Gala 2018 Pic

I’ve come to realize that effectiveness in the role The Semiahmoo Foundation plays in the community is largely dependent on the quality of our relationships, with trust being at the center in the development of meaningful connections. Without trust, people would not pay much attention to what we say and do, and it would be impossible to do our work. This is particularly true when the work is as abstract as ours. We don’t have the benefit of demonstrating our value through the delivery of services. We only have ourselves, and the way we carry ourselves.

With trust, we embrace diversity, engage in respectful dialogue and achieve greatness. If I take, for example, the type of collaborative work that happens when planning events, trust is evident and felt among the members our team. Together, we are committed to achieving a shared outcome. We pull together; we are comfortable with each other; we feel safe and secure; and we can be vulnerable. By being vulnerable, we can be ourselves and give our best.

In addition, in a non-profit environment with limited resources, trust makes our team more productive. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree with everything we say and do. The mutual respect we have for each other allows us to evaluate our different perspectives and incorporate them in our life-long learning journeys.

Having trusting relationships is precious. In my experience, most people in our line of work are inclined to trust easily. However, if the trust is lost, it’s difficult to get it back. One small event, a few inconsiderate words can quickly erode our sense of trust. It can take a disproportionate amount of good deeds and time before trust and respect can be restored again. Trust is the kind of bank account that requires constant deposits.

Each one of us is individually accountable to inspire trust. It pays to be introspective and ask ourselves whether or not our words and actions are congruent with the trusting and respectful relationships we are hoping to develop, starting by nurturing a set of values, such as honesty, vulnerability, integrity and inclusiveness. Then, something magical happens. Like-minded people congregate and garner the power to transform the world.

By Louise Tremblay, Director of Development with UNITI

UNITI is the partnership of three societies, Semiahmoo House Society, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and The Semiahmoo Foundation. For more information, please go to


Living at Chorus by Madeleine Wieczorek


The Chorus apartment building has been a dream of Semiahmoo  House  Society for over 10 years and now that dream has come to life in the form of a beautiful building in South Surrey.  It’s on property that Semiahmoo House owns and is right across the parking lot from the main building.

There are 71 units in the building, 20 of the units come with support for people like me, with disabilities.  The other units are for the general public, including some seniors and young families, a nice mix of people.   I know people in the building, some who go to Semiahmoo House programs with me and other people too.  My mom says it’s like living in a college dorm, where you know the people down the hall.

Chorus is in a good neighbourhood, close to shops, transit, parks, a library, swimming pools and movie theatres.

I moved in two years ago and live in my own studio apartment, which I like to call my Penthouse because it is on the top floor and has high ceilings.  It has a dishwasher, washer and dryer and my own patio.   Some of the furniture came from my family home but some of it I bought myself.

I do my own grocery shopping, cook my meals by myself most of the time,  do my own laundry and clean my apartment.  I take out the garbage and compost and recycling too.

When people ask me if I have a roommate or if I live on my own, I say I live with my cat.  I am glad it is a pet friendly building.

I am proud to say that I live as independently as possible with support.  I like the support workers who check up on us and help when we need them.

I now feel more like a grown up in some ways and in other ways I am still like a kid.  I like to watch Disney movies, ride my scooter, blow bubbles and play with my dollhouse.

My family and friends are proud of me for living in my own apartment.

I am happy and really like living at Chorus.  I think there should be more buildings like it for my friends who want their own place too.

Madeleine Weiczorek

Our Journey as a Family

su and mady

Madeleine and Susan

I’m sure that those of you who are parents would agree with me when I say, “I would do just about anything for the sake of my children, anything & everything to make sure they are safe , to provide opportunities for them, to nurture & encourage them to be the best they can be, to take care of them.”

I think it’s a life-long commitment and it doesn’t stop when they are no longer children and are big enough to make their own lunch, do their own laundry, get a job, and drive a car or whatever defines grown up.

Almost 30 years ago, Ted & I moved across the country from Toronto to Tsawwassen.  One of the reasons, was we didn’t want our children to take a school bus to school.   Our so-called neighbourhood school was being closed.   How could I put a small, scared 6 year old,  an odd little duck,  as one specialist described her, a child with no definitive diagnosis, but with definite speech & language difficulties, odd behaviour and anxiety, how could I put her alone on a bus just to get to school?  The thought really bothered us, and then, what would happen when her baby sister needed to start school?

So when an opportunity came up for a career move, we did just that: moved across the country to be close to my sister and her young family.  She assured me there were lots of schools in Tsawwassen, no need for school buses. She found a good doctor, good day care, and the weather was better too.  Seemed like a good idea to us and it also meant I could be a stay-at-home Mom or perhaps just work part-time.

Our children called Tsawwassen home for almost 20 years. They they went to the local schools and participated in the usual activities of childhood, including Brownies & Guides, sports, music & dance lessons & Sunday school. During that time, when she was 11 years old, after many tests & specialist appointments, we finally received a diagnosis that Madeleine was on the Autism spectrum, high functioning, but on the spectrum and with a mild developmental disability. So now we knew what we were dealing with and started making plans to try and get some extra help.  The school system at the time was good and we enjoyed working with several good Special Education Assistants and the Resource Room teachers at South Delta Secondary School (SDSS).

However, we didn’t fare so well with help from the government. Autism funding didn’t exist back then. We learned about wait lists and falling through the cracks and not meeting the criteria for limited services.

Madeleine attended some specialized training courses at Kwantlen College and Vancouver Community College but the work placements didn’t result in real jobs at the end of the program so her future looked bleak.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about the black hole there is at the end of the road when children age out of the children’s system, turn 19 and become adults.  Out of school meant out of luck.  If we thought that there were limited opportunities for our daughter as a teenager, there were even fewer as an adult.  If it wasn’t for Special Olympics, and a small Social skills group offered through Delta Continuing Education, that met twice a month, she would have had very little to do in the way of recreation.

