Relationships At The Heart Of A Long Career
Diane Bieber’s 23-year career with Communitas Supportive Care Society has taught her that relationships are what matter most. As she retires, it is the many relationships that she has forged that she will reflect upon and treasure.
“There are so many people who have supported me throughout my time with Communitas,” she says. “People we serve, staff, families – so many who have given me opportunities to grow.”
Diane discovered Communitas (which was then called MCC Supportive Care Society) through her sister-in-law who was working as a Residential Support Worker (RSW.) It was 1998 and Diane had just moved to Vancouver Island, looking for part-time work.
“I was invited to visit the home where my sister-in-law worked and I was amazed,” she remembers. “I had no idea that something like this existed. I couldn’t believe that I could be paid to do this work.”
She began working as a casual RSW but soon found her way into a variety of jobs, supporting people through day services, organizing Home Shares, and beginning a service for people living with acquired brain injury. When she retires at the end of September, she’ll be leaving her role as Program Director in which she gave oversite to various services, as well as Human Resources, helping hire staff for Communitas on the Island.
At each step in her journey, Diane had opportunities for training and education, allowing her to add to the qualities she naturally brought to the work. She went back to college and discovered that she wasn’t too old to learn even though she was in her 40s.
“Communitas has always supported education, so to be able to do that really increased my self-worth,” she says, adding that formal education supplemented all that she was already learning from mentors at work. “So many people were open to teaching me and I truly found my passion. I have loved going to work every single day.”
One of her many mentors along the way was Virginia Brandon, the person who hired her.
“She scared the tar out of me at my interview,” Diane says with a laugh, “but she became such a dear, close friend. She was so supportive of me and had so much wisdom to share.”
Diane came into the organization just as Communitas was expanding its work on the North Island and as the province was bringing the process of deinstitutionalization to a close. She heard many stories from staff and families that confirmed for her that giving people with developmental disabilities the option to live in home settings was vital. It is the person-centred approach to care that resonated strongly with Diane and fed her passion for all of the areas in which she has worked.
Lori Friesen served as a regional director when Diane was first hired and was part of the team that expanded Communitas’ reach onto the North Island. Diane clearly embraced Communitas’ philosophy of inclusion and person-centred care and her ability to communicate was “amazing.’ Lori says that Diane was instrumental in creating a trusting and inclusive relationship with Community Living BC, with families, with staff, and with people served through the organization.
“I could fully rely on her to give accurate feedback and I trusted her to represent the organization,” Lori says. “I believe her contribution to Communitas is invaluable.”
Karyn Santiago, the chief executive officer for Communitas, agrees. She says that from the early days, Diane has been a strong advocate for the community living sector.
“In recent years, she has infused this same passion into the world of children and youth with special needs,” Karyn says. “I believe that Diane has left her mark on the communities of Campbell River and Courtenay.”
Others in the organization who have had a chance to work with Diane comment on her commitment to her staff and to the people we serve. Gillian Viljoen is the chief program officer for Communitas. She says that Diane’s willingness to be available wherever needed has been greatly appreciated.
“Diane’s gifts and heart to serve have enriched our Program Team and we will be forever thankful for her commitment, her encouragement, and her support whenever the going got tough,” Gillian says. “She is loved and will be missed.”
Diane says that in the end, it’s the people served through Communitas who have had the deepest impact on her life.
“Because of the people we serve, I’ve learned to be accepting of myself and to not worry so much about what others might think of me,” she reflects.
It is these values that Diane will take with her into her retirement. While she’s looking forward to spending time with her sewing machine and in her garden, it’s time with people that she’s most looking forward to.
“I want to spend more time with my children and grandkids,” she says. “I really want to spend time with my mom while I still have her. My husband and I are looking forward to traveling too. I’m sure there will never be a dull moment.”