New to Grande Prairie in 1977, Joanne Wiens accepted a job as a group home worker for the Association. The work suited her background, as she had previously taken courses in Psychology and she was very interested in the field. Joanne’s first placement was at 109th Ave. Eleven clients were living in the group home at the time and Joanne remembers what a big challenge it was to learn to cook for that many people all at once.
Joanne worked residentially for two years and then took a position in the Vocational program. Work involved polishing telephones that the city used to rent to customers. The phones were cleaned and repaired before they were rented out to new customers. Joanne also worked with clients on basic math and reading skills. At that time, Swan Industries was taking ceramics orders and some of the clients worked there. They would pour clay into molds to make mugs, etc. When the mugs were removed from the molds, jobs like polishing seams and glazing were done as well.
In the 1980s, the existing Vocational programs were phased out and clients were absorbed into other areas. Joanne became Coordinator for the new Vocational program, which included a new venture, implementation of the Developmental Activities Program (DAP). Joanne traveled to Michener Centre in Red Deer to interview clients from the Centre who had been designated to return to the Grande Prairie area. A group of clients were selected for the Association’s Residential and Vocational settings.
We had never done anything working with people who were so developmentally handicapped, so we didn’t know what kinds of work (and at that time we were still very work oriented) that they could do, what kinds of programs that we could set up. So we did tour some facilities that were already working with people at that level.
It was more difficult than first anticipated for the clients to make the transition from Michener Centre. They missed the friends that they had left in Red Deer and also had a tough time adjusting to a full workday, when they had been used to one hour per day of programming.
Joanne’s work also included supervision of several client vacations. She remembers one summer vacation in particular. She and one other co-worker took eight clients on a camping trip to Jasper for a week. Joanne had never been camping in her life before that trip. She says it was a lot to supervise, especially because the campground was so large and some of the clients liked to wander away. At the end of week, Joanne came back vowing that she wouldn’t go another trip unless she could be in charge of only “one person for each hand.”
It was lots of fun but also a lot of work.
Joanne worked at the Association for fourteen years in total. She left in the early nineties to work with a handicapped individual in the community. Through him, she became involved with coaching bowling and has been able to keep in touch with the Association through her connection with the sport. Joanne is now a casual relief worker for Day Programs.