Delta Community Living Society accepted Madeleine and a friend for a summer recreational program but turned them away in the fall, saying they didn’t have the capacity to accept new clients living at home. Basically, they had their hands full with their current clients, people they had been working with for years providing recreational, employment & housing services.  There were services and programmes for others with more severe disabilities or limitations but not for our odd little duck.

From a personal and professional point of view, this was very disappointing, to put it mildly.   By now I was working part-time with children and youth with special needs and helping their families connect with available services and programmes offered by other agencies and associations:  Zajac Ranch, Easter Seals, Special Olympics, Semiahmoo House.

Semiahmoo House seemed to have lots going on for youth and adults, a full range of services and programs, year round, day programs, Rec and Leisure, including holiday trips, employment services and training, housing.

When we heard that Semiahmoo House was hosting meetings to talk about housing options for adults with  developmental disabilities it sounded like an opportunity too good to pass up.

Attending meetings and joining in discussions often raises questions and many of us expressed our worries and apprehension about the future.   As ageing parents, we knew we couldn’t and shouldn’t have our adult children living with us forever but where could they live if they didn’t need the full time services of a group home or if home share wasn’t available, or if there was no basement suite?  What were the options  ?

I remember going to one of the early meetings at Semiahmoo House, while we were still living in Delta.  The parents met in one room and our adult children went off to another room.   The goal for both groups was to brainstorm ideas about housing, what was important, what was necessary, what should be included, how to make the dream of living in their own place come true.    When the two groups reconvened to compare answers, it was remarkable that many of the ideas were the same.

  • People want to live in their own neighbourhood, be close to transit, shopping, recreational places, job opportunities, close to family and friends
  • They want to be safe and feel secure
  • They need private and personal space
  • Help and support should be available as necessary to help maintain a semi-independent way of living

As parents we are sometimes regarded as experts on our children and rightly so; we know them intimately… we’ve lived with them forever.  However sometimes it is important to step back and listen to our children, to honour their own ideas and dreams.  I remember asking Madeleine where she wanted to live and she said, “in an apartment above the garage”.   Great answer, but at the time, we didn’t have a garage.  Was this her way of saying, “I want my own space; I’m ready to go, but not too far away.”  We knew the time was coming to make some plans for the future.

So, seven years ago, with one of our children, Emily, out the door and on her own, we decided to move from Delta to Surrey in order to obtain the kind of housing we needed for our family.  There were very few options available in Tsawwassen as we considered downsizing whereas Surrey, specifically south Surrey/White Rock, had lots of townhouses and condos to choose from in good neighbourhoods, with easy access to shopping and services and good transit too.  And of course moving to South Surrey meant Madeleine would be able to check out the amazing programs and services at Semiahmoo House.

We weren’t the first family to move away and I’m sure we won’t be the last.

We found a nice townhouse, thanks to our good realtor, and immediately got involved at Semiahmoo House.  Madeleine joined Dance and Musical Theatre classes, went on some amazing holiday trips, received some job coaching and with their help, landed her first part-time job.   We continued to participate in the meetings about the exciting new apartment project that was now in the planning stages.

We knew we were one of about 100 families who were seriously interested in the 20 spots available. So, it felt almost like a competition, getting up at dawn to stand in line for Kindergarten registration or something.    Detailed personal support plans were developed after consultations and meetings with the potential tenant and the family as well as reviewing information and references from other family members and friends.  And because Semiahmoo House follows a Person Centred practice, Madeleine’s concerns and interests were always considered important.

We spent two years alternating between hope and worry.

But, ultimately we received the good news, she was selected for an apartment and she could choose the size of unit and the location in the building.   All we had to do now was watch and wait as the shovels hit the dirt and the building grew from floor plans and design drawings to brick and mortar.  Her brand new studio apartment was going to be lovely and much nicer than the one her sister has in the West End.

We knew if Madeleine was chosen to live in one of the supported units at Chorus, we would have to give up our hard fought and limited CLBC respite/life skills funding.  The funds would be pooled to provide support as needed for the residents in the apartment.  I know Madeleine misses the outings she enjoyed with her respite workers but what is in place now for her and the other residents,  in the form of  a couple of life skills sessions every week and daily check ins, is a good trade off and, for the most part, works out well.

At first, I admit, we worried a bit about isolation and how she would cope living alone.  She is not one to initiate activities but will often join in if asked.   I mean being alone and enjoying your own company is one thing, but being lonely is not good.  So how would this living on your own work out?

There is a nice amenities or common Room in the Chorus apartment building and for the first year, many of the Semiahmoo House supported residents held their birthday parties there and invited each other.  It seemed like every month there was a party going on.  Special activities were planned too by staff or family members, such as craft nights and movie nights so the social calendar was busy.   As the residents become comfortable and established, they are now being encouraged to take a more active role in planning these activities.

To try and encourage a sense of community, and getting to know others in the building, some events have been held for all the residents:  coffee mornings, Barbecues, etc. Starting this fall, there will be some low key, informal music events in the common room.   There is a nice mix of people in the building from young families with children to seniors and everyone in between.  And although, as in all rental buildings, people come and go, there are some really nice people who live there.  Madeleine has recognized a couple of people who go to our church and we avoided a potential disaster at the passport office when one of the agents at the office was able to finalize the process, without expecting us to make an extra return trip when she saw Madeleine’s photo and said, “Oh that’s Ok , she lives in my building, just down the hall.”    Being recognized and accepted in your neighbourhood is a good thing.

We have always been very much aware that Chorus is a unique and innovative model of housing and we have explained to our sons and daughters how important this place is and how everyone has to work together to make sure it is a successful role model.  So we have encouraged them to open their apartments for tours, to talk to the press, to make presentations at board meetings and all candidates meetings, to spread the word about the benefits of living at Chorus.

