by Gloria Welton
Harbourview Training Center is in the heart of Souris, PEI. It provides vocational training, on-site employment and job training, and a broad range of support services to clients with intellectual disabilities.
Executive Director Judy Hennessey has worked at the center for 30 years, and says she has incredible staff, a very active board of directors, and ongoing community support.
“We have come a long way, and we have expanded a few times over the years. We plan to break ground in 2024 to expand our services further.
“We plan to build a six-bedroom residential co-ed group home with one respite bedroom that will be staffed 24 hours a day. Attached to the group home will be a three-bedroom supportive apartment.”
Judy says there is presently only one group home in Souris, so there is a need to build more residential options for clients.
“Over the years, a number of clients had to leave the community because of limited housing options to suit their needs. We are trying to offer more residential options in Souris so people can stay in their own community.
“We have commitment of some funding for the project and are currently working on securing the remaining funds needed for the project. As an agency which promotes inclusion, we strongly believe in the principles of creating opportunities for individuals with an intellectual disability so they can live and participate in their community. This will help individuals to gain a stronger sense of belonging, self-worth, and independence.
“Our client numbers have been steadily growing, and some are at retirement age and choose to continue to come to the center. At the moment, we work with about 30 clients and adjust the support as they go through the various stages of aging and needs.”
There are 11 staff members and currently there are no vacancies. “When a job comes open, our goal is to hire staff with a Human Services background or equivalent.
“I sit on a committee with other similar not-for-profit organizations across the province. We are all feeling the pinch as graduates from the college program are attracted to the many jobs offered by the school system. We work with the Holland College Human Services program through their OJT placements, and we value getting the chance to have students in the program get the opportunity to get hands-on experience in this sector of the field.
“College students who do placements with us get opportunities to practice their skill sets and advance their training. Our goal is to help students feel that they are given the freedom to put all their learning into practice and to gain further experience.”
Judy says she took her training through the Holland College Human Services program, which was a great way to start her career.
“My start in this field and the support I received along the way is among the reasons I can say after 30 years I am still very engaged in this field of work.”
“We partnered with Inclusions East in Montague, to allow us to have an Employment Counsellor here to support clients who are seeking employment. Julie McCloskey works in our location part-time.”
“We have had great success with placing clients in the community and using programs such as the Abilities@Work wage subsidy.
“Right now, we have five clients who are working in paid jobs in the community earning a wage. When one client’s wage subsidy expired, the local employer kept them in the position.”
Helping a client start a business
Julie and the center helped one client who does photography to start a business. Cristine Cheverie is now in her second season of preparing to sell bookmarks bearing her photos. The bookmarks are sold at the Harborview location as well.
“At first, we helped her establish her business with some financial support and lots of training on how to set up her business plan. We continue to encourage and guide her along her business journey.”
Julie also helped Cristine create a Facebook page to spread the word about her work.
“Christine’s confidence has grown so much, and she is now coming up with ideas for more photography to be sold for the 2024 season. She is also painting Christmas decorations sold at the gift shop.” Christine says she can see her own improvement with her photography and painting skills from one year to the next.
Programs offered at the center
There is a full-time bakery division, wood workshop division, seasonal ice cream shop, a skills enhancement day program, and an employment transition program.
Judy says the kitchen is always busy with both clients and staff creating many different types of goods for customers.
“The bakery continues to supply Souris Co-op with baked goods. We also do pre-orders for customers such as sandwiches, sweets, and veggies for people from the community. And we make the bread loaves and rolls for the Fortune Bridge Diner.”
They also deliver a home-cooked full meal for a respite day program three days a week through a working relationship with Health PEI.
“The woodworking shop offers clients the opportunity to learn woodworking skills with the support of Harbourview staff. Clients get to build wood products that we sell in our showcase gift shop, such as seasonal decorative items and hanging signs that can be personalized to suit the customer.
“Our shop also accepts custom requests to build benches, picnic tables, frames, shelving and more. One of the busiest sections is our refinishing/refurbishing area. Customers bring in items such as desks, chairs, and tables for our clients to refinish.
“The Gift Shop on location has a showroom featuring wood products made exclusively by our clients. You’ll find items such as seasonal decorative pieces, cottage decor, rustic signs, birdhouses, mirrors, and so much more.
“One of our client programs is the seasonally run ice cream shop at Souris Beach Gateway Park, where our clients, with the support of staff, serve hard ice cream to customers, take care of the restock, and do daily banking and daily cleaning. The shop is used as an employment teaching tool so that clients can gain transferable work skills in a supportive environment alongside co-workers. It is also a key social opportunity for clients. We appreciate all the support from area residents and visitors.
“We support our clients all the way through the stages and ages of their work life. A number of our clients are now in their retirement years.
“When clients get used to the routine of being at the center, it becomes a big part of their life, so we make adjustments depending on each person’s situation to accommodate their needs.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
contact Harbourview Training Center at 902-687-3032.