BARRHEAD - It was an evening of celebrating the good works of area groups and people dedicated to the cause of improving the lives of people living with disabilities.
On Dec. 3 at the Senior Drop-in Centre, the Barrhead Advocates hosted their annual free community dinner to mark United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
To end the event, Cathy Smith presented three Premier’s Council on the Status of People with Disabilities Awards of Excellence.
The council was formed in 1988 and its purpose is to provide information and advice to the provincial government to improve the lives of people living with disabilities.
Smith, a Barrhead resident, has been part of the 14-member council since 2016.
Smith said that Susan Littlechilds, a Busby resident, received her Award of Excellence in Public Awareness for her work with the Westlock Accessibility Coalition and its accessibility challenge.
During the Westlock & District Ag Fair on Aug. 16, the coalition organized an event to raise awareness of the challenges people with physical disabilities have accessing buildings and services in the community.
It did this by inviting prominent community members and putting them through numerous scenarios, such as trying to navigate a sidewalk and cross a busy highway in a wheelchair.
However, Smith noted, Littlechilds went above the call and duty and as a result, several other communities are planning similar events, including one in Barrhead in early May.
“It goes beyond people with disabilities, just think of the challenges mothers have trying to get around using a stroller,” Littlechilds said.
The Lac Ste. Anne East End Bus Society won the Award in Excellence in Community for their work in the creation and subsequent running of a transportation system to provide affordable excursions for seniors and people with disabilities from small communities in Lac Ste. Anne County that do not have regular bus service outside their communities.
In addition to the excursions, the East End Bus provides scheduled shopping/medical trips to West Edmonton Mall and Spruce Grove.
Lac Ste. Anne Coun. and society member Lorne Olsvik said the service, which has been in existence since 1996, would not exist without a lot of participation and collaboration.
He said the service has come a long way since its beginnings.
“It is a program that Lac Ste. Anne County started with the partnership of Alberta Beach and Onoway with each of us bringing unique specialties to the table,” Olsvik said.
As the program became more popular more communities and organizations wanted to get involved.
“We have participation from 12 municipalities, which contribute financially, [Family and Community Support Services], golden age clubs,” he said.
But all of that would be meaningless without the talents of East End Bus coordinator Lorna Porter.
“Lorna is responsible for ensuring wheelchair lifts and others with accessibility issues can be accommodated by a good quality bus system,” Olsvik said.
Meanwhile, the West Bus Committee is a non-profit society, which was created more than a decade ago, to give seniors a chance to go on affordable excursions who may not otherwise be able to because of mobility issues or affordability.
The service is available to people in the Blue Ridge, Anselmo, Mayerthorpe and Sangudo area who are 50 and older.
West End Bus recreation director Maureen Brazel agreed that the service wouldn’t be possible if it were not for the coordinated efforts of Woodlands County, Town of Mayerthorpe and Lac Ste County.
“It is a great example of how communities can work together to provide a great program and service,” she said.
The dinner’s host, the Barrhead Advocates sponsored the final award of the night, Excellence in Community Service to Ripple Connection Support Services (RCSC).
RCSC is a not-for-profit organization, which opened in 2010, provides services for people who directly suffer from mental illness as well as their families and caregivers.
Barrhead Advocate member Elizabeth Hinz said it was a difficult decision which of the many groups in the community who help individuals with disabilities to give the award to, but in the end, RCSC rose above the rest.
“In recognition of their efforts in community inclusion, the Barrhead Advocates awards the Ripple Connection Support Centre for their Excellence in Community Service,” she said.