As parents, we have an informal network of support for each other and have met a few times on a more formal basis to discuss various issues.   Some of us worked very hard to try and obtain rental subsidies.  Although we were not successful through BC Housing (they’re a tough nut to crack!), we did have the support of our local MLA Gordie Hogg and eventually secured some special funding for 10 years from the province which goes directly to Semiahmoo House and which they in turn, use to lower the rents of the 20 tenants they support.

Hopefully over the next few years, the provincial government will realize the need for more affordable rental housing and will come up with some reasonable solutions.  However I’m sure there will always be a need for parents, self -advocates and social service agencies to be involved to ensure that something really happens.

So how are things now?  It’s been 2 years since Madeleine has moved into her own apartment.  She has more self-confidence and proudly says she loves her apartment.  Speaking with some of the other Moms, I think the adjustment was probably harder for us, than for our all–of-a-sudden, grown up children.

We still live in the same neighbourhood, just a block away.   Now I don’t necessarily recommend being quite so close. It’s handy and convenient, maybe a little too close sometimes.   But she’s not over at our house all the time.  Sometimes when we ask if she wants to come home with us after church for lunch, she says no, she’s fine.  And on the other hand, when she is planning to go out, she will often call and ask if I need anything and then she is happy to pick it up and bring it over. So, she’s a good neighbour.

We talk or message each other almost daily and see her at least a couple of times a week.  I’m still a carpool Mom and coach for Special Olympics. So, some things never change.

Madeleine acknowledges that she although there are many things she can do on her own and she enjoys her independence, she will always  need some support. For example, making medical appointments and advice for budgeting and making significant financial decisions.

Recently,   some of our friends have commented on how much more relaxed Ted and I are, now that we are both retired.   Although we still enjoy a family holiday with both our girls, every year, we now can go away on our own as a couple and do more of what we want to do.  Our menu is more varied too. We can cook fish and eat other vegetables besides  carrots!   Yes, we have more free time, but it’s more than that. We are able to enjoy our free time, because we are relieved.

We feel relieved because our daughter is living in a good place. She is happy and safe with built-in support, 24/7 if necessary and we know this can be a long term arrangement. There is balance between alone and quiet time and organized activities with others in the building and outside community.  She is happy to live in a good neighbourhood in a smoke free, pet-friendly building with other tenants selected by a property manager who understands the philosophy of an inclusive community.

As I said in the beginning, as parents we will do almost anything in the world for our children, but maybe sometimes, the best thing we can do is nothing and let them do it themselves.

As her parents, we will continue to live in the neighbourhood and be available and involved as long as possible.  It’s been almost 7 years since our move and we still keep in touch with a few good Delta friends. Ted and I are happy to call Surrey home and so is Madeleine but you don’t have to take my word for it… She’s going to tell you herself.

Susan Wieczorek

Click here for Madeleine’s story.


Along for the Ride: What a Learning!

A Tema rod3

So I have this story in my head that’s been rolling around for a week now. The need to share it surfaced, and I got this bright idea.  How about share it with the Directors Team while they are about to spend the weekend working hard on the future of UNITI? You guys do enough hard work that I thought a story to make you smile would complement the weekend of work ahead of you all.

Over a week ago, I had the privilege of being invited on a ride along with Jasper and the guys.  I had a fleeting wonder of the intention of my invitation, but easily let the thoughts drift off and just got ready to enjoy my day.

The day was full of wonders. Being there to enjoy a day in the life of the guys and be witness to their experiences could produce many stories, but there is one story that stands out.

It is the story of learning people’s stories.  It is the story of relationships.  Throughout the entire day, Jasper and each of the guys told me stories of everywhere we went, everything we did and everyone we met.

First stop: the back alley of IHOP to find the manager Debbie while she was on her smoke break, and she was.  We pulled up beside her. She smiled, opened her arms and said, “Hey guys I’ve missed you!”  I stepped back to listen to the conversation. Everyone was chatting, filling each other in with what they had been up to in their lives. The chitchat wrapped up with hugs for everyone. “Get back here and see me real soon. I love you guys!” were Debbie’s departing words.

Second stop: MacDonald’s in Langley on Fraser Highway. Picture the long table with bar seats in the middle of the restaurant with four other people (strangers to me) sitting there with a handful of empty seats.  They were obviously waiting for someone.  Yup! They were waiting for Jasper and the guys, who comfortably took their seats.

After introductions, I got cozy and again tried to sit back, watch and listen.  Though it wasn’t easy as I was dragged into a bunch of random conversations.

Rod, a semi-retired gentleman, immediately began razzing and joking with Gary with their obvious inside banter.  I have known Gary since 1991 and have never seen him smile and laugh like he did with Rod–ever.  FYI, Rod was invited by the guys to the Semiahmoo House Society’s this year… and he came.

Bill, the elder musician, shuffled his way throughout his friends, with nods, mumbles and a couple of stories.

Jodie, a young lady with a disability, quietly filled us all in about her week and the Canucks’ recent game.

Lyn, Jodie’s support worker, shared stories and pictures of her dog.

Then, there were the three MacDonald’s staff (can’t remember their names).

Staff #1 flopped herself down beside the group. She was having a bad day and was reassured and comforted by her friends.

Staff #2 whispered something into Jasper’s ear as she was worried about one of the guys.  She had his back!

Staff #3 joyfully bounced to the table so happy to see everyone, and more chitchat about life began.

What unfolded after this initial gathering of friends I wasn’t prepared for: the learning about the deepness and richness of these friendships that all began at the long table in MacDonald’s on Fraser Highway.

According to Lyn, Jodie never had friends and barely spoke to people until she met this group of friends. Hanging with these friends at MacDonald’s for morning coffee is now one of the most important parts of her week.

Rod told me that Jasper and the guys have brought so much joy to his life.

The concern and questions about people who weren’t there. Where are they?  Are they okay?

How much they all knew about each other. How much they cared about what was happening in their personal lives.

