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Cooking Up Community Connections

David making pizzas and smiling wearing a blue apron and white chef hat.
David smiling while making pizzas!

Below Amanda Neely, a Local Community Connector (LCC) at KW Habilitation shares one of the many journeys her and her team have seen unfold through Out and About Waterloo Region (OAAWR):

Once Out and About Waterloo Region (OAAWR) had outgrown its pilot phase and become an established service, the Local Community Connectors (LCCs) decided to fully embrace the Journey to Belonging and no longer create calendars of classes or events. I saw this new approach as an opportunity to leverage skills, goals, and interests and to help people connect with their passions outside of KW Habilitation.

One of the people I work for, David loved LEG Up! And OAAWR cooking classes and utilized those classes to build his skills and confidence in the kitchen. Through getting to know David, it was clear that the kitchen was his happy place. I found a free cooking class nearby that we attended together until he felt confident enough to go alone. Once I saw him connecting and laughing with the other folks taking the class, I knew David was now a part of that community.

Though still a bit hesitant, David decided to further explore the community and discovered a passion for volunteering. He also gained the independence of travelling independently using Grand River Transit (GRT), with support from staff and specialized GRT bus training.

While doing some neighborhood mapping, I came across Tiny Home Takeout, an organization that assists people who are facing food insecurities by providing daily meals. Knowing that David loves to be in the kitchen, I decided to reach out to see if they needed volunteers. Tiny Home responded and offered to have David visit to learn more about the role. Though he and I were nervous about the fast-paced environment we saw, by the end of the day he was keeping up and fitting in beautifully! The Tiny Home crew was impressed and offered D.S. the chance to join the team.

I checked in at Tiny Home Takeout the next week and found David thriving independently, confidently managing his tasks. He ended up asking me to leave, as I was cramping his style! It’s a clear example of how person-directed goals and community connections can foster growth and independence in our evolving approach to inclusion. David is now involved in his community, living a meaningful life doing things that he loves. Several days a week he is contributing to the community in a way that he chose. This person has begun feeling like they are an important part of the community which is BELONGING!!

D.S.’s involvement in community volunteering has positively impacted both his life and his community. Additionally, the transition from cooking classes at KW Habilitation to cooking classes at the Health Caring Centre illustrates that the people we work for can belong anywhere that anyone else can.