Brenda McLean was destined to work with people with developmental disabilities. As a young child, she lived right around the corner from the William Anderson School (now CLC main office), often playing after school on their playground equipment. In Grade 4, her class volunteered by reading to adults with developmental delays who were placed in nursing homes. In high school, Brenda volunteered at Community Living Cambridge’s South Lodge Residence and loved it. When it came to choosing a career path, Brenda’s teacher made a permanent impression on her, encouraging her to choose something she would do for free because doing something just for the money will never make anyone happy. Brenda followed her teacher’s advice and chose to do what she already knew she enjoyed doing. After an education in developmental services, she began working in the field and has never looked back.
Brenda’s daughters, Elyse and Erin, grew up surrounded by people with disabilities. The participants Brenda worked with weren’t seen as being any different by the girls; they were part of their extended family. They were often at the family dinner table, joining them on family vacations, and old photo albums are full of their familiar faces. When the girls were little, they were a hit among the folks Brenda worked with at the former ARC Industries. There were many visitors asking to hold the babies or take them for walk so they could push the stroller. The girls’ favourite babysitter was someone from ARC. Brenda would often bring the girls to work with her during school breaks or holidays where they would have fun making crafts and playing with everyone. As they got older, they helped out with Fundayz and special events.
In high school, when Elyse went to the mall with her school friends it would take ages, as she would stop and chat with all her friends from ARC Industries. When it came to choosing a career, it was no question for Elyse. She already knew she loved being with people with disabilities, so why not make working with them her career?
Erin loved volunteering with Community Living, but wanted to try to carve her own independent career path. First, she tried graphic design, but she didn’t enjoy it. Next, she tried hairdressing, but that wasn’t the right fit either. Most of her customers were the people she had grown up with anyway. They were easy-going, extremely forgiving of any learning curves, and were always eager to see her. Erin realized working with people with developmental disabilities was what she loves doing, and she too joined CLC staff.
Last year, at the CLC employee recognition lunch, all three McLeans were recognized for reaching milestones within the agency: Brenda for 35 years, Elyse 10 years, and Erin for 5 years of service. The staff and participants that work with these women appreciate and can attest to their compassionate hearts and dedication to their field.