This was not about people in the community making the lives of people with disabilities better. It was not about people with disabilities contributing to the lives of the people they meet.  It was about natural, genuine relationships among people finding space to come together and be together on a regular basis, in the same place, with the same people.

I could go on and on about with this story, but I think you get the picture.

It is profoundly critical that the work we do mindfully creates opportunities for people to have these kind of relationships in their lives.  Which brings me to Jasper.


As David Pitonyak said, “It’s about who shows up in people’s lives not who’s on shift.”  Who is attentive, aware and present.  And who is real.  These awesome MacDonald’s relationships did not develop on their own out of thin air. They were fostered by Jasper–he may not agree.  I believe he was hypervigilant to the opportunities to build connections, his radar always on.  Every day he walked into that MacDonald’s, he was intentional about how he could bring people together and then stepped back to allow natural friendships to flourish.  And he keep going back.

There are joys and also fears about this story. The joys are obvious I think, but the fears are real.

Can you imagine if the guys were told, “You can’t go there anymore because it’s too far. Go to a closer MacDonald’s from now on.”

Can you imagine if the guys were told, “Hey, you now have these friends in your life. So, you’re on your own to maintain them. No need for paid support anymore.” When in reality the support to maintain these relationships is critical, for a variety of reasons.

Can you imagine if the guys were told, “This is no longer part of your program, so it won’t be happening anymore.”

I was left with these can you imagines and the frightening impact systems can have on people. We know this. We fight for this, but to see and experience it was a whole different story.

There! My story is no longer rolling around in my head. I know through more thought and reflection I could share much more of what I learned that day.

I am grateful to Jasper and the guys for inviting me into their world for a day.  It has reinforced what I believe and what I believe UNITI believes.

Cheers!  And enjoy the weekend.

Nolda Ware, Manager of Person-Centred Practices

UNITI is a partnership of three affiliates: Semiahmoo House Society, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and The Semiahmoo Foundation. For more information, go to

Why I Give to Semiahmoo House Society


In September 2003; I came to the Personal Development program of Semiahmoo House Society. Through the 11 years at Personal Development; I have learned a lot of skills and have taught drama/journalism with Denise K. in 2010. I did do a three year practicum at Southridge Senior School, with the drama department; having to write a lesson plan for each time. I was in the ETS program in Newton for two years. I was volunteering every Thursday, plus did a whole month in 2016, covering for Michelle T; which had given me an opening to apply for a part-time front desk associate. I was hired in April 2017, under Michelle’s supervision and now Diane’s. The thought came to me, to give back to the Personal Development program, by giving x2 donation to the program, through the TSF.

By Mark Yuen, Front Desk Associate at Semiahmoo House Society

A Policy of Inclusion

Collage Kereisah 2018-07

We are all connected to each other. What holds the body together is the functioning together of individual parts. We are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. Each of us has a special gift which is meant for the common good. Each one of us a different skill and a different ability. But each one of equal value. Think about it, could our body truly thrive without one of these? YES! But, the rest of the body would have to overcompensate. This process like any other ideas process is not a “one size fits all” type process. It has pushed me to find ways to increase opportunities for participation in the community. There should be no barriers preventing people with disabilities from participating in all areas in the community. This is why Semiahmoo House Society developed the Educational Equivalent Assessment (EEA) which I recently graduated.

Through this process I have had the opportunity to learn and understand the policy and procedure of Semiahmoo house and the rights of all people I support. In a major way I have learned to look at each person in a different way and also how to assist them in gaining control over their own life. Recognizing the importance of respecting the dignity and worth of all people, and the rights of each persons right to privacy and confidentiality. The EEA highlighted the concept of nothing for us without us. And that support and involvement should be provided in such a way as to ensure that the person is still making the decision. The importance of recognizing a person’s capacity for understanding information. Which means a person can understand a decision, the choices involved, the consequences to themselves and others and can communicate their choice. Our self-perception often directs many choices and relationships without us even being aware. When we sometimes look at others, we can see their qualities often through their words and actions without hearing the labels that they give themselves. How do we decide what is ethical? Ethics is at the core of our everyday life. But the biggest impact was it helped me to grow within myself and be confident. It allowed me to recognize the amazing things that can happen with authenticity and relationships. We are social creatures. Relationships whether family or friends are at the very heart of learning and development. Support and involvement should be provided in such a way as to ensure that the person with a disability is still making the decision. Recognize a person’s capacity for understanding information. It means a person can understand a decision, the choices involved, the consequences to themselves and others and can communicate their choice.

Thank, Nolda, for mentoring me through this process and for sharing your vast level of knowledge, being able to tap into that and work with you throughout this year has been incredible.

By Kereisha Gordon, Semiahmoo House Society

Development, Director’s Report


How wonderful it was to be affiliated to Semiahmoo House Society (SHS), an organization whose great contributions generated amplitude of positive feedback from our community, thereby facilitating our work in creating awareness, marketing and fundraising.

While, we, at The Semiahmoo Foundation (TSF), purposely networked to expand our constituency, we were grateful for the connections that were made by Board members, staff, families and individuals. This web of connections was powerful and critical to the sustainability of a charitable foundation, and we had many examples this year how this linkage resulted in building new relationships and producing tangible results.

Additionally, we found it rewarding to witness dreams becoming reality for the 21 people who always wanted to live independently and were able to accomplish their goals with support as needed. It was heart-warming to see them walk across the street to go shopping or catch a bus to access their chosen destination, either on their own or as part of a group. Many formed a bond, allowing them to break their prior isolation and get a sense of belonging to the community in a safe and enjoyable manner.

