The grand opening of its third group home in Rosthern on Thursday, July 26 marked a major milestone for Valley Action Abilities (VAA).
“This project has taken several years to complete,” said VAA Executive-Director Cameron Nicolle at a well-attended ceremony in front of the home on 1st Avenue. “And it’s exciting to be able to welcome three new residents to our community.”
The home is staffed by VAA employees who provide 24-hour care to three former residents of the Valley View Centre in Moose Jaw.
Randy Weekes, MLA for Biggar-Sask Valley, cut the ribbon marking the official grand opening of the home.
Weekes said the residence is “another step forward in our government’s support of person-centred community living.” He commended VAA for “continuing to create an inclusive community in Rosthern.”
VAA will receive nearly $2 million in 2018-19 to operate six adult group homes, three of which are in Rosthern, and a day program for about 40 participants.
The organization also operates a SARCAN recycling depot and a coin-operated laundromat in Rosthern. The VAA is one of the largest employers in the town of Rosthern, and has deep roots in the community dating back to its founding in 1972.
The new group home was built through the auspices of Sask Housing, and will be operated by VAA.
“The whole project has taken two and a half years to bring to fruition,” said Nicolle in an interview. “The government of Saskatchewan put out a call for community organizations interested in opening homes as they were shutting down the Valley View Centre institution in Moose Jaw.
“We were one of many community-based organizations across the province which took up that call and put in a bid to operate a smaller residential home.”
The new home currently houses three residents, but is able to accommodate one more. Nicolle anticipates that vacancy will be filled quickly, as VAA has a waiting list.
The VAA has two other group homes in Rosthern, one of which accommodates five residents and one that houses seven residents.
Nicolle said the VAA began when a group of parents set up a day program to provide opportunities for their children to stay in the community.
“For the first 20 years the day program – at that time it was called a sheltered workshop, but that terminology is no longer used – was the focus,” said Nicolle. “The first group home here was opened in 1992 and the second group home opened six years ago.
“The advantage of living in a smaller community is that residents have a lot of opportunities to participate in community activities; they are accepted, and have a sense of belonging,” said Nicolle. “There’s also a strong connection with the larger community. Our residents are at hockey games, churches, restaurants, events around town; we volunteer with the local food bank, the library, and the youth farm.”
Rosthern Mayor Dennis Helmuth said the relationship benefits both the community and the VAA.
“The quality of life is raised for everyone,” said Helmuth. “Many people have put in a lot of volunteer work on the VAA board over the years, because they genuinely believe in the value of the organization and its programs, which support the most vulnerable in our society.
“It’s a big part of the fabric of our town and our region, and it makes us all stronger.”
VAA Vice-Chair Robert Regier said integrating residents into the community is important.
“As a child I remember visiting a facility that housed individuals with a variety of challenges,” said Regier. “I recall seeing a particular individual who simply did not look happy.
“Now I’m not looking to slam the kind of care or the level of care that happened back in the mid-1960s, but I do believe as a community and as a society, we have come a long way.
“I’m not naive enough to suggest that the individuals in this new home will be happy all the time, but I do know I have full confidence in the hard-working, dedicated and compassionate staff, not just in this home but also in our other two homes, day facility and SARCAN recycling depot.”
Saskatchewan Association of Rehabilitation Centres (SARC) Executive-Director Amy McNeil said the VAA is one of 100 community-based organizations that collectively work to ensure care and quality of life for people with challenges and disabilities in Saskatchewan.
McNeil said the SARC member organizations all contribute to the larger umbrella organization, and VAA has shown leadership and vision and is an example to others.
SARC, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, provides support, training, education and guidance to these member organizations. It is also the parent organization of SARCAN.
An open house and celebration was also held July 26 at the Rosthern SARCAN depot to celebrate the 30th anniversary of SARCAN.