A CCRA News delivery team drops into Mr Beans for a break. Front left to right: Paul, Katie and Christine. Back left to right: Mark, Adam, Corey and team manager Michelle Brown.

By Kathryn Stocks

Centennial News is pleased to shine a spotlight on two groups of adults with special needs who deliver the paper to this community each month.

For Michelle Brown’s clients, delivering the paper is “their job,” she said. Their route includes both plazas in Centennial as well as homes on Cameron Glen Blvd., Rozell Rd. and part of Meadowvale.

Michelle is a life coach who takes her six clients out three at a time to deliver. Her clients have cerebral palsy, autism, fragile X syndrome or other intellectual disabilities, and they range in age from their early 30s to 65. The oldest has been with her for 25 years.

“I encourage a lot of independence,” she said. “I don’t believe in ‘can’t’. Any age is capable.” She lets them decide among themselves who will deliver the papers and who will carry the bag. They’ve been delivering the Centennial News for at least eight years, and they were fortunate that they were able to continue working during the COVID lockdowns.

They also help the community by delivering Meals on Wheels on Mondays and Thursdays. Some of the seniors who receive the meals communicate with her clients and Michelle beamed that “the engagement between them is beautiful.”

Michelle sees herself as a facilitator who is helping her clients grow by keeping them active. On Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, she takes the group on walks in any weather, and  they go out for lunch, go bowling or do drumming. The group picked apples in September and enjoyed exploring farms in the Scugog area. A recent tour of the fire station was a highlight for them. “It was amazing,” she said.

Michelle gets paid through the Passport Program at DSO (Developmental Services Ontario). This program, funded by the provincial government, helps adults with a developmental disability be involved in their communities and live as independently as possible.

The other group that delivers this paper is from the Pines Adult Day Centre, a non-profit day program for adults with special needs located at St. Margaret in the Pines Anglican Church. The program has been in existence for about 30 years and it has 25 students and five full-time staff members.

They encourage their students to achieve their full potential in a safe, enriching environment and they promote independent activities, the assistant program director said. The students range in age from their 20s to their 40s. Some are full-time and others are part-time.

The centre’s staff members take out three to four students at a time to deliver the paper. Their route for delivery includes the businesses in Highland Creek and the homes on Acheson Blvd. But this is a small part of their activities. They also deliver Meals on Wheels once a week.

The students are driven from their homes to the centre by van Mondays to Fridays and they stay from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Outings are a big part of their days as well as academics like reading and writing, and activities like baking, singing, playing games and doing crafts. The students have both learning and physical disabilities but the centre keeps them active.

The Pines had to close for many months during the pandemic and it was a difficult time for the centre as a non-profit and for the students who had to hunker down at home. Staff connected with them through Zoom meetings on Fridays where they sang songs and heard stories. “It really wasn’t easy,” the assistant program director said. They’re all glad to be back now, for the sake of everyone’s physical and mental health.