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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

I’m all INclusion: CLEC hosts 14th annual Mayors’ Luncheon

Photo submitted: During the 14th annual Mayors’ Luncheon last Wednesday, local dignitaries along with supporters, clients, and staff members of CLEC showed off their new “I’m All INclusion” t-shirts, which was the theme of the event.

by Sylene Argent

Over the past 13 years, over 2000 people have heard Community Living Essex County’s (CLEC) message at the annual Mayor’s Luncheon. The event has showcased the abilities of some of its clients, spread the message of inclusion and equality, and encouraged business owners to consider hiring individuals with an intellectual disability, based on their abilities.

  A new roomful of individuals – which included local dignitaries, Essex County area municipal staff members, and representatives of local service clubs – got to hear that message at the 14th annual event, which took place inside the hall at Holy Name of Jesus Church last Wednesday afternoon.

  The theme for this year’s event was, “I’m all INclusive.”

  “Why do we do this? Because it works,” Tony DeSantis said, CLEC’s Manager of Community Relations and Resource Development, as the event emcee. “We are continuing to plant the seed of inclusive communities.”

  CLEC hosts its annual Mayors’ Luncheon in May, which is recognized as Community Living Month in Ontario. The event has been a great way for the staff and clients to talk about the local organization’s priorities and services with area decision-makers.

  During the luncheon, special guests were introduced to members of New Day, which is a group affiliated with CLEC and comprised of eight of its clients. Group members gather weekly, as part of the self-advocacy group, to complete the committee’s mission, which includes teaching others about rights.

  “It is a great opportunity for me,” member Brianne Taggart said of being involved with New Day. She said the members also talk about inclusion and learn how to advocate for themselves.

Photo submitted: Bruce Monton, Fire Chief of the Town of Amherstburg, spoke of the benefits of hiring persons with intellectual disabilities during CLEC’s 14th annual Mayors’ Luncheon.

  Karen Bolger, Executive Director of CLEC, said she was proud to take the opportunity during the event to showcase the continuing impact CLEC has on the lives of its clients.

She noted over the 58 years CLEC has been around, it has grown from a grassroots operation to an organization that assists around 700 clients and employs around 730 staff members, which makes it one of the largest non-profit employers in the area.

Essex County Warden and Mayor of Tecumseh, Gary McNamara, expressed thanks for all the work CLEC does for its roster of clients.

“The service you provide is second to none,” he said, adding the organization also provides opportunities for its clients to excel.

In addition, he recognized those who have hired CLEC clients. “For all those who aspire to hire an individual from Community Living, thank you for all you do.”

He said more needs to be done, in terms of municipal government.

“It is a challenge. We should do a better job in creating opportunities for our friends at Community Living,” he said.

Bruce Monton, Fire Chief of Amherstburg, was one of the special guest speakers at the event.

I’m going to tell you, “I’m all in,” he said, referring to the event theme. He spoke of the positive experiences he has had when it came to hiring individuals with disabilities. “I truly want our entire world to be ‘all in’ and inclusive.”

DeSantis reminded the municipal leaders present that Community Living Essex County hosts a fundraising golf tournament each July, which also pits teams of area councillors against one another in the quest to earn the Municipal Cup. He said the team from Leamington has been successful in earning the trophy for the past three years, which was sure to rile up the competitiveness of those who plan to participate ahead of the tournament.  


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