Easter Seals closes city office

Diane Crocker
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Decision financial says provincial executive director, CEO

Shane Ardley is photographed in his home in Corner Brook on Monday, March 31, 2014.

For the past couple of years Shane Ardley has availed of the services of Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador. He’s learned to play and excel at bocce, has taken part in swimming sessions and social nights and attended summer programs.

But for the 26-year-old Corner Brook man and other children and young adults involved with Easter Seals programs in this area that’s all over now.

The Easter Seals office in the city has been closed. Ardley said there is nothing going ahead anymore and he’s not happy about it. He enjoyed the social aspect of the programs offered and getting to meet other people who he described as similar to him.

“I feel like they just gave up,” he said of the decision to close the Corner Brook office, which had been located in the Port of Corner Brook’s R.A. Pollett Building.

Mark Lane is the CEO and executive director of Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador. He operates out of the organization’s headquarters in St. John’s.

He told The Western Star that the decision to shut the office was a hard one and a financial one.

“They’ve been losing approximately $30,000 to $40,000 annually over there since it opened seven years ago.”

Rent on the office was $1,400 a month, but other fixed costs associated with it brought the monthly cost up to around $3,000, said Lane.

Lane said Easter Seals relies on donations and sponsorships and receives no site specific funding. The entire provincial operation runs on about $1 million a year and he said it’s becoming more and more challenging to raise money.

In the case of the Corner Brook office, Lane said the financial support from that area just wasn’t there. He said the decision to close was based on his recommendation to the Easter Seals board.

“It’s very sensitive, obviously you’re dealing with children, youth and families dealing with disabilities in the Corner Brook area.”

The office closed on Dec. 1 and Lane said Easter Seals tried to mitigate the impact of the closure by first having its one paid employee work out of his home for three months. However, he said the situation didn’t work out and the employee has since been laid off.

Lane said the office closure doesn’t mean the programs run by Easter Seals in the area have to end.

“Offices don’t deliver programs,” he said. “You cannot play wheelchair basketball in an office at the port authority. You cannot play bocce, you cannot play sledge hockey.”

He said Easter Seals wants the programs to continue and all the equipment that has been purchased for the Corner Brook office and programs is still in the city.

After meeting with families affected by the closure back in February, he left it to the parents to take on running the programs through a volunteer structure similar to what it uses in other parts of the province.

“That’s the model we have to use,” he said. “I feel confident we can do that as long as we roll up our sleeves and get in and do it.”

According to Lane some local parents have been working on setting up a committee to oversee the programs.

However, at least one of the people Lane said is involved said he wasn’t aware of any effort to keep programs going. Allan Kirby said as far as he knows there is nothing happening here.

He said the office closure was a surprise to all the parents involved in Easter Seals.

“It’s a significant blow to programming and to the structure,” he said.

 And he’s disappointed in the way it happened and unfolded.

“We were totally blindsided by that decision,” he said. “It would have been nice to have a warning shot fired over the bows.”

Kirby said there was no chance given to try to turn things around. He said the office also provided participants with a place to gather and help with things like resumé writing.

His 23-year-daughter Hannah is a former program participant. He said she developed “a community of friends” through Easter Seals.

Kirby is also doubtful the programs could be continued by the parents.

“You need a structure to it,” he said. “It’s too big a job for parents to take on.  Having a presence of Easter Seals on the west coast did a lot of the children involved.”

Ardley’s mother Louise said her family has heard little since the office closed.

“As far as I know that’s it, everything is gone out of western Newfoundland,” she said.

She described the loss as terrible.

“It was good for Shane,” she said.

Louise said Shane shows traits of Asperger’s and through his involvement with Easter Seals has come a long way and now gets out socializing, volunteering and exercising.

“The last few years he’s really come out of his shell,” she said. “It was an excellent program for him.”

Just this week Louise saw how the loss of the local office has impacted her son. Shane is the Newfoundland and Labrador bocce champion and had been expecting to attend the Canadian championships in St. John’s this month.

