Annual Message From
CEO Dr. Claudine Cousins
The theme of my message to you this year is moving forward. We have put behind us many of the restrictions and limitations the pandemic placed upon us, and have moved forward in re-opening our doors and being able to reconnect with one another. It’s wonderful to be able to welcome everyone back!
We never stopped for a minute to move ahead here at Empower Simcoe. In 2021, Empower Simcoe was reaccredited for another four-year term by the Council for Quality and Leadership who recognized us as “an elite organization that embodies the very best in human services”. It is with heartfelt thanks to our invaluable employees for the work they do supporting people every day to lead a meaningful life that we were able to achieve this honour. Being an accredited organization is a direct result of their commitment and hard work.
Watch Claudine’s Message
As our current strategic plan comes to an end, I am pleased to report we accomplished 98.5% of the outcomes identified in the 2017-2022 strategic plan! I am so very proud of the effort our team put forward to continue moving this work forward, despite the challenges of managing a pandemic. What a testament to the hard-working team we have here at Empower Simcoe! You can read more about the results in the Annual Report. And with the assistance of our consultants, we are now ready to embark on our new three-year strategic plan which will guide us forward for the next three years.
Not only are we launching a new three-year strategic plan in the fall, we have simultaneously undertaken an organizational assessment to ensure that Empower Simcoe continue to be a forward moving organization that operates effectively and efficiently at the highest levels.
Also, the construction of Lakeshore Ridge in Oro-Medonte, our designated treatment home, has remained on-target for occupancy in summer 2022. We are excited to be able to provide state-of-the-art living to people with complex special needs in this tranquil, peaceful setting where everyone will be supported to define and enhance their quality of life.
It has truly been a team effort getting through the pandemic and I must again acknowledge all the hard-working employees along with the Leadership Team at Empower Simcoe who make us the great organization that we are. They enable us to provide exceptional supports and services to the people and families we serve. It is with gratitude and thankfulness to both Board of Directors’ for their guidance this past year; their support and effort have been unwavering. We also acknowledge and value the relationships with our funders and community partners.
I know the solid foundation of our Vision, Mission and Values will continue to guide us as we move forward with our new strategic priorities and position ourselves for the work that lies ahead. We look forward to an exciting year, full of promise and revitalization.
Dr. Claudine Cousins
Chief Executive Officer
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Protecting stakeholders’ interests, establishing policies for management, oversight of the organization, and making decisions about important issues Empower Simcoe faces.
Hello, I am Deborah Wall-Armstrong, President of the Empower Simcoe Board of Directors.
This past year has been a continuation of challenges for everyone, full of uncertainties, and ups and downs. On behalf of my fellow Board members, we offer our profound thanks to CEO Claudine Cousins, the senior leadership team, and all Empower Simcoe employees for their unwavering dedication and commitment to the agency, especially during these trying times.
Empower Simcoe’s priority throughout the pandemic has been first and foremost, the safety, health and emotional well-being of its staff and the people and families it supports.
Annual Message From Board of Directors President
Empower Simcoe is known for its innovation and willingness to embrace new approaches in response to the changing needs of the people we support. This past year, the agency also had to continue to respond to a rapidly changing environment, and I again commend everyone on the creative and innovative ways that some alternative supports and services were provided and are transitioning to hybrid options. You have all strived to continue to support the people we serve, to Be, Belong, and Thrive, even during the most challenging of times. A significant example of your ability to meet the challenges to move forward, is the completion of Empower Simcoe’s new state of the art supported living home; Lakeshore Ridge, which officially opens its doors this year.
As we move forward, some uncertainty still remains. I have no doubt that whatever lies before us, the team at Empower Simcoe will respond as it has in the past with ingenuity, professionalism and passion. Stay safe and be well.
President, Empower Simcoe Board of Directors
Watch Deborah’s Message
Core Values represent our highest priorities and core, fundamental driving forces.
They are the heart of what our organization and employees stand for in the world.
Where We're At
As we come to the close of our 2018-2022 strategic plan, I have nothing but appreciation for the efforts of my team. It has been no small feat to have completed almost all of the tasks on a very ambitious strategic plan. We had no idea when we first started this work that we would have to contend with mandatory masking, multiple lockdowns, and almost three years of a pandemic.
We achieved an incredible 98.5% completion rate on the overall 2018-2022 Strategic plan. A tremendous effort from the whole Empower Simcoe team!
Outcome #1 People Receive Excellent Services – 97%
The Social Housing Initiatives and Partnerships Committee completed its work to pursue and research social housing opportunities and partnerships. We will continue to leverage the resources and networking opportunities available through Regional Housing Support Services to bring future appropriate leads forward. Lakeshore Ridge, the new designated treatment home for individuals with complex special needs, is on target for completion with an anticipated opening date of August 2022. Cohorts exploring community based options (groups of 4-5 people with common interests, facilitated by an Empower Simcoe employee) continues to grow. A Fee-for-Service menu has been created and the implementation of this service will continue into our next strategic plan.
