Communitas celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. What began as a small, grass roots initiative in 1974 has grown into an organization that serves people living with developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and acquired brain injury in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and Vancouver Island.
Karyn Santiago is the chief executive officer for Communitas. She says that the organization is planning on celebrating this milestone in a variety of ways that do more than simply look back.
“Our theme for the year is ‘Our story. Our Community. Our Future’ and our celebrations will reflect all of these themes,” Karyn explains.
One of the ambitious projects that Communitas has undertaken is the production of five short films, each one focused on a different aspect of the organization’s area of service. Matt Dirks is the chief innovation officer for Communitas and has spear-headed this project. He says that while the films tell the story of the organization, they don’t necessarily do so in a linear fashion.
“These films reflect our beginnings in a variety of areas but also give interviewees a chance to share their hopes for the future,” Matt says.
For Matt, the highlight of the filming process was learning how Communitas was on the forefront of so much change in the way people with developmental disabilities or mental health challenges were perceived and treated.
“As we listened to our story tellers, we realized that their experiences shaped how we deliver our services today,” he says. “It’s pretty cool to know that our values have not changed, we continue to be a place of belonging, growth, and contribution for people of all abilities.”
Celebrations throughout the year will bring the Communitas family together with people from each community in which the organization is present. Two open house events at the main offices in Abbotsford and Campbell River are also being planned. Each home and service will also have the opportunity to create a celebration event, inviting their neighbours, friends, and family to participate. The year will culminate with an art show and event at The Reach Gallery Museum in Abbotsford in November.
“One of our deep values is inclusion and our 50th anniversary seemed like an obvious opportunity to open the doors and invite our communities to explore who we are and what we do,” Karyn says.
As Communitas looks to its future, the organization is looking to grow in several areas. Two new homes are being built in Abbotsford with another housing project being considered, creating safe and welcoming spaces for people with disabilities. With the growing demand for mental health services, Communitas is hoping to expand its services to meet growing demand. As well, an additional commitment is that of giving people of all abilities the skills they need to be independent and to contribute to the communities in which they live. And helping people find meaningful, paid employment is a priority.
Experiencing growth in these service areas will need people to champion these goals. To that end, Communitas is launching a Communitas50 Fund and is recruiting 50 Champions who, together, will raise $500,000 to make these dreams reality.
Sarah De Klein is head of philanthropy and donor relations for Communitas. She is excited to see that several champions have already stepped up to accept the challenge of raising funds.
“We are so grateful to be part of a compassionate and generous community,” Sarah says. “It is only together that we can continue to create inclusive communities where everyone has a place to contribute and thrive.”
These are just a few of the examples of how Communitas will celebrate 5 decades of service; stay tuned for more events as the year unfolds.
“Instead of having one big party on one day, we really want to take the whole year to celebrate our past, engage with our communities, and dream about what the future can hold for people of all abilities,” Karyn says. “We invite our communities to join us in this celebration.”
Abbotsford businesses were lauded for their inclusinve hiring efforts at this year’s Inclusive Employment Excellence Awards.