Cedar Crest Society for Community Living celebrates its 40th anniversary July 31, and it has a lot to be proud of.
The organization, which provides life-skills training for people with mental challenges, has taken punches along the way, but continues to expand, thrive, and gain ever-growing respect from the community.
A large part of the celebration will be a barbecue and open house at 100 Mile Community Hall, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 31, the date Cedar Crest was incorporated.
Musicians from Cedar Crest and their friends will perform at the event and there will also be display boards with photos, stories and all kinds of memorabilia.
Cedar Crest executive director Tim Guthrie says the general public is encouraged to bring items to add to the display, as Cedar Crest is missing several documented pieces of its history.
In the late 1980s, a flash flood left the basement, where records were kept, under water. Much of the keepsake material was lost, and then in 2009, a structure fire destroyed their building, including precious photo albums.
“We’d love to see your stuff and love to talk about it.”
Guthrie says Cedar Crest has come a long way during the past 40 years, beginning without a facility to operate from, then eventually acquiring a teacherage from Williams Lake, which was moved onto the spot on Birch Avenue now occupied by Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre.
Guthrie says the next home of Cedar Crest was in the Cariboo Pump and Water building, and following that, in a church building that was located on its current site on Cedar Avenue. In 1999, the wooden building was torn down and replaced with a roomier space, which was destroyed by a fire in 2009.
A second building on Spruce Avenue, which was acquired as an achievement centre, still remains with society.
“Many folks have never learned independent living skills and they can learn them there,” says Guthrie.
The new main building on Cedar Avenue was built on the ashes of the old one, and includes a thrift store that serves as a source of revenue and a training centre where people learn employment skills.
Cedar Crest also runs an Employment Services Program, which is currently partnered with Canada Safeway in 100 Mile House.
Each six-week program provides job experience and on-site personal support from a Cedar Crest support worker for trainees as they assist cashiers up front, packing groceries and interacting with customers.
Safeway manager Sean Watson says the program provides people from Cedar Crest and their talents with good exposure to the community, but it’s a two-way street.
“My employees look forward to seeing them – their smiling faces and upbeat attitudes. They bring an absolutely fantastic dynamic into the store and they’re just happy to be there.”
He holds Cedar Crest and the work it does in high regard.
“The people we have working there is amazing for such a small town. I’ve never seen a group of people work so hard toward integration and life-skills training.”
While the face of Cedar Crest has changed and grown with the times, so has its name. When incorporated, the organization was called 100 Mile District Association for the Mentally Retarded.
It then changed to Cedar Crest Society for Handicapped Persons, and following that, Cedar Crest Society for Mentally Handicapped. It got its current name in 1991.
Guthrie says he’s not proud of the wording used in the early names, but it’s not something he wants to sweep under the carpet either. While mindsets in Canada have evolved over the years, he is uncomfortably aware it’s not the same everywhere.
“The label “retarded” is still used regularly in some parts of the United States.”