Outcome #2 People Experience Services as an Extension of Our Community Reach and Connections – 100%
The rebranding, new name and tagline Be.Belong.Thrive has solidified our agency’s identity with our employees, community partners and the community at large, as a multi-service agency that empowers people of all abilities to lead a meaningful and inclusive life. Our strategic objective to broaden our social media reach and capabilities have resulted in a consistent upward growth in our agency social media platforms.
Much work has also been done to develop a multi-generational focused Communication Plan through the hosting of Town Halls, use of media outlets, and connecting and sharing through targeted newsletters.
Outcome #3: People Experience Services as a Result of Building Our Capacities to Serve – 97%
We were successful in the creation of a scorecard to provide the Board with a high-level overview of the health of the agency, and in the development of a comprehensive Asset Management Plan. Even with the limitations of the pandemic, we made great progress in terms of expanding on virtual training options, promoting LifeWorks EAP program and the delivery of 12 wellness webinars and are at 75% completion of core competency training for our employees. The effects of the pandemic also had an impact in regards to our strategic goal around the Volunteer program as many areas of the agency were unable to accept or utilize volunteers with the safety protocols in place for our employees and the people we support.
We were also able to complete two longer term strategies identified in the Strategic Plan.
The development of a multi-year technology plan allowed the agency to deliver more accessible supports and services to the people we support, as well as the ability to deliver some programs virtually for a broader reach and minimizing physical distance barriers. An increase in efficiencies was also realized through the use of new applications.
The Empower Simcoe Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council made great gains on their workplan including the creation of a cultural/diversity competency definition and land acknowledgement statement. A review of policies and updating to include an EDI lens was also accomplished. We continue to receive requests from outside organizations interested in learning about our processes and tools and are being recognized as leaders on this front.
I cannot express enough how proud I am of the dedicated employees of Empower Simcoe. Their efforts to complete the numerous tasks of an extremely robust strategic plan, while dealing with the challenges of the pandemic, is truly remarkable. Thank you again to all our employees for your hard work.
Dr. Claudine Cousins, Empower Simcoe CEO
2021 / 2022 Update
Completion Rate of 2018-22 Strategic Plan
Working with consultants to support development of 2022-25 Strategic Plan + organizational assessment
Joe Roberts, Skidrow CEO Presentation
Almost 120 employees attended or viewed this inspiring presentation on transformation and resiliency
Successfully achieved another four year accreditation, being recognized by CQL as “an elite organization that embodies the very best in human services”
Innovation & Independence Activator
Completed Levels of Independence with 15 individuals resulting in some being supported to learn new skills aimed at achieving their goal of independence
CSS shifted from building based supports to direct community participation and inclusion through the development of cohorts (groups of people participating in common interests, with an Empower Simcoe employee)
Profiled members of the Believe in Yourself and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council in the newsletter and launched a volunteer recruitment advertising campaign through a variety of media including radio and TV
Empower Simcoe App
Empower Simcoe app launched for download through the app store or google play store to further connect employees, volunteers and people we support and their families
Employee Engagement & Recognition
Employees crafted inspirational feathers with words of appreciation and affirmation to create “wings”
Recruitment Focused Marketing Campaign
Participated in Direct Support Workforce initiative to improve recruitment/retention of direct support staff
Net Promoter Score
Created a survey to go out every six months to families of people we support to provide hi-level data for the Board scorecard on people being satisfied with our services; recommending our services to others
Journey Home Program
In partnership with the County of Simcoe, launched the new Landlord Partnership Program to support the recovery of the Motel Shelter Model used throughout the pandemic, assisting low income and vulnerable individuals with housing in the 2021/22 winter season.
Launched a pilot program with Fern Resort to facilitate sustainable relationships within the hospitality and tourism industry so parents/caregivers receiving respite services have the opportunity for much needed rest and rejuvenation while their child receives respite care.
Budget to Actual Analysis
Total Revenue was $1.8M more than budgeted. The main cause of this variance was due to the additional funding Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services’ (MCCSS) related to Pandemic Wage enhancement for front line employees. Total Expenses were over budget by $1.8M. This was due to the payments of the Pandemic Wage Enhancement funding received from MCCSS.
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STORIES OF SUCCESS
Infant & Child
Celebrating Steps to Independence
Meet Kanye. He loves watching Blippi videos, anything to do with big machines, and playing with cars. Since he was 18 months old, Kanye has been supported by the Simcoe County Infant and Child Development Program at Empower Simcoe.
As the gateway to services for families with infants and young children zero to school entry, who are at risk of or who have been identified as having a developmental delay, the knowledgeable and caring Empower Simcoe Infant and Child Development team provides vital support during times of great stress and vulnerability.
