Celebrating 60 Years
Community Living Essex County’s rich history dates back to 1961.
Community Living Essex County was formed in 1961 by families who believed in and struggled for their sons and daughters to remain a part of their family life and their community. This Association is very much a grass roots organization formed by the community, in the community!
Today – six decades later – we continue to embrace our grass roots by providing family-directed supports to people of all ages with an intellectual disability.
1958On September 18th a group of 8 parents met with representatives of the Sandwich South School Board and community groups to begin the process of establishing and operating a school for their children.
1959The Sun Parlour School opened its doors on January 5th. Affectionately called “the little red school house” it had one room, one teacher, four students, a borrowed station wagon and lots of courage!
1961Incorporated as the Essex County Association for Retarded Children on September 11th, 1961 with operating bylaws, 37 students, and an operating budget of $35,537.
1961In November, Sun Parlour was relocated to a former doctor’s residence at 115 Talbot Street North in Essex. Its bus drivers would travel 450 miles daily to bring students to school.
1963April 1 – The County of Essex budget provided almost $60,000 in grants to various non-profit organizations with the largest grant of $23,410 to Sun Parlour School.
1964A first adult “workshop” called Sun Parlour Training Centre was opened. It provided adult day supports to five people and was located in Maidstone.
1971A 5,400 square foot building was constructed to house ARC (Adult Rehabilitation Centre) Industries, a sheltered workshop producing woodworking and light assembly for 55 adults – a real growth from the previous location serving 21 people.
1973On May 27, the pupils and staff on Sun Parlour School invited the public to the opening of their new building on Maidstone Avenue in Essex. At the time, it served 94 students and boasted 12 classrooms, a music room, home economics room and industrial arts workshop.
1974A 3,000 square foot addition to ARC was added to allow for a closed in woodworking shop. At the time of the addition there were 23 names on the waiting list. ARC Industries continued to operate until 1993.
1976The Sun Parlour Day Nursery School opened. It was a 5 room, $127,000 addition to the school to accommodate up to 30 children ranging in ages from 2 to 5 years old.
1979A group of volunteers from the community of Ruthven came together to start the very first farmers market and Ruthven Apple Festival. This event is still held every year at the end of September.
1982The first children’s residence in Essex County was opened. It became home to 5 children who had previously lived in an institution, also offering 2 additional beds for emergency respite services to families.
1983The former Michael’s Department Store located at 49 Talbot Street North in Essex became the new central administration office and housed 15 employees. The front of the building was used to display products of “Wood and What Knot”.
1986Celebrated the 25th anniversary and grew to provide three workshops, nursery school program, four group living homes, transportation services, a work contract program, and recreation program. Employed 140 people, supported over 200 people, and had an operating budget of close to 3 million dollars.
1989Changed the name to Essex County Association for Community Living. The change resulted from people not wanting to be identified by a label.
1989Partnership with Ken Knapp Ford began, fostering the Jingle Bell Run, Walk & Wheel. This event is still held every November.
1990The Annual Golf Charity Tournament is born. This tradition is still carried on today, with the addition of a Municipal Cup Challenge where the municipalities across the county sign up to claim the cup – and bragging rights!
1991Celebrated our 30th anniversary with a week-long series of special events, including a dinner/dance, open houses and tours of offices, resource centers and homes across Essex County.
1992Joined a province wide lobby at Queens Park to convince the Minister of Community and Social Services to reconsider cutbacks in funding. Three busloads of supporters from Essex County joined thousands of people from across Ontario at a rally organized by the Ontario Association for Community Living.
1992A partnership with Devonshire Mall for an Annual Holiday Gift Wrapping Booth fundraiser begins.
1994The doors to a brand new, accessible, administrative/program office were opened. Located at 372 Talbot Street North in Essex, the former location of ARC industries.
Late 1990sThousands of people with an intellectual disability moved from smaller institutions to a life in their chosen community. This Association assisted many people to return from distant institutions to Essex County.
2003Changed the name to Community Living Essex County. This change aligned the organization with hundreds of other Community Living organizations in Canada.
2005The Annual Mayor’s Luncheon was born! This event celebrates Community Living Month in Ontario. In its early years, it was four separate events. Each event took place in a different community across Essex County. Held every May, the Mayor’s Luncheon is an annual event that brings together the communities and our leaders across Essex County.
2008Community Living Essex County undergoes a transformation and unveils new, more colourful logos. Still using the signature “starburst”, the single teal colour is replaced with a more vibrant green and blue, adding the tagline ‘inspiring possibilities’. By March 31st all provincially operated institutions in Ontario were closed.
2009At Lakeside Pavillion and Park in Kingsville, a province-wide reflection was held on March 31st to remember the lives lived in institutions and to celebrate the move to community living.
2009At the AGM, the Ladies Auxiliary were honoured for their decades of assistance organizing events with a plaque that still hangs in the offices today.
2012Registered with Focus Accreditation, and so the journey to reaching accreditation and continuous quality improvement began.
2014May – Leapt into the world of Social Media. Social Media sites were launched in May (Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, followed by Instagram later in the year, and eventually LinkedIn in May of 2015).
2014June 17 – Journey to reach Accreditation came to a successful awarding of a Certificate of Accreditation at our Annual General Meeting.
2014October – Provided assistance to over 100 former residents of Huronia Regional Centre, Southwest Regional Centre, and Rideau Regional to file submissions for compensation in a provincial Class Action Lawsuit.
2015March 9th – One of 38 organizations across Ontario to receive a grant from the Ministry of Community and Social Services Employment and Modernization fund to develop a “First Choice – Employment” Program.
2015May – Received approval from the Ministry of Community and Social Services to move forward with “Real Change” to modernize and transform supports and services and to develop a Centre for Innovation and Quality Supports.
2016 – June 17Officially launched Career Compass, our modernized Employment Service, which provides direction to job seekers searching for meaningful employment and guides employers in inclusive hiring.
2016 – DecemberWe received funding from the Developmental Services Housing Task Force to launch Smart Support Technology Enabled Services, which involved implementing technology to enhance the opportunities for people we support to succeed in reaching their goals.
2018 – June 11Community Living Essex County achieves re-accreditation from Focus Accreditation. We scored 358 out of 364, resulting in an outstanding overall score of 98.35 per cent!
2019 – June 26Launched As Safe As Possible, a project that empowers people with an intellectual disability to avoid victimization through education about exploitation and human trafficking, and educates police and justice personnel about the abilities and needs of people with an intellectual disability.
2019Celebrated the 40th Ruthven Apple Festival, our annual fundraiser which takes place at Colasanti’s. The Ruthven Apple Festival has raised over $1 million dollars, and these funds continue to be directed toward the purchase and maintenance of accessible vehicles.
2020As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we launched Virtual Supports. Virtual Supports have become a great way to keep people connected while having fun and staying safe.
2021Community Living Essex County celebrates our 60th Anniversary! Although celebrations were limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we celebrated with activities including a raffle, burial of a time capsule and a Virtual 60th Anniversary Celebration.
Did You Know…
Community Living Essex County continues to be at the forefront of our sector, leading the charge in finding innovative new ways to deliver quality supports and services to families and their loved ones.