Our Team

Our Ambassador, Larry Shareski, continued to work his magic networking and connecting with members of the community. His fearless talents, including jumping on stage to assist the MC during events, were truly remarkable and contributed greatly to TSF. Our Event Planner, Deena Safi, demonstrated relentless energy as she courageously embarked on a year of change by bringing the date of the Golf Tournament forward in the early summer which, in spite of the continual rain, was a success; and by producing the newly created Gala of Shooting Stars in October and delivering results that exceeded all of our expectations. Miriam Castro, Administrative Coordinator (Temporary), worked hard at developing stewardship with donors, contributing to our social media presence and participating in event planning. She was missed as she returned to her work of Community Support Worker at SHS after fulfilling one year of secondment to TSF. After a talent search, we recruited Renee Blake to fill the vacancy and,  after only a few months in the role, her abilities, creativity and good nature were already shining through. These team members had demanding jobs, and they approached their daily challenges with absolute professionalism. It was truly a privilege to work with them.

Community Involvement

All of our team members engaged in community activities in one way or another. At the Impact West Summit, we joined leaders of other charitable organizations to share our respective experiences about fundraising and learn from each other. We attended a few events organized by our local politicians, including Diane Watt’s Garden Party and the MLA Christmas Party hosted by Tracy Reddies, Marvin Hunt and Stephanie Cadieux, where we connected, in a non-

partisan way, with many community leaders that shared the same interest in keeping the community vibrant. We contributed to YELL Canada (Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad) by accepting their invitation to speak and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs. We attended events organized by the Surrey Board of Trade and the Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce, including Surrey Business Excellence Awards, Surrey Women in Business Award, Surrey Innovation Awards, Christmas Sizzle, Taste of the Peninsula, General Annual Meeting and New Member Induction. We were honoured to join the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo (SAS) at the Surrey Cares Grant Awards and be with them as they thanked the Surrey Cares Foundation for funding their project, Chalk-Talk.

We were present at the Drishti Awards and expanded our reach into the South Asian community. We were also on Dreamzz Radio to promote the Gala of Shooting Stars, where we took the opportunity to talk about people with disabilities who wanted to live independently, the success of the Chorus model and the need for additional inclusive and affordable housing.

We registered to fundraising events organized by other charities, such as the Peace Arch Foundation and Peace Arch Hospice Society, to observe and learn about various fundraising practices.

As we feel it is important to recognize the work of individuals and organizations and their role in creating safe and inclusive communities, we submitted the following nominations. Paulina Weslowski, a member of our staff, to the BC Community Social Services Awards of Excellence; Christine Collision, a long-time volunteer, to the Fraser Valley Community Awards; Sue McIntosh of Seniors Come Share and Heather Martin of Comfort Keepers to the Surrey Women in Business Awards; UNITI to the Surrey Innovation Awards, Seniors Come Share Society to the Surrey Business Excellence Awards and Comfort Keepers to the South Surrey White Rock Business Excellence Awards. Paulina and Christine received awards and Sue McIntosh was a finalist. UNITI and Seniors Come Share were finalists and Comfort Keepers received an award.

We also participated on various community committees such as Seniors Health Network, RCMP Community meetings, and Semiahmoo Seniors Planning Table. These partnerships gave us the opportunity to be present and create awareness at community events, including For the Health of It and Community Resources Pop-up.

Awareness Creating and Appreciation Events

Business to Business: On September 21, 2017, we held our annual Business to Business Networking event in collaboration with the Surrey Board of Trade and the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce. Over 120 people attended.

Food for Thought: We organized the Food For Thought Dinner hosted by the Board of Directors on April 12, 2017. The focus was on employers and the importance of employment for people with disabilities. Sixty people attended.

Donor Recognition: We recognized our donors on March 8, 2018 at a party themed Diamonds and Denim, which was enjoyed by over 70 people.

Fundraising Events

SHS & IG Annual Golf Tournament: The event took place on June 19, 2017 at Morgan Creek Golf Course and raised over $21,000 for Recreation and Leisure Services. Although the event was nearly sold out, attendance declined due to the rainy weather.

A Taste of BC’s Finest Gala of Shooting Stars: After taking one-year hiatus to re-assess the event, A Taste of BC’s Finest was transformed into a gala format with a larger focus on fundraising, while preserving a component of tasting samples of wine and food at the beginning of the night. To attract a wider audience, the purpose was changed to benefit Inclusive and Affordable Housing, a cause that touches many people in the community. The gala generated in nearly $100,000 in proceeds which were designated to the Ankenman Associates Architects Endowment Fund.

Milestones Grand Opening: Milestones Restaurant in South Pointe celebrated its re-grand opening, after closing down for months to perform major renovations, by organizing a fundraiser that benefited The Semiahmoo Foundation, resulting in a gift of over $5600 which was designated to the Independence Endowment Fund.

Peace Portal Alliance Church selected Semiahmoo House Society as a beneficiary of their fundraising efforts and presented us with a gift of $10,500 that was to be designated to the Independence Endowment Fund.


We entered into agreements to initiate two newly created Endowment Funds. These funds are securely invested for steady growth and are deployed according to the specific instructions of the donor.

Ankenman Associates Architects Endowment Fund was created to support UNITI and contribute to funding for affordable and inclusive housing.

The Independence Endowment Fund was purposed to provide rent subsidies to people with developmental disabilities and people with mental health challenges who want to live independently and who cannot afford rent.

Previously established Endowment Funds included:

Dragonfly Endowment Fund: to provide registration funding to families who might not otherwise be able to utilize the Recreation and Leisure program due to financial constraints.

Legacy Endowment Fund: to support program operating costs and the most needed unfunded program.

SHS Employee Endowment Fund: to support the purposes of the SHS’s General program and/or the area of most urgent need.

Tennant Baranszky-Job Fine Arts Endowment Fund: to support the purposes of the SHS’s Recreation and Leisure program and to specifically support its fine arts activities.

Wheeler/Soucy Endowment Fund: to support the SHS’s Recreation and Leisure program, primarily.

Membership Campaign

Semiahmoo House Society had over 140 members in good standing, including corporations, families and individuals.