It’s a journey no family expects to take, and Empower Simcoe Infant and Child Development Workers like Adrienne Volgmann often set the positive, reassuring tone for a family’s experiences with all services.
“Working with Kanye’s family through developmental screenings and coordinating physiotherapy needs, Ankle-Foot orthotics were identified as something that would greatly assist his mobility and freedom of movement,” says Adrienne. “Kanye’s Mom, Debbie, finally felt for the first time, someone was listening to her and taking her concerns about Kanye’s needs seriously.”
Advocacy and meaningful collaboration with Early Intervention partners on behalf of children and families is a big part of Adrienne’s work as an Infant and Child Development Worker. “Parents know best and are the greatest experts regarding their children. It’s essential to listen to that parenting instinct,” adds Adrienne.
Since receiving his AFOs, Kanye has been much more stable on his feet and is running and jumping like a typical child! He also loves to joyfully ride his new strider bike around his neighbourhood. It’s an exciting time for Kanye and his family. This fall Kanye starts JK.
It’s a journey forward for Kanye and his family that Adrienne and Empower Simcoe are celebrating every step of the way.
Infant and Child Development Program
The Journey Home
With a big smile on his face and the keys to an affordable rental unit in hand, Roy Eakley of Orillia has found a place he can call home, thanks to the support of Empower Simcoe’s Landlord Partnership Program and collaborative community partners like Lakeview Realty in Orillia.
“Lakeview Realty has always allocated affordable rental units to those in need.
Empower Simcoe’s Landlord Partnership Program, and its incentives have been a tremendous help in alleviating the effects of the pandemic and the housing shortages gripping our community,” says Lakeview Realty owner Mike Preston. “Landlords working with this program will make positive contributions in getting families and vulnerable individuals into homes. I believe that there is an abundance of private market rental units that could be made available and affordable, and this program is helping to close the gap for those who are homeless.” Now, thanks to Mike and his team at Lakeview Realty, six individuals and their families, including Roy, have found housing.
In partnership with the County of Simcoe, Empower Simcoe’s Landlord Partnership Program called The Journey Home is a campaign to increase housing stock to recover from the Motel Shelter Model, so people don’t return to the streets. This incentive-laden program assisted low-income and vulnerable individuals accessing emergency shelters with housing throughout the 2021-2022 winter season.
“The Journey Home is an essential step towards ending the housing crisis in our community. We’re so grateful to community partners like Lakeview Realty and those who operate in the housing market who are helping those most vulnerable and at-risk,” says Dr. Claudine Cousins, Empower Simcoe CEO. “Because everyone deserves a place to live.”
Shelter Users Housed
Making Friends Through Music
Retired O.P.P. Officer Paul Marshall knows about the transformative power of music. He also knows a fellow music enthusiast when he sees one. While browsing at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Barrie, he couldn’t help noticing Empower Simcoe volunteer helper Patrick Hawgood keeping time to the store’s background music.
As Paul and his wife were downsizing their family home, he came across exactly what he felt Patrick might be interested in to help keep time with his favourite songs. With the assistance of Salvation Army Thrift Store Manager Amanda Costa, Paul reached out to Empower Simcoe to gift his vintage washboard, customized with cowbells and tinhorn, to a grateful and appreciative Patrick.
“Music has always been a big part of my life from childhood to high school, and then to my adult life, first with the washboard and then the ukulele. To see Patrick finding joy and his rhythm….well, it’s a big deal to me.”
For Patrick, who’s supported by Empower Simcoe’s Community Support Services, learning this new instrument and exploring its different rhythms and sounds has been a unique, creative way to express his love of music. “It’s very nice,” exclaims Patrick. “I love playing my washboard to my favourite band, Nickelback!”
Reunited recently at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, and as if right on cue, Paul and Patrick easily found their groove and entertained those in attendance with an impromptu jam session. According to Paul, “I think Patrick already had a love of music. I perhaps augmented it just a little.”
Thank you, Paul and Patrick for this miracle of music in action, and even more important, to new friendships made.
EMPOWER SIMCOE FOUNDATION
Raising funds to improve the quality of life for people of all abilities and foster an inclusive society.
Annual Message From
Foundation President Victoria Ptasiuk
Hello, I’m Victoria Ptasiuk, President of the Empower Simcoe Foundation.
The Empower Simcoe Foundation is proudly committed to generating funds and resources needed beyond government and other funding sources to improve the quality of life for people and families supported by Empower Simcoe while fostering an inclusive community.
Despite the uncertainty and fundraising challenges of this past year, the Empower Simcoe Foundation was pleased to launch our capital campaign, to support the building of Lakeshore Ridge, Empower Simcoe’s new state-of-the-art supported living home for individuals with multiple complex needs. Everyone deserves a place to call home, and your unwavering support allowed the Empower Simcoe Foundation to make a difference in people’s lives.
