Tuesday October 20, 2020

Connecting, belonging, inclusion and having fun.

Words, yes, but also tangible benefits to individuals able to continue participating in programs offered by Alternatives Community Program Services in Peterborough. All thanks to a generous $12,000 grant from the Wright Family Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough.

Vicki Etchells, executive director for Alternatives, explained that the funding supported the purchase of technology tools, including laptops and iPads for people and staff so that the Daily Recreation Options Program (DROP) could be delivered remotely.

DROP offers people a range of group activities including photography, yoga, painting, graphic design, and sign language, to name a few.

When many in-person activities were shut down in March 2020 because of COVID-19, Vicki explained staff needed to rethink how to continue to deliver programs which were normally held in person.

“Our biggest focus is on reducing social isolation and fostering a sense of belonging among the people we serve,” she said. “We believe in real people, real things so that everyone should be included in everything we do.”

Alternatives provides opportunities in learning and skill development to help gain employment, in volunteerism, recreation and making community connections for adults with developmental disabilities and other exceptionalities in the city of Peterborough and across Peterborough County.

The donation provided that essential lifeline – a virtual one – to people who might otherwise have little contact with others except close family.

Lori McKee, director, people and programs at Alternatives, explained that it took people some time to get used to the online interaction but soon the students flourished. “They have since taken on the leadership of these get-togethers themselves instead of having a staff member facilitate them,” explained Lori. “In one instance, students lingered online to chat amongst themselves even after the session had formally ended.”

“One parent was so happy that they were still talking and laughing together,” she said. “This kind of bonding empowers people and helps them grow and become more confident.”

The photography group, for example, developed a theme, such as sunsets or flowers, and posted their photos on the Alternatives Facebook page that they took in their own neighbourhoods or backyards, based on that theme.

The Story Behind the Fund

The Wright Family Fund was established after the donor’s financial advisor pointed out the advantages of donating appreciated securities during a year-end tax planning discussion. The Fund was established immediately and, since then, the Foundation has helped the donor to identify several charitable programs and services that align with her interests and values.

“We want to thank the donor because their gift has allowed people to continue to be included and feel they belong, which is so important to what we do as an organization,” said Vicki.

The Community Foundation encourages anyone with an interest in giving back to their community while also receiving the financial benefits of establishing their own charitable Fund, to get in touch and speak with staff at the Foundation. Staff are also available to discuss other ways of giving.