As part of our marketing efforts, we participated in the development of brand and communications strategy for UNITI and WISE. We reserved domains and created websites for UNITI, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and WISE. As the societies we support grew, it was important to preserve the integrity of the various brands as these represented what they were in the community.

Important Recognition

We recognized and appreciated all contributions from volunteers, Board members, staff, corporations, families, individuals and all other constituents who collaborated to achieve our objectives and ensuring a sustainable future for Semiahmoo House Society.

Respectfully submitted,

Louise Tremblay, Director, Development The Semiahmoo Foundation

Chief Executive Officer’s Report

Doug Tennant 2015

At Semiahmoo House Society (SHS) our Ends (mission) are to achieve the following:

Global End: People with disabilities live self-directed lives in the community at a justifiable cost:

  1. People are valued members of society;
  2. People decide how they live their lives, and make informed choices;
  3. The rights of people are protected.

During the fiscal year of April 2017 to April 2018, SHS worked hard to ensure that these Ends were met through our services, advocacy, and community relationships. Of significant importance in the achievement of our Ends was our more formalized partnership with our sister societies: The Semiahmoo Foundation (TSF) and Peninsula Estates Housing Society (PEHS). When the three societies work together, we call ourselves UNITI.


Lise Boughen, Director of Inclusive Living, and Liz Deschenes, Director of Community Services, will have more detailed reports on their services in their reports, but I did want to touch lightly on some of SHS’s services in relationship to the Ends (mission) of the organization.

Community Services

The redesign of our Employment Training and Support (ETS) services into services that will transcend a traditional day program and will support the connection of participants with true employment and personal development opportunities, while at the same time supporting social participation in their community was developed and launched during the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The decision to redesign ETS was based on many factors, including the quality of life of the people we support and the need to meet the mandate of our employment services, which is to support people to find work in the community. Participants will take a 4-week Discover

Yourself process that will focus on experiences and personal discovery, with the goal of helping the person decide what employment/personal development/community connections they would like to pursue. ETS has now been divided into Transitions, a time-limited service focused on developing job skills through community and career exploration, and WISE Employment Solutions, an employment service focused on working with job hunters and employers to find successful matches that result in long-term employment in the community.

These changes directly address the following Sub-Ends of SHS:

1.1 People perform different social roles

1.4 People participate in the life of the community

2.4 People choose their work

2.4.1 People have paid employment opportunities

2.4.2 People have volunteer opportunities

Inclusive Living

There’s a very clear shift happening in community living when it comes to housing. People with disabilities (and their families) want to live in homes where they have as much independence as possible and are able to connect with family, friends, employment, and other aspects of their community. Semiahmoo House Society (under the umbrella of UNITI) has led the way in developing affordable and inclusive housing options that benefit the community. Chorus apartments would be an example of this. The apartment was completed in August of 2016 and the tenants have now been living there for close to two years. We have done full check-ins with the tenants supported by SHS who live there at the ½ year and one year anniversaries. The tenants report positive social lives and relationships, feeling welcome in their neighbourhood, and becoming competent in maintaining their own homes, to name but a few of the positive aspects that have resulted from people living in their own apartment. The creation of Chorus and future UNITI affordable and inclusive housing initiatives directly addresses the following Sub-Ends:

1.3 People live in integrated environments

1.4 People participate in the life of the community

2.3 People choose where and with whom they live

2.5 People choose and use their environments

3.6 People experience continuity and security


During the fiscal year 2017/2018, Semiahmoo House Society was very active in advocating for a municipal affordable housing strategy in Surrey that focuses on affordable and inclusive rental housing as we believe that this type of housing will address many of the housing needs for people who have disabilities as well as the needs of the general population in search of quality housing. The recently released Surrey Affordable Housing Strategy (April 2018) focuses on affordable rental housing and the creation of a fund that will be used to support housing projects such as Chorus. This is really good news for our future housing endeavours.

I have long believed that advocacy is best done by the people most directly related to the cause. This was true during the Civil Rights movement, and it is true for the Disability movement. I am very proud that SHS’s provides support to the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo (SAS) because SAS is doing amazing work in the community. They are making waves because their focus is not so much on themselves but on the needs of the community. They are shifting the power dynamic of disability by using their talents and resources to improve their community. During the past fiscal year they have brought wheelchairs to beaches, grants to all-ability parks, and spoken at a variety of conferences throughout the province. They’ve also met with city councillors, mayors, MLAs, MPs, and the Prime Minister himself while spreading the word that communities need to be physically and socially inclusive of people who have disabilities. Read more about their great work elsewhere in this Annual Report.

Community Relationships

Semiahmoo House Society believes that reciprocity with businesses and community partners creates strong relationships that benefit the community. We are fortunate to have the support of many businesses that hire people with disabilities, sponsor our events, and donate to support our cause. We feel it is important that we also give back to our community in a manner that supports our Ends. In the last fiscal year, our UNITI partner The Semiahmoo Foundation (TSF), created the Semiahmoo House Society Endowment Fund at the YMCA. This fund’s purpose is to support young people who have disabilities to access YMCA camps and services. SHS already support Kwantlen College with an annual scholarship for someone who has a disability to attend courses there. These investments help fulfil the following Sub-Ends:

2.5.2 People have recreational opportunities

2.6 People have educational opportunities

3.2 People have the best possible health

Another way in which SHS’s leadership interacts with their community is through our annual Food for Thought dinners. At these dinners, we invite our owners (which we define as the community) to a meal where we ask them questions that will help our Board develop the Ends of the organization. This past year, we invited local employers and asked the following questions:

  1. What are the challenges that people who have disabilities face and what needs to be done to overcome them?
  2. How can SHS help overcome these challenges?
  3. What is the role of Semiahmoo House Society in building a healthy and inclusive community?
  4. What motivates or would motivate you to provide employment to a person with a disability?

The lively conversation at dinner and thoughtful responses from our guests helped inform the Board about the direction the organization needs to go and helped inform senior staff as we developed our WISE Employment Solutions service.