Watch Victoria’s Message
We were also delighted to see the return of our Annual Empower Simcoe Golf Tournament this past year, a day of friends and philanthropy that raised an incredible $41,000 for the Lakeshore Ridge Capital Campaign. Thank you to our generous sponsors, donors, community partners, and volunteers who have supported this signature event for twenty-five years.
On behalf of the Empower Simcoe Foundation Board of Directors, our heartfelt gratitude to all our donors, volunteers, community partners, and Empower Simcoe staff. Your incredible generosity and tireless efforts to assist the Empower Simcoe Foundation in responding to community needs through collaborative fundraising is to be applauded.
Financial Highlights 2021-2022
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Many people with intellectual disabilities are living at or below the poverty line and barely have enough money to cover rent, food and basic health expenses. This means recreational activities and specialized equipment that would contribute to a better quality of life are simply out of reach.
With the support of many generous donors, our fundraising campaigns support the purchase of accessibility equipment; cover the cost of specialized housing needs; assist families with respite; provide youth with skills development; offer adults and seniors recreational and leisure activities.
Your donation helps make it possible for people of all abilities to live a meaningful and inclusive life.
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A Donor's Story
As new parents with a baby who had special needs, Pam and John Bobbette weren’t sure where to turn. Luckily, they soon discovered the world of resources that Empower Simcoe (then called the Barrie and District Association for People with Special Needs) had to offer. Thirty-six years later, the Bobbette family is still involved with the agency, and their daughter, Allison, has become one of its best advocates.
Allison’s introduction to Empower Simcoe was through its Infant Stimulation program. That led to other programs like speech and occupational therapy. As Allison’s needs changed, the organization has been there for her – through elementary and high school, college, and into adulthood. She is now supported by Empower Simcoe’s Supported Independent Living program.
Seeing first-hand how vital Empower Simcoe’s mission is, the Bobbettes have been steadfast in their support. Pam volunteered with the family support group, mentoring and sharing with other moms the challenges faced by special needs children and their families. She also served on the agency’s board of directors for seven years.
Prior to COVID, they were actively involved with the Empower Simcoe Foundation’s signature annual fundraising events – the golf tournament in June and the fall fashion show. Allison even walked the runway in the fashion show. Last year Pam and John donated to a campaign to refurbish outdoor areas at the agency’s supported living homes, and they are considering adding gifts to the Empower Simcoe Foundation in their wills.
Through Empower Simcoe, Allison found her calling. “A few years ago, Empower Simcoe was involved in a Community Living Conference, and they asked Allie if she would like to speak about her journey,” said Pam. “They helped her prepare and then she went out and did her talk. She came back home and said, ‘I want to do this for a living.’”
Allison has never looked back. Today she is the author of the book, Inclusion is Beautiful, she wrote and recorded a song called I Am Able, and she is a public speaker who talks to groups about kindness, inclusion, self-acceptance and rising to challenges. She also sits on Empower Simcoe’s Board of Directors, and Empower Simcoe’s Believe In Yourself Committee, which advocates for people supported by the agency.
“Empower Simcoe has benefitted my life in such a beautiful way,” said Allison. “They have helped me to live the life I want and given me purpose and a cause. They have supported and helped me all my life and now I’m so happy to be helping them.”
People That Make The Difference
Investing in Resilience and Recovery After COVID-19
Thanks to a $127,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation Resilient Communities Fund grant, Empower Simcoe is excited to implement leadership, resilience, and mental wellness training facilitated by CL&F Consulting for its employees, volunteers and the people and families it supports.
“This investment by the Ontario Trillium Foundation allows us to develop and implement comprehensive training designed to support the self-care and resilience of volunteers and employees, including our essential front-line developmental service workers while continuing to offer high-quality supports during these challenging times,” says Dr. Claudine Cousins, Empower Simcoe CEO.
Empower Simcoe believes in supporting employee development by providing the right tools and training. In addition, technology and accessory purchases will ensure all staff and volunteers receive the training. Thanks to this OTF grant, added technology and accessory purchases will facilitate improvements in delivering services virtually, to better meet the community’s present and future needs.
“All Empower Simcoe employees, especially our direct support professionals, will benefit greatly from this Resilience and Self-Care training,” says Empower Simcoe Supports and Services Supervisor Kayla Hall. “This training will enable us to cope more effectively with the day-to-day stressors in our careers and give us the right tools to continue to provide the highest quality of care for the people and families we support.”
The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. Last year, nearly $112M was invested into 1,384 community projects and partnerships to build healthy and vibrant communities and strengthen the impact of Ontario’s non-profit sector. In 2020/21, OTF supported Ontario’s economic recovery by helping non-profit organizations rebuild and recover from the impacts of COVID-19. Visit otf.ca to learn more.