Winter 2019 Newsblast

Curious about what we have been up to for the past three months? You have come to the right place! Our quarterly newsblasts are designed to be a ‘one stop shop’ enabling you to quickly get the scoop on goings on, new projects, and exciting opportunities. This quarter we are featuring the announcement of our new Executive DirectorMyCompass Labs, Future of Good, and Donna Debolt FASD training!

Call to Action

My Compass Planning is a secure, web based, planning tool that helps people with disabilities chart the course towards all things good in life. This platform is used at Skills Society to provide a way for people with disabilities to plan, strategize, and communicate with their supports, allies, and family. You can read more about My Compass Planning here.

One thing we’ve found that can be tricky for people with disabilities and their supports is identifying meaningful goals to put into their MyCompass plans. To support the process of generating meaningful goals for folks at Skills we’ve tweaked the “Think Tank” Citizen Action Lab process. Team Leaders and Managers can now request a 1.5 hour My Compass Planning Lab that brings key people from the Individual’s life together to explore and generate ideas for meaningful activities, roles, and employment opportunities.

Email Paige at to book a My Compass Planning Lab today!

Values in Action: Embracing Complexity

The work of assisting people with disabilities to achieve good lives is not an easy road. It requires creativity, determination, and collective effort. At Skills we do not shy away from taking on big challenges, to innovate and try again. The work is complex – not only at the individual level, but at the level of contributing to influencing social policy that guides society in its obligation to address the needs of, and the contributions of disabled citizens. The following citizenship story was written by Jan O’Neill, Manager of Community Supports at Skills Society.

Building a Home with Erica

I first met Erica when she moved to a Skills apartment building in 2011. Erica had been living independently with support through Skills outreach, however, Erica was finding that this support was not enough.

Erica in her home

Erica experiences Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, characterized by frequent panic attacks. When experiencing a panic attack, Erica would close herself off from others and would not answer her phone or her door. These attacks could last a few days. With the support of a therapist and her team, gradually the panic attacks became less frequent.

Over time, Erica expressed that her current living situation was not working for her due to health concerns. The building she was living in was a walk up and Erica has trouble with her knees. Erica shared with us her desire to find a new place she could call home.

The search was on and an opportunity became available for Erica to move into a brand new apartment building equipped with new appliances, including a dishwasher, an elevator and laundry facilities on each floor, Eureka!

Spencer, Erica’s best buddy!

The environment of the new building also offers a unique staffing model. Any time an Individual requires support, they call the staff phone and a staff person will arrive within minutes.

Ask Erica and she will tell you how happy she is in her new home.

“I love my balcony, in the summer I can grow my flowers and have an oasis. I love being up high because I can see the lights at night. I love having a dishwasher, I never had one before. I love the elevator, it is so much better for my knees.”

“I love being here because staff are understanding, friendly and easy to talk to. I like how the staff help with making appointments and follow through and have helped me to get involved in more things. Staff are really open to me trying new things and help me to do that. I feel better about myself, I’m more positive, healthy, walking a lot more, I want to be more social and visit with others and host people in my home. Staff have helped me to feel stronger and this has been very good for my self esteem.”

Through collective efforts and embracing complexity we were able to support Erica in finding and building a home that both meets her needs and brings her joy. Big shout out to Erica for sharing her story!

Moments of Gratitude

Skills Day of Giving

Rotarians hard at work filling stockings for Outreach

In December, Skills Society staff & community members gathered to celebrate the magic of the season at Skills Society’s fourth Annual Day of Giving. The spirit of giving and making connections was evident as people enjoyed music, food and catching up with each other. We were blown away by the many generous contributions of community members to the Edmonton Foodbank!

Whyte Ave Rotary Stuffs Stockings for Outreach

Shout out to the Rotary Club of Edmonton Whyte Avenue for their generous donation of items and time to assemble holiday stockings for individuals supported through our outreach program! They put together close to 100 stockings filled with all kinds of goodies. See the full story here

Sector News

Future of Good highlights the ideas, innovations, and trends shaping social innovation

Founded by Vinod Rajasekaran, former executive director of Impact Hub Ottawa and former managing director of Rideau Hall Foundation, is a new digital media platform dedicated to illuminating stories, innovations, and trends shaping social impact in Canada. Their digital content is written and edited by Canadian impact-focused leaders around themes such as belonging and inclusion, Canada’s SDG impact, intersectionality, reconciliation and decolonization, and more — all relevant for our world of social innovation. Sign up to read exclusive content and join the beta community.

Canada FASD Research Network

The Canada FASD Research Network is a great resource for those looking for more information on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. They also offer a free basic training course intended for all people who will come into contact with individuals with FASD including all sectors of work, families, individuals with FASD, spouses, and the general public.

FASD Training with Donna Debolt March 20th and 21st

We are excited to share an upcoming learning opportunity for parents and caregivers, professionals, supports, and community partners. The wonderful Donna Debolt will be facilitating a 2-day, 12 hour course on FASD held at the Skills Society Action Lab on March 20th and 21st. Donna is a private practice social worker who offers training to develop and implement prevention, intervention, and management strategies to successfully support individuals and families who are dealing with alcohol-related disabilities. Click here for more info.

Skills Highlights

Supports in the midst of a MyCompass Planning Lab

Ben Weinlick Announced as Next Executive Director

We are excited to announce our very own Ben Weinlick as the next Executive Director of Skills Society! See the message from Hart Chapelle, Board Chair here.

MyCompass Lab Workshop Day

Something new we tried recently was hosting several MyCompass Labs simultaneously in the Action Lab. In early December supports came into the lab and were guided through the MyCompass lab process (modeled after our Citizen Action Lab Think Tank). This proved to be a fun way of bringing people together to explore and generate some meaningful and creative goals for individual’s MyCompass Plans. Check out the full story on our website here.

Art Program Up and Running at Melcor

An inclusive art program made possible through a collaboration between Skills Society, Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, and the YMCA Melcor Welcome Village is well underway. The program, taught by artist Madison from the Nina, is offered one evening and one afternoon a month and gives residents an opportunity to tap into their inner artist, experimenting with a variety of different mediums!

Skills Illustrated

A lego build of a Skills value in action

Skills Illustrated is a one day training taken by everyone who works at Skills Society. This unique training opportunity is just one of the many ways Skills Society is innovating in the disability space – getting supports to think differently about disability and the role they play in supporting the citizenship of people with disabilities. Check out the full story on our website by clicking here

This newsblast was compiled by Paige Reeves, Communications Coordinator at Skills Society and PhD student at the University of Alberta. 

Do you, or the person you support, have something to share in the next newsblast? Send me a note at I’d love to hear from you!