Last Thursday Louise saw a television news piece on the championships, which were about to begin in St. John’s.

That same night, she said, Lane contacted them to say there had been an oversight and Shane could attend if he wanted and Easter Seals would arrange a flight for him.

However, Louise said the invitation was too late in coming as her son would need more time to arrange time off work.

“They dropped the ball because I mean I thought Shane would be a good contender for it. He just learned it, but he’s done well with the games that he’s been in.

Organizations: Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador, Easter Seals board

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Western Star, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • anon
    May 09, 2014 - 22:58

    I walked into a Lawtons location in corner Brook about a month ago and was asked at the checkout if I wanted to make a donation to Easter Seals. I found this particularly troubling considering it was notgoing to support the had been Corner brook site. Shame on Mr Lane for his gutlessness and taking a huge step backward. He has deprived individual of quality opportunities.

  • Anonymous
    April 04, 2014 - 20:20

    The definition of a non-profit organization is as follows: not making or conducted primarily to make a profit. Easter Seals is a non-profit organization but I get the impression that Mr. Lane expects to make a profit from offering Easter Seals programs in Corner Brook. The expenses that people with disabilities and their families often incur is outrageous. Is it too much to ask that they have a place to go where they can have equal opportunity to participate fully in the community, without incurring additional financial burden? If Mr. Lane considers that $30,000 a loss of money I beg him to consider the enjoyment, activities, and smiles that that $30,000 brought to the participants of the Corner Brook Easter Seals branch.

  • Shane Ardley
    April 04, 2014 - 09:41

    I appreciate everyone's comment so far. :)

    • Ben Fitzgerald
      April 05, 2014 - 00:53

      I would love to help! 709 638 2793 I have some gym space, Rock Climbing Wall and other resources that could possibly help a day a week to start (Sundays possibly)!

  • kate
    April 03, 2014 - 15:49

    I'm not here to bash anyone, but I am not getting a good "vibe" about Mr. Lane's intentions. If he indeed were losing out on $30,000/year to keep the program running, why was it kept around for so long? We NEED a program like this in western NL. Do our disabled citizens not have a right to feel apart of our community? Many of them need the acceptance and feeling of belonging that this program gave them. Where are they supposed to turn now? Why does Mr. Lane not see the value in this? How does he not see that there needs to be an Easter Seals headquarters here in order to keep the program running? My heart breaks for Shane, and other local residents who must feel incredibly let down by him.

  • rworried
    April 02, 2014 - 19:22

    Shane has volunteered at the Cottages, paying his own way there and back to help out, he has a job and doesn't get any money for his disabilities . He is a credit to society not a burden like so many. How can Easter Seals forget their gold medal champion , it makes me sick to my stomach to see the way we are treated here on the West Coast. If this happened to someone in St. John's there would be heads rolling, I am disgusted!

  • Fred
    April 02, 2014 - 11:24

    You only got to look at the state of the art building the Easter Seals built St. Johns to see where all the money is going. I'm for one is pissed at the way all services are being consolidated in St. Johns and what does Lane say to the parents, no big deal you guys can carry on now. No notice no time limit ,sorry were out of, you can bet your bottom dollar this would not happen in St. Johns. At least the parents deserved a explanation, a time limit , input and maybe some ideals could be presented.

  • dianne elizabeth
    April 02, 2014 - 09:29

    Another loss for the Western Region. Just curious re the 30,000 to 40, 000 "loss" ...is that a true loss or simply the cost to invest in a regional presence? And how in the world can it be an "oversight" to not include a provincial; champion in a national event.and add insult to injury to offer to fly him in when the competition has already begun??

  • Jack
    April 02, 2014 - 06:23

    Just another case of "Corner Brook Bashing" in the hands of private, government, and now a non-profit organization. As a result of Easter Seals practicing "Corner Brook Bashing", persons with physical disabilities in Western Newfoundland will no longer have access to critical programs needed to have a better life. Due to Easter Seals robbing Western Newfoundlanders of a chance to have a successful life with program and office cuts, shame on them for turning their backs on our disabled community.