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Meaningful Community Contributions with Able Network

 “We have seen tremendous growth in our participants since we opened in September 2018. One participant in particular had never taken public transit independently, but now he travels by hims elf all over Stouffville to his volunteer placements at in2one Community Church, Parkview Home Long Term Care, and Care & Share Thrift Shop,” said Lindsay Moore, Program Manager for at the Stouffville location of the ABLE Network.

“He’s come so far in a short time, he’s really come out of his shell,” she added. “These are local people with intellectual disabilities – we’re helping to bring out their potential, and they are contributing back to their community.”

“The next step is finding him a paid work placement,” added Meghan Reynolds, Program Facilitator, also at the Stouffville location. 

“We develop jobs through something called Job Carving. We work together with community partners to identify tasks that play to the strengths of our participants and can free up the other organization’s staff to focus on more specialized tasks,” explained Lindsay. 

The ABLE Network’s Stouffville location operates out of an office in the Town-owned Latcham Hall. The ABLE Network is a fee for service, registered charity located in Aurora, Richmond Hill and Stouffville. ABLE is a community-based program that provides relevant inclusive work and recreation opportunities for young adults with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) in natural job and community settings.

The participants are supported in five core-areas: Work Experience, Travel & Safety Training, Recreation, Continuing Education, and Community Service. The ABLE Network is based on strong principles and research that states that the inclusion of persons with an ID in natural settings provides them with an equal opportunity to contribute to the health and well-being of their community. 

“Right now, our participants are at Walmart shopping for groceries that they will use to cook with tomorrow, and one participant is at his paid work placement at Tim Hortons on Main St.” stated Meghan. “While some activities are done as a group, everyone has an individualized program schedule based on their strengths, goals and interests, with an ultimate goal of building independence,” adds Lindsay.

Lindsay, a Newmarket native, volunteered with ABLE in Aurora. She was hired as the “second staff” in 2009. She helped open the Richmond Hill location in 2015, and then Stouffville in 2018. You wouldn’t guess that she has a BFA from York University and a Masters in Opera Performance from UBC.

“Stouffville is a wonderful community; the outpouring of support has been fantastic. We’re really lucky!” said Lindsay. 

Meghan started with ABLE in Richmond Hill in 2016. She has worked at the Stouffville location since the beginning as well. Meghan is from Aurora and attended Oakland University in Michigan for a pair of degrees – BA in Sociology and an MA in Mental Health Counselling. 

The program welcomes young adults with a variety of Intellectual Disabilities who have a goal of increasing independence and meaningful participation within their local community. Half the service is funded by a fee, while the other half is fundraised. Much of the local fundraising comes generously from Stouffville Home for Christmas House Tour, which is an annual two-day event which takes place the first weekend in November. In 2019, ABLE received an additional donation from 100 Women Who Care – Stouffville. 

It was Pat Montgomery of Candlelight and Memories in Downtown Stouffville that recently shined a light on the ABLE Network. Last year Pat started a new tradition – High Tea with Pat & Friends. Pat has always served tea in her shop, but last year she formalized it. While talking about the event, Pat shined when she spoke about a regular customer and friend that is a participant at the ABLE Network. 

“She’s here every week for tea. Sometimes she brings her friends. I heard about their volunteering and offered them another opportunity to serve tea. They were enthusiastic,” says Pat. “She came to the tea all decked out – new dress and gloves. We made special aprons for them. In return, we rewarded them with a new mug full of goodies, and tea customers gave them tips,” said Pat. 

“It was also her birthday, so everyone there came together for the cake. Everyone sang and it was lovely – and really, having the opportunity to interact with them was the best part of all,” added Pat.