The paradigm that SHS works from is an extension of the people we support: we want to give back to our partners and supporter and believe that in doing so, we are creating a stronger and more resilient community.

Performance and Quality Improvement

The Society has clearly defined Ends Policies that are created and refined by the Board of Directors through consultation with their owners (the community) and experts in the field, especially people who have disabilities. These Ends are the marching orders for the Executive Director, who must operationalize how the Ends will be achieved without violating legal, moral, or common sense statutes. The Performance and Quality Improvement (PQI) process gathers feedback, analyzes data, and makes recommendations for improvements and growth in achieving our Ends.

Our Ends, which have been featured in this report, typify the lives that people would like to live, which will be different for each person. Therefore, the outcomes of SHS are wholly based on each person’s outcomes, and the aggregate of this will demonstrate if we are achieving our Ends.

In addition to surveying people we support and their families, we build in extensive feedback systems for our staff using Accountability Based Management (ABM) practices, including clear role descriptions and frequent direct report meetings.

In fiscal year 2017/2018, we added an additional level of scrutiny to the work that we do by inviting the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo to lead a review of our services through the lens of our Global Ends “People with disabilities live self-directed lives in the community at a justifiable cost” and Ends 1 “People are valued members of society.” The Self-Advocates did this by visiting all of our services for people who have disabilities and interviewing individuals and groups of people we support about the aforementioned Ends. The data from these interviews was then gathered, themed, and made into a report that was presented to the Board in January of 2018. This research will be used by the Board when they are thinking about the Ends of the organization and by staff to improve our services. One clear message that came from the consultation was that people we support want new experiences and opportunities. One change that will be coming directly from the consultation is the creation of a Community Connector role that will be tasked with supporting building connections for people with the community.


We are fortunate to have thoughtful, dedicated, and passionate Board members. Our Board members take their role very seriously and actively pursue educational opportunities and consult with our owners to help them create the vision for SHS and its sister organizations. Rich Gorman, Board Chair, leads the Board by example and enables fair and lively discussion during Board meetings. Board members don’t always agree in discussions, but they always treat each other with respect!

I’d like to thank Baksho Ghangass for her years of dedication and service to the Boards of Semiahmoo House Society, Peninsula Estates Housing Society, and The Semiahmoo Foundation. Baksho was first appointed to the Board for the 2008/2009 year and has completed three 3-year elected terms as a Board member.

I’d also like to thank Jan Holt, who is retiring to the Sunshine Coast after 6 years as a Board member. Jan has a strong understanding of the fiduciary duty of Board members and asked great questions when we discussed complex issues.

SHS is fortunate to have the support of a great group of senior staff who lead by example and take on projects for the betterment of SHS and the people we support. Lise Boughen, Director of Inclusive Living, ensures the people we support in staffed residential homes, shared living arrangements, and independent supported living arrangements have the opportunity to live good lives of their choosing. Liz Deschenes, Director of Community Services, is leading the redesign of our community inclusion services so there is more choice and people are supported

to be connected to the community. Stephanie Green, Director of Human Resources, is implementing Accountability Based Management system that will clarify roles and accountabilities of all staff members. Ellen Powell, Director of Finance, is developing technology systems that will strengthen SHS’s relationships with stakeholders, while at the same time overseeing our financial assets and systems. Louise Tremblay, Director of Development, oversaw our refreshed Taste of BC Gala that saw over $100,000 raised to support affordable housing for people who have disabilities. I’d like to welcome Seema Tripathi, Associate Director of Community Services, to our team. Seema has a track record in developing employment services that successfully match employers and employees. I’d also like to welcome aboard, Diane Nimmo as the Executive Administration Manager. She will be supporting the Board and myself and oversee Front Desk Associates.

SHS’s managers, supervisors, and front-line staff members do exceptional work in a compassionate and creative manner. They consistently go above and beyond in the work that they do.

The support we receive from volunteers, donors, and our community allows us to create services that meet the needs of the people we support at a time when funding does not fully cover the type of services that we want to offer. SHS is made stronger because of our stakeholder community, our members, and the families of people we support. Thank you all for your support.

Respectfully submitted,

Doug Tennant, Chief Executive Officer, UNITI

Chair’s Report 2018 AGM


As I prepare for the year-end report, I cannot help but think that the years are going by far too quickly.  I often wonder how we are going to accomplish our Ends (mission) and the projects that are being developed at the present time.

Over the course of the last handful of years, I believe it is fair to state that the groundwork that was started some 14 years ago by the Board and our Executive Director at the time, Mr. Paul Wheeler, is now becoming a reality.   As we, your Board members, our staff, the people we support and of course the residents in our Chorus Apartment, as well as yourselves, our owners, as we reflect on this achievement, it is very evident that the relationships that have been developed are now paying dividends in our progress.

The tag phrase of UNITI, “Together we’re Stronger”, has arisen during the past year and we have witnessed the reaction of the new UNITI brand. The UNITI brand provides umbrella coverage for the three banners, those being The Semiahmoo Foundation, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and Semiahmoo House Society. As this partnership evolves and grows under the UNITI banner, our goal is to become the gold medal standard in the world of inclusivity.

Your Board and its members have a responsibility to ensure the strong stewardship of the society, and this is accomplished through vigilant policy reviews as they pertain to our Chief Executive Officer as well as ensuring that the Executive Limitations and Policy Ends are the focus of both the Board and our CEO. Your Board is responsible and accepts this responsibility on behalf of UNITI to ensure the successful future on our owners’ behalf.

A large part of the Board’s responsibility is to ensure the Board members are creating awareness with as many owners and neighbours as possible. The broader the UNITI banner and its intended inclusiveness, the stronger we all become. Over the past year, we have offered many opportunities to accomplish this goal.

This coming year promises to, once again, be a very active year with a number of projects on the calendar or in the planning stages. These projects will all fall under the UNITI banner and will include all three of the partnerships that UNITI represents.

