the challenge that it is and you meet it with the desire to grow and improve,” said Peter Portlock, who led this year’s accreditation team of three. “You are an exemplary, stellar organization.”

The final meeting with staff, board members, and peer reviewers was held via Zoom. L_R from top, Communitas CEO Karyn Santiago, COA reviewers Peter Portlock, Bruce Hardy, and Doug Sabourin

Accreditation with COA happens on a four-year cycle and involves a thorough audit of an organization including services to individuals, finances, risk management, human resources, and much more. Preparation for COA begins a year before the peer reviewers visit. This year, due to the pandemic, the process was done virtually, culminating in a week of on-line meetings with all three reviewers and a day of in-person site visits with one reviewer at the beginning of June.

In the year leading up to the June meetings, a team of Communitas staff made up of program directors, managers, and the executive staff spent months gathering information to create the Self Study Information and Onsite Documents that the peer reviewers read prior to their virtual visit. George Jacob, chief operations officer with Communitas, was the team lead, overseeing the process from start to finish.

Karyn Santiago and George Jacob commend the work of the program directors, managers and staff who worked on the COA process

“It really was a testament of how we came together as a team in the midst of global pandemic and accomplished a major project that would have been challenging even under normal circumstances,” George says. “I’m proud to be part of a group of people who are so passionate about the work that we do and willing to abide by the highest standards when it comes to serving the people we support.”

Karyn Santiago, chief executive officer for Communitas, agrees, recognizing the months of intensive work and dedication by many people in the organization.

“Though the accreditation standards are a continuous process that we aspire to, the work of ‘evidencing’ our continuing good work is always above and beyond our everyday activities and it requires a committed team of people,” she says. “By the time the reviewers arrive, we have done most of the heavy lifting, have done our best to set ourselves up for success and are ready for our final review. The virtual onsite visit gave COA the chance to see if our practices match our theory!”

The response from the reviewers at the closing meeting was overwhelmingly positive. Peter Portlock and his fellow peer reviewers, Bruce Hardy and Doug Sabourin, reviewed thousands of pages of documentation and conducted dozens of virtual interviews with staff, board members, funders, and people who receive services from Communitas. At the closing meeting, each reviewer praised the organization for the quality of its services and commitment to person-centred care.

Peer reviewers noted the commitment to person-centred care at the heart of Communitas

Bruce had the opportunity to visit several locations in person. He noted the high standard of safety and care and commented on the dedication of staff.

Being welcomed at Matthew’s House was one of the highlights for peer reviewer Bruce Hardy

“I felt so welcomed by managers and the people you serve,” Bruce said. “You work with wonderful people and meeting them was the highlight of my day.”

Doug noted a consistent theme of fairness and equality in each area of service with which he connected. It was clear to him that every individual connected to Communitas is valued.

“I was impressed by the concept of the “spirit of gentleness” that infuses the work you do,” he said, adding that this is what anyone would want for themselves and their loved ones. “It’s one thing to say it, another thing to do it, but its’ still another for people to get it and your people do.”

Peer reviewers noted that all those connected to Communitas – people we serve as well as our staff – are equally valued

Peter’s comments echoed that of his fellow reviewers. He commented on the solid relationship between the CEO and the board, the standard of excellence in administrative services, and the innovation and creativity brought about by the pandemic.

An on-line cooking class is one of the many activities offered through Zoombaya, which was mentioned as one shining example of how Communitas adapted to the pandemic

“The tech-based delivery of your Zoombaya program is a clear case of the lemonade that was made of the lemon that is COVID,” he said. “It is a clever, intuitive, innovative and engaging response and shows how online services should be delivered.”

All three reviewers included the word “kindness” when speaking about their experience, that this quality was evident in all areas of service. It was a word that surprised Karyn.

The spirit of gentleness and kindness permeate the services offered by Communitas

“It was not a description that I expected to hear from our reviewers after a thorough examination of our policies, procedures, systems and service delivery,” she said. “Hearing this word used to describe Communitas felt like such an affirmation of all that we strive for in the ways that we support people and in the employment experience we want to create for people.”

As the closing meeting ended, Peter praised the organization, saying that Communitas was in a class by itself.

“Between the three of us we’ve done over 150 accreditation visits and you are the cream of the crop,” Peter said. “We’ve been thrilled. It’s A+ and A’s all around. Well done.”


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