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Grant supports programs for disabled adults in South and Central Frontenac

NeLL Program Facilitator, along with two NeLL participants, at the Community Foundation cheque presentation on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. Image provided by NeLL.

Thanks to a grant from The Community Foundation Kingston & Area Fall 2020 Community Grants Program, disabled adults in South and Central Frontenac will be able to access virtual support in the new year through New Leaf Link.

New Leaf Link (NeLL), a non-profit charitable organization that supports adults with developmental disabilities, will be able to improve their Simultaneous Program Delivery Model in 2021. The $14,973 grant gives NeLL the ability to hire instructors who will provide virtual and, eventually, in-person programming for to up to 18 disabled adult participants from South and Central Frontenac Counties.

According to their website, the program at NeLL offers opportunities to build friendships and provides lifelong learning. “NeLL is a place where friendships are fostered and maintained while building up a shared repertoire of experiences, whether it’s in Drama, Puppets, Music, Visual Arts, Cooking, Gym, or Community Outings,” the website states.

“COVID created challenges to the already complex management of NeLL participants’ special needs & placed greater strain on their families and caregivers,” said Christine Bell, a member of the New Leaf Link Board. “We are a very connected group; it was heartbreaking to see how our participants missed their programs, their regular routine and their social connections. Our participants already faced numerous challenges in accessing programming, from transportation and funding issues to adapted teaching needs.”

“For participants who lack regular internet access, we provided some small-group outdoor music events in Harrowsmith and Sydenham, and Sharbot Lake drama with the Sharbot Lake Group,” Bell continued. “We have done wellness checks since March by phone, text, and even in person.  We also have provided some read-alongs, where participants have access to listen to stories.”

Bell says the NeLL Board is extremely proud of the organization’s resilience, their commitment to the NeLL family, and the enthusiasm and dedication of the instructors and volunteers who keep the group connected.

“As a small organization, we were devastated by our inability to be together as a group when we had to self-isolate and by the total loss of revenue and fundraising capacity. We are excited about steps we are taking to adapt to changing circumstances brought on by COVID-19.”

“We do not receive any provincial or federal program funding,” she continued. “We did apply for federal Emergency Community Support Funds through both United Way and Community Foundation in the summer, receiving funding to provide virtual programming, wellness checks, and to redesign our website to make it more functional and interactive for our participants.”

“NeLL is a friendship project; our participants learn together and build lasting connections since the program started in 2009. This grant will provide a range of social and learning activities including virtual cooking, art, dance, karate, and music,” she says.

Bell went on to say they are facing many challenges during the pandemic, including a lack of internet access for some participants in remote rural areas, and difficulty with providing participants supports to access their programs while following the COVID-19 restrictions.

New Leaf Link hopes to expand the reach of their programs to those who may be staying safe at home, but missing the connections their in-person programming provides. The grant money will be used to update their website and provide access to virtual programming.

Visit the New Leaf Link website for more information on their mission and programming: https://www.newleaflink.ca/index.php

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