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Light The Candles

Jeff Semple

Published in the "Carleton Place Canadian," the "EMC," and the "Smith Falls Record News"

June 2006

Grab your party hats and light the candles: Community Living Association Lanark County is turning 40 years old! This year marks Community Living Association Lanark County's 40th anniversary, a celebration of 40 years supporting people with intellectual disabilities. And when the Association blows out its candles this year and makes a wish, you can bet it will be for the next 40 years to be as successful as the first.

The movement that led to its formation began back in 1948, with a letter published in the Toronto Star by a grandmother of a child with an intellectual disability. The letter called for better support and education for children with intellectual disabilities. The letter was followed by another written by a parent, calling other parents in similar circumstances to come together for the cause. In response, 70 parents joined together for a meeting, a gathering that would be duplicated countless times in communities across the country during the years to come.

These meetings soon led to the creation of Community Living Ontario (then called The Ontario Association for Retarded Children) in 1953, and by 1960 Ontario boasted 60 schools and three sheltered workshops operated by its local Associations. And six years later, this movement arrived in Lanark County.

Community Living Association Lanark County (then called The Lanark District Association for the Mentally Retarded) was formed in 1966, and the Association immediately began working to improve the education, employment, and living situations for people with intellectual disabilities across the county. Within a year of its inception, Community Living Association Lanark County opened a nursery and a day school for preschoolers and children with intellectual disabilities in Perth. These schools would soon become publicly funded by the province, and eventually the students would become fully integrated into the public school system.

In 1991 the Association created a bursary, awarded each year to two students pursuing post secondary education in developmental services and special education. On the employment front, Community Living Association Lanark County opened ARC Industries in Carleton Place in 1970, a workshop and training centre for workers with intellectual disabilities. ARC Industries paved the way for Community Support Services in 1993, which continues to promote full integration into the workforce and the broader community. In 2003, the Association initiated an Employer of the Year Award, awarded each year to an employer who provides continued support for employees with intellectual disabilities. The Association has spent much of its history working to improve the living situations of the people it supports.

Since 1975, the Association has opened several homes across the county. In 1987, it assumed responsibility for the Family Home Program, working to connect families with people looking for a home. Today, the Association supports 11 people living with 9 families across the county as part of the program. In addition, the Association currently provides support for homes for over 25 people, as well as supporting 40 others through the Supported Independent Living program, enabling them to live independently in their own homes. Through all of their various programs and efforts, Community Living Association Lanark County continues to support over 125 people throughout the county. This number continues to grow, as the Association celebrates its birthday and looks ahead to a promising future.

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