Community Living South Muskoka CEO Reflects On 30 Years With The Organization

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Krista Haiduk-Collier (centre) lawn bowling with staff and people they support at Community Living South Muskoka. Photo courtesy of Krista Haiduk-Collier

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Krista Haiduk-Collier has been working at Community Living South Muskoka (CLSM) for 30 years, and after three decades at the organization, she still  wakes up excited to go to work everyday.

“It has been just absolutely wonderful to work here,” Haiduk-Collier said. “I can say that I’ve enjoyed just about each and every day… I feel very fortunate to have worked here for 30 years.”

CLSM operates nine group homes and offers a wide range of services for people with developmental disabilities. Haiduk-Collier has been working there since July 1991, starting out as a seniors community planner. Since then, she’s worked in every aspect of the agency, including accommodations and children’s services, before becoming CEO in 2014. She was honoured for 30 years of service alongside four other employees at the organization’s annual general meeting in September. The meeting is a great opportunity to thank staff for their hard work and dedication, she said, as well as recognize their many long-term employees.

“It’s just a testament to the fact that it’s such a meaningful career,” she said. “I feel so fortunate to have so many exceptional staff that have stayed with us such a long time.” 

Growth and change at CLSM

Haiduk-Collier has seen many positive changes over her years with the organization. Staff members used to feel like their job was to do everything for the people they serve in a secluded congregate care setting, she said, but now they help their clients become more independent and involved in the community. 

Krista Haiduk-Collier doing a presentation at a conference in Iceland in 2018. Photo courtesy of Krista Haiduk-Collier

She’s seen the Muskoka community overall become increasingly accepting and aware of people with disabilities. More and more people supported by CLSM are getting important jobs and playing an active role in the community, and though the organization still has work to do, the growth has been exceptional, she said. 

COVID has presented more changes than ever before and she’s in awe at how well their residents have handled the many challenges that come along with it.

“We’ve had to put in some pretty severe restrictions because people with developmental disabilities have other health complications often and the risks to them have been so much higher than the general population,”  she said, “and they’ve been very resilient.”

Thanks to a Trillium grant and funding received from the Muskoka Community Foundation, CLSM has been able to expand its virtual offerings for clients and families. Some people are more socially connected than ever thanks to the new online options, Haiduk-Collier said. 

The organization currently averages about 55 to 60 different virtual offerings with more than 400 participants every month. As they move forward, the team at CLSM is focusing on community-based programming, including both online and in-person community supports.

From volunteer to 30-year employee

Lucille Beaumont is a residential support worker and union steward who was also honoured for 30 years of service this September. She started out at Community Living as a volunteer and later completed her developmental service worker certificate through an apprenticeship at Loyalist College, while also working full time and raising two children.

Over her three decades at CLSM, Beaumont said she’s seen so much growth in developmental services. Their approach to supporting people with developmental disabilities has changed for the better alongside the broader community’s inclusion and support.

Lucille Beaumont and a colleague dress up on New Years. Photo courtesy of Lucille Beaumont

“Our community is great when it comes to acceptance, but I think it’s also part of all the hard work that the staff has done in order to help the community become more aware of just how great our people are,” Beaumont said.

Some of her fondest memories include taking residents for a trip to Disney World in Florida as well as annual visits to a cottage in Gravenhurst, but more than anything, she loves to see the people she supports achieve their goals. Whether it’s getting a job or getting up and being active, seeing the people she serves succeed is the greatest part of her job.

It doesn’t feel like it’s been 30 years because it’s been such a great place to work, Beaumont said, and the number of wonderful longstanding employees shows what Community Living is all about. The work is rewarding and she’s happy to have a good working relationship with her fellow 30-year employee and CEO Haiduk-Collier.

“I respect her tremendously,” Beaumont said. “It’s great to work with her because she knows the ins and outs of it and she allows people to grow and gives them the opportunity to be themselves.”

Making a meaningful difference

As CLSM continues to grow as an organization, they’re looking to grow the team as well. They’ve struggled to keep a full complement of staff, Haiduk-Collier said, but for those who have come on board, the team offers a positive and supportive environment that helps their employees flourish.

“I’m not saying it’s not hard work,” she said. “There are hard days, but I think the rewards out balance those and that’s why you see so many staff who have been here for so long because you’re making a meaningful difference in somebody’s life each and every day that you’re here and so that often outweighs a lot of the challenges.”

Community Living South Muskoka CEO Krista Haiduk-Collier and supervisor Kelly Cleland
CLSM CEO Krista Haiduk-Collier and supervisor Kelly Cleland. Photo by Maddie Binning

The management team works hard to create interaction amongst the various teams at CLSM through fun bonding activities like ring toss and door decorating challenges. Creating strong connected teams makes for more effective support for the people they serve, so they always have little things on the go to ensure the teams are working together.

Haiduk-Collier is grateful for her team every day. They’re supportive and have each other’s back, which is what a person needs when they come to work everyday, she said. She has many special memories from over the years, but what stands out most are the lifelong friendships she’s made with people she works with and the people they support.

“It’s been an honour, really, to work here all this time and I feel very privileged to have been a part of so many lives,” Haiduk-Collier said. “I’m looking forward to continuing on as time goes on and facing the challenges ahead and [seeing] the growth in our sector as we continue to evolve and change.”

To see the current job openings at Community Living South Muskoka, click here.

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