SERVING THE COMMUNITY - Joanne Arifin

SERVING THE COMMUNITY - Joanne Arifin

Action Group a multi-faceted service for Lacombe and area

Community organization has a 35-year history in the City and beyond

For more than 35 years, Action Group has been providing services to Lacombe and beyond.

Action Group is a not-for-profit group based in Lacombe that offers support to individuals with developmental disabilities. It provides a number of services to both adults and children in Central Alberta including employment services and residential services.

Action Group was formed in 1976 by a group of parents in Lacombe, some of whom had children with developmental disabilities, who decided to build a group home in the community for their children. Since then, the organization has expanded to offer other services as well and now operates throughout Central Alberta.

Deb Martin, executive director for Action Group, has been with the organization since the very beginning.

When she joined, operating that one group home was the extent of Action Group’s services.

Martin said that there are a great many things she enjoys about working with Action Group, but one of her favourite aspects of the job is seeing the clients develop over the years.

“We have a number of individuals who have been here since they were children,” said Martin. “(I enjoy seeing) them grow and develop and become successful adults and be happy in the community.”

Finding out what is necessary for an individual to be successful and providing them with those skill sets is another thing Martin enjoys about her job, she said.

“It’s just like your own kids,” said Martin. “You want to see them grow up and be successful. And I’ve been able to see that with so many individuals and that’s very rewarding.”

In fact, giving individuals the tools they need to be successful is at its most basic what Action Group does.

Martin said Action Group works with varied disabilities, but tries to focus instead on what can be done to make individuals successful in the community.

Today, Action Group manages about 20 residential homes (and is building two more to open the beginning of April) and has an operating budget of over $12 million.

Martin said the organization evolved over time, expanding to meet the needs of its clients and their families.

Martin said that after a while Action Group began looking into employment supports to offer all facets of service rather than just residential.

This full-faced service model also led to expansion of other services as well. Action Group started with residential and then moved into home support, employment and outreach services.

Now, the organization offers two types of employment services. Those are the programs for those with development disabilities and programs for those without.

The program serving individuals with developmental disabilities is two-fold.

Martin said Action Group does employment prep with its clients and then finds a placement and then works on stabilization and making sure that job is a good fit for the individual.

Sometimes finding a good fit will require a change in jobs, working with the client so that they perform better at work or working with the employer so they are aware of any special needs the client might have, said Martin.

She said that Action Group works with a number of employers in all kinds of industries within Lacombe and Red Deer.

Action Group also has an employment centre that caters to Albertans without disabilities. Martin said the centre works both with employers to find potential employees and with potential employees to find employment.

She added that between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals might come through the employment office in one year.

Another big part of what Action Group does is community access services, connecting people to the community. One of the ways this is done is through a learning circle program in Lacombe and Red Deer, said Martin.

Martin said the goal behind community is to connect individuals to the community so that they are able to do things independently.

She added that Action Group’s programs have been quite successful in forming those connections.

“A lot of the individuals (in our programs) have more connections with the community than the majority of the population.”

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