By Maureen McEwan
What’s new at ABLE2? It’s been a busy summer for the local organization that supports people across the disability spectrum, and there are no signs of things slowing down for the fall, as beloved in-person programs and events resume.
“It’s been nice,” said Heather Lacey, executive director for ABLE2. “We’ve been able to see some of the people that we serve in person and I think it’s just really [about] getting everybody comfortable—making sure of course that we’re still staying safe—[and] really reconnecting with people.”
Starting off the summer, ABLE2 celebrated Disability Pride Month and their LGBTQ+ community members online throughout July.
“We like to celebrate Pride,” Lacey said. “Obviously, we are an organization that welcomes diversity and includes everyone, so it’s really important to us to recognize that through our social media.”
“We always want to make sure that we recognize all those special celebrations… Certainly, we are working with people that are part of that community, and we are also serving people in that community, and we want to make sure that they know that they are valued and we welcome them into our family.”
This August, the organization is hosting its annual picnic once again. Pre-pandemic, the gathering would draw anywhere from 50 people to over 100, but it has been on pause.
“Our annual picnic is coming up, which we’re really looking forward to because it has been put off for the last couple years so people are very excited to get together.”
The picnic is being held at the Trolley Station at Britannia Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 27. Typically, the event features a DJ and dancing, games and food, Lacey said.
“Everybody just has a really nice time and it’s kind of a nice way to finish off the summer,” she said.
Fall will continue with an active roster of events.
On Sept. 10, the fifth annual Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Walk will take place. Participants will start at York Street Plaza and head to city hall where they plan to host a flag raising at Marion Dewar Plaza, Lacey said.
And later in the month, ABLE2 will be hosting an Impacting Lives Together event on Sept. 28.
“We’re planning an Impacting Lives Together event, which is a way to celebrate our volunteers and people that have interacted with us and given us their time and their money,” Lacey said.
And even though the weather is still humid, the organization is starting to plan its Christmas party in December because the team is excited it is back once again.
ABLE2 is “a small but powerful charity with a big purpose,” according to the organization’s website, and it is the only Ottawa organization “that supports people of all ages across the disability spectrum and their families to live life as valued members of our city.”
In Ottawa, there are over 161,000 people living with disabilities, and three quarters of that population live with more than one disability and approximately one third of those individuals are over 65, according to the organization.
Through its programs—like the Matching Program, Build Community, Person Directed Planning and Facilitation (PDPF), Fetal Alcohol Resource Program (FARP), Family Support and others—ABLE2 works with hundreds of people in the city day to day. In the Matching Program alone, Lacey said over 200 people are paired with volunteers.
The charity was founded in 1974 but it has gone through a name change over the last years.
“We first came out of the gate as ‘Citizen Advocacy’ and then, in 2020, we changed our name to ‘ABLE2’ in recognition of the growth of the organization,” Lacey said. “And we wanted to really focus on the abilities of people; we really want to walk with individuals with disabilities, we don’t want to talk for them.”
“It’s about having people talk to you about what they want for their life, [what] quality of life looks like for them,” she added.
As executive director, Lacey is marking her fourth year in the role in August, and these days, the small but powerful charity has around 23 staff members making up the team.
“We have a wonderful staff here. You could not ask for a better staff, honestly, and we have a great board as well that’s very supportive,” Lacey said. “It’s all a good recipe for providing good services to the community.”
There are many ways community members can support ABLE2, Lacey said: through volunteering, attending or supporting events, donating and more. Visit able2.org for the latest information.
This story ran in the Giving section in the August 2022 edition of Kitchissippi Times.