We are so blessed to have such a dedicated group of senior staff members, who just never stop making sacrifices for the organization. This is carried out through their leadership which is always evident through our staff members who also dedicate so much time to the people we support. The volunteers, who we could not be successful without, are always ready to help members, volunteers from Chorus and the community, and we are so thankful for their support. Thank you, to each and every one of you.

This year, we are once again offering: “Thank you and good bye. We’ll Certainly Miss You”!

Jan Holt will be leaving the Board after serving six years as a Board member, during which time she has brought a special skill of asking the right questions as well as expressing her desire to learn more and ensuring that she completely has an understanding of why we would be making these decisions. Jan is retiring from Southridge School and moving to a slower paced life on the Sunshine Coast with her husband Peter.

Baksho Ghangass’s terms of serving on the Board have come to an end, after serving a one- year term as an appointed Board member followed by nine years as an elected Board member. Over the term, Baksho has become a strong member of the Board and has put her heart and soul into SHS, working to make it a better and safer place to be. She has been a strong advocate in the community and she is a tireless worker. Her knitting of scarves, mitts and booties will be missed as they were great fundraiser items. With Baksho’s husband now retired, the two of them will continue to keep very active, and don’t be surprised to see her around The Treehouse.

I would also like to once again offer our congratulations to our self-advocate Board member, Alex Magnussen. This year, Alex was a recipient of one of the four WOW (Widening our World) Awards. This award recognizes inclusion and it is based on courage, leadership, innovation and dedication. Alex has become a key member of the UNITI group.

My personal expression of appreciation goes out to Doug Tennant our CEO and to the Board members who give so much of themselves to help accomplish our Ends. Doug’s leadership guided the Board members and our entire staff including all our volunteers, who are so dedicated to the success and the future of UNITI.

Once again, I offer my sincerest thank you to all for the work that you have done as well for the work you are about to do!

I would like to leave you with this thought about inclusivity from Edwin Markham: “We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to Life”.

Respectfully submitted,

Rich Gorman, Chair, Semiahmoo House Society

More Words about Pieced Together–Canada’s Mosaic

Connie with Jasper

Connie, center, with Jasper to the left and Mayor Baldwin to the right.

I have had the privilege to work on eight public and community public art projects over about the last 20 years.  None of them has demonstrated the powerful force of community art the way Pieced Together—Canada’s Mosaic has. This mosaic is the culmination of the creativity, capacity and perseverance that makes our community thrive.

There are of course many people to thank and I will come to some familiar names later.  But first I want to thank the project participants who were such a pleasure to work with. They contributed a huge amount of personal time and energy to the project. This was my first experience working with people with disabilities on a public art project.  I was inspired by their focus, attention to detail, and commitment to the project.  They demonstrated that in the making of community public art, people from all walks of life come together—sharing experiences and bridging gaps.

After Semiahmoo House Society received the Canada 150 grant from the Federal Government last spring, we were looking around for an installation site. I mentioned this at an art show opening at which Councilor Lynne Sinclair was in attendance and she expressed an interest for the City of White Rock.  Her enthusiasm brought the project to Eric Stepura and Claire Halpern of the Public Art Advisory and early last fall it was approved and passed by City Council.  Thanks to Mayor Baldwin and all you folks from City Hall who helped make this a reality.  And thanks to White Rock Library Manager David Thiessen for approving the site and to Jasper Macabulos, for creating the design.

Once we were settled on the design, a full size 8‘ x 5’ copy was printed and then divided to create manageable sections.  Doug Anderson, a volunteer, made a plywood tray for each of the 8 sections.  This allowed the work to be stored efficiently and moved to other places such as Seniors Come Share and the Acquired Brain Injury Services [of Semiahmoo House Society].

As Project Coordinator I enjoyed watching a very unique process unfold in workshops led by Tanya at Semiahmoo House.

In each plywood tray, a part of the design was laid down, then covered with wax paper to act as glue resist, and finally a layer of fiberglass mesh was laid on top. Participants then glued each piece of glass or ceramic tile to the mesh, following the design below it. As anyone who has worked in mosaics will know, this is a very labour intensive process.  Participants developed proficiency in all aspects of mosaic construction, including scoring, nipping and cutting glass and ceramic tile.  They worked collaboratively on different sections of the pieces, blending the tesserae to create the colourful imagery.

This project gave the participants an opportunity to learn skills while engaging in meaningful arts practice for their community. Whenever I stopped in to see the progress from time to time, I was always impressed with the quality and quantity of the work accomplished. Tanya did a great job of running the workshops at Semiahmoo House and everyone who worked on it is to be sincerely congratulated.

The work was completed by about the end of January, but it was necessary to wait for warm dry weather for the installation. Finally, in early May, we were fortunate to have a long enough stretch of good weather and with the assistance of my brother Reg Glover, a stroke survivor himself, we began the installation which took about six days.

To begin, the mesh backing of each section was cut into manageable sizes, roughly 2’ x 2’, and after troweling the mortar onto the wall, each section was lifted and pressed into the mortar.  The mural was then grouted and the grout was sealed after curing.

I’d like to thank Semiahmoo House Society Director Doug Tennant, Brianna, Kelly and Tanya, and all the Semiahmoo House members and staff who were involved in the construction of the mosaic There were also people involved from Seniors’ Come Share, [Semiahmoo House Society’s] Acquired Brain Injury Services and Recreation and Leisure Services, and students from White Rock Elementary.

In closing, I’d like to say that many cities in Canada and the United States have developed active public and community public art programs in recent years. The projects, like this mosaic, enliven city spaces and give a voice to communities.  Community public art is at its best when it enhances public spaces while promoting a feeling of belonging and ownership. I am very proud and honoured to have been a part of this important work.

Thank you for coming out today to celebrate the completion of this project.

Connie Glover, Local Artist