A group that provides help to people with disabilities is itself looking for people willing to lend a hand – and their time.
The Committee for Persons with Disabilities is hoping to find a few new directors for its board to produce some fresh ideas and assist with fundraising.
The committee is a non-government organization that serves people with disabilities – mental, physical, or other. It offers advocacy and support for them and their families by offering life-skills training, temporary shelter, meals, transportation, social programs and substance support groups.
The committee came to be in 1994 when Lillian Crook, current president of the board, moved to Hay River with her then-19-year-old son with disabilities. Crook had come from Yellowknife, where there was support for her son, and was concerned about the resources available in her new home.
“The (NWT Disabilities Council) was not into creating programs here, so that’s where it started,” said Crook. “I just did it myself.”
For a while, it was just Crook and a desk and a chair. Over the years, her resources expanded and so did the committee. Now, two staff members work alongside the board.
Crook said approximately 100 people in Hay River are clients of the committee.
“That’s not even touching the people we know are out there who need help,” said Crook. “There is so much more that can be done.”
Crook expressed her frustration with trying to operate funded programming in a small town, where resources trickle down from Yellowknife.
“We are doing in one office what Yellowknife is doing in three or four offices,” said Crook.
“And we can’t just stop working when the funds run out,” added Bartlett. “We have to continue to be there for our clients. Government agencies operate from 9 to 5, but people’s problems aren’t just from 9 to 5.”
Pravina Bartlett is the program manager with the committee.
“It has come a long way,” she said.
Bartlett had worked various government jobs before finding her place with the committee. Although she is on call 24-hours a day with only a portion of that being paid, and sometimes misses a pay-cheque or two if there is not enough funding, she is still glad to be where she is.
“Every job I’ve done has drawn into what I do now, from writing proposals to learning how to do the financial side of things,” she explained. “But getting to work with these people – it is the most satisfying position I’ve ever had.”
Committee gets funding
In September, the committee received funding from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, the amount of which couldn’t be determined by press time.
“It’s basically who can scream loud enough,” said Crook about getting funding. “We were lucky.”
The new funding will go right into the food bank program, the day home shelter, and repairs for the committee’s building.
One of the biggest problems facing the committee is transportation for its clients. Currently, Bartlett is the only person eligible to drive the bus they use to get their clients to and from appointments and their jobs. However, there is not enough funding to allow for her to be paid for this position and the bus itself is in need of some repairs.
“I’m volunteering about four hours a day to make this happen,” said Bartlett. “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.”
Crook is hoping the Town of Hay River will look into creating a solution for public transportation that will also be available for persons with disabilities.
“The City of Yellowknife operates the Handi-van completely,” said Crook. “There is a need for public transportation here.”
During a mayoral candidates forum before the municipal election, Brad Mapes responded to a question from Crook by saying if elected, he wants council to ride around the community and try entering buildings in a wheelchair.
That, he said, would give them insight into the challenges of getting around.
He also decried the “fluffy” approach of the previous town council of just sending a letter asking for funding. He’d go to Yellowknife to lobby in-person for causes like funding for transit, he said. Mapes was elected mayor Oct. 19.
— with files from Shane Magee