Special needs met in a special place

 — Oct. 30, 201030 oct. 2010

Special needs met in a special place;
Former Presbyterian church becomes resource for the mentally challenged

Several decades ago, five lots of city land on McKercher Drive were donated to the Presbyterian Church in Canada by the McKercher family, long-time members of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. A plan was eventually put together to develop a ministry in the College Park area and McKercher Drive Presbyterian Church was established. The congregation grew to several hundred with a thriving Sunday School and three Sunday services.

However, the dynamics changed over the years. People moved away; members aged. Last year the decision was made to amalgamate with St. Andrew’s Presbyterian and sell the building on McKercher Drive.

The church facility was sold to Light of the Prairies, an organization that works with mentally challenged individuals and provides specific programming for those with complex needs. The proceeds from the sale were disbursed as the congregation directed: to Saskatoon Native Circle Ministry, Camp Christopher, Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, University Ecumenical Chaplaincy, Sherbrooke Nursing Home, St. Andrew’s Building Fund, and the Presbytery of Northern Saskatchewan.

“The congregation felt very good about being able to sell the church building to Light of the Prairies, another group doing good work,” says Rev. Amanda Currie, minister at St. Andrew’s, “because under them, what we consider to be good ministry continues to take place there.”

Light of the Prairies (LOTP) was initiated in the late 1980s under the auspices of the Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. The organization ran a group home for people with high needs and a day program for 20 individuals with complex needs. “Because the program was operating in two separate locations, neither of which was completely suitable or appropriate, Light of the Prairies approached the Government for funding for a better facility,” says Evelyn Morrison, an original LOTP board member.

At the same time another group, Families United Saskatoon Inc. (FUSI) was seeking similar funding from the Government. The Ministry of Social Services suggested funding would be forthcoming if the two groups amalgamated.

They did, on July 6 of 2009. The promised funding was granted and LOTP was able to purchase McKercher Presbyterian’s church building which came up for sale about the same time.

Today, LOTP operates its day program in the former church.

“The people we work with are high- and complex-needs individuals who don’t fit in the Cosmo Industries program,” says Linda Ebach, Light of the Prairies board chair. “It’s not because they are incapable, but because they don’t function well in a large group settings. The individuals are designated to us by Community Living, and there are currently 22 in the program.

“They come during the day for an individualized program that meets their needs. Most of our participants need to have a Person Central Plan developed that is tailored to better enhance each individual’s life and enable them to cope with the disabilities they have.”

Together the group at LOTP is involved in practical activities like paper shredding and newspaper rolling (the products are sold to florists), swimming, bowling, and volunteering for Meals on Wheels.

“We have acquired sensory equipment and developed two sensory rooms in the McKercher facility,” Ebach says. “Some equipment is for calming the senses, some is for stimulating the senses. We also work with touch, sound, music and colour.”

The LOTP facility has a day program coordinator who supervises about 14 staff. A ten-member board oversees the organization. Ebach is board chair; Morrison is treasurer. Terry and Shirley Hellquist, who were instrumental in the establishment of FUSI, are board members.

“Light of the Prairies has received substantial support from the Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon,” Hellquist says, “and the Presbyterian Church is very supportive of what we do. I think they wanted to see us get this building because they view us as a ministry in the community. By enhancing the lives of the people we serve, we are enhancing the community. We are serving people who fit nowhere else.”

“The long-range plan of LOTP is to expand and enhance the existing program to meet the needs of other individuals we’re being asked to take,” says Ebach. “We also hope to open more group homes.”

Light of the Prairies currently operates two group homes, one for five individuals on Edward Avenue. It was purchased by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon many years ago. Another group home on St. Lawrence Avenue can accommodate three. Both facilities have 24-hour staff.

Says Currie: “The history of McKercher Drive Presbyterian Church reveals faithful people leaving a legacy. When the congregation became too small to continue, the people of the church felt ready to let go of that particular ministry and free up resources to do other things. Turning over the building to Light of the Prairies seems to be a continuation of that faithful legacy of caring and ministering in the community.”

Posted: Oct. 30, 2010 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=6091
Categories: NewsIn this article: Presbyterian Church in Canada, Saskatoon
Transmis : 30 oct. 2010 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=6091
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Presbyterian Church in Canada, Saskatoon

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