Paula Gilbert has been connected to Communitas for a long time. She first participated in STEP (Support Towards Employment Program), which is part of Communitas Social Enterprises and supports people living with mental health challenges. Paula was diagnosed with schizophrenia and she is grateful that medication has helped her to live symptom-free for years.
Staying healthy is important to Paula and she does a variety of things to maintain her mental health: she listens to music, stays connected to family and friends, and tries to be active. Employment is also part of staying well.
Work is important to me. It’s one of the ways that I stay motivated. – Paula, cleaning staff
Since last summer, Paula has been connected to Communitas Employment, a service that helps people with mental health challenges or developmental disabilities find meaningful work. Stacey Murdoch, an employment specialist with Communitas, has enjoyed working with Paula.
“Paula loves Communitas and has been a part of work experience programs for many years,” Stacey says. “She came back to the STEP program last year and has always been very enthusiastic around her employment goals.”
Those goals have often focused on janitorial services – “I love cleaning,” she says – and she did a portion of her work experience stocking supplies and cleaning the Communitas offices in Abbotsford. She was thrilled when she recently landed a job with Karp Home Care as a cleaner for residential homes. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Paula was laid off.
As it turned out, this was opportune for Communitas, whose regular cleaner lives with vulnerable adults and so, made the difficult decision to step back from her janitorial work in order to keep others safe. Paul McCracken is also an employment specialist for the organization. He was aware of the situation at Communitas and immediately thought of Paula.
“Paula has a lot of experience with cleaning and already knew the layout of the Communitas office space, so we immediately thought of her as the ideal person to fill-in during this time,” Paul says.
Paula is grateful for the opportunity to work and to be able to help out the organization that she has come to love. Her responsibilities include cleaning bathrooms, dusting, floors, and taking out the garbage and recycling. COVID protocols include an increase in deep cleaning with regular sanitization of door knobs, light switches, phones, and other regularly used surfaces. Stacey says she’s not surprised that Paula was willing to step in and help.
“Paula has a strong work ethic and is always wanting to help out in her community,” she says.