BONNYVILLE – The Dove Centre Employment Agency is continuing its search to find local employers to carve out part-time positions for clients with developmental disabilities.
Currently, the Dove Centre’s grant-funded employment agency is looking to find work for six individuals in the Bonnyville area and positions for up to three clients in Cold Lake.
Lynda Munro and Maureen Thurott have been working tirelessly to find suitable positions for community members with varying abilities. The pair has reached out to over 70 businesses in the region, looking for anyone who would be willing to create a paid part-time position that involves one or two tasks.
Running the employment program and advocating on behalf of clients looking to join the workforce continues to pose a challenge.
“We are advocates and that's what we do, and it's part of being an advocate. The reality is, it’s harder to try and find work for people with disabilities,” said Thurott.
While Thurott acknowledged that not all clients are the right fit for all businesses, she implores businesses to at least try creating space to hire an employee with developmental disabilities.
Munro added, “Rather than saying, what are the capabilities of these people? We should actually say, what are the abilities of these people. These people have such huge imaginations, they are hardworking, they're loyal and they have more abilities than disabilities.”
The duo's goal is to have their clients working independently, when possible, even if it is only a couple of hours a week, “and we are finding even that very difficult right now,” Thurott noted.
However, the agency has found success employing clients at locations such as the Lakeland Co-op, Co-operators Insurance, the Bonnyville Nouvelle, Baby Cherry Greenhouse and the Bonnyville and District SPCA.
Unfortunately, there are still not enough local businesses willing to hire persons with disabilities in the community to meet the demand of those who are looking to work.
Support from local municipalities
To raise community awareness on the issue, Munro and Thurott spoke at three different council meetings in the area.
First, they spoke at the City of Cold Lake’s council meeting on May 24, then the MD of Bonnyville’s meeting on June 8, followed by a delegation at the Town of Bonnyville’s council on June 14.
During their presentations, Munro and Thurott asked each municipality if they would consider creating employment opportunities for the agency's clients.
A short time after, they were invited back to Cold Lake to discuss opportunities that clients could excel at while also benefiting the municipality.
By the beginning of July, the city had created a three-month contract with the Dove Centre to employ three of their clients to work in outdoor beautification on a part-time basis.
“It's a 10-hour a week contract cleaning the garbage from the beach and the marina and the walkway in between and along Lakeshore Drive,” said Thurott. “It's absolutely perfect for our folks and it’s a single task.”
While the City of Cold Lake has been a great partner in hiring persons with disabilities, the agency has yet to hear back from the Town and MD of Bonnyville on any employment leads.
There is a strong desire for those wanting to join the workforce, not only to give back, but to fulfill there own goals.
“They want to work, and it teaches them budgeting. It gives them a sense of independence. These individuals have goals just like you and I,” said Thurott.
In December, the Dove Centre Employment Agency will seek additional grant funding to keep its program running. But despite the hurdles, Munro and Thurott have seen many successes over the years as well.
They see the work they do in the community as seeds being planted for the future.
"We’re not planting seeds only for (the program), I feel we're planting seeds for the whole disability community,” Thurott said.
Next year will be the Dove Centre's 50th year working in the Bonnyville and Cold Lake.
*For clarification, Lakeland This Week wants to reiterate that the Dove Centre Employment Agency has been in communication with the two municipalities, the Town and MD of Bonnyville, since the delegations to each council. Although, no positions have been created or determined by either municipality for the agency's clients at the time this article was published.