On August 30 at the Tsleil-Waututh Recreation Centre, the North Shore Disability Resource Centre celebrated its 35th year as a service provider for the disabled community.
"The main focus of the celebration is to give people a chance to reconnect with each other," said Liz Barnett the executive director of the NSDRC. "It has been 35 years of people making a difference one act at a time."
The NSDRC began with a group of parents upset with the status quo on available services for their disabled children.
"Originally it was a group of families who were all volunteers. There was a thrift shop at Park and Tilford that we ran and that was how we got our start," said Barnett.
Eventually NSDRC received a grant from the United Way and began providing programs for families. The organization continued to grow and was soon able to hire an executive director.
"The executive director began fundraising and that allowed us to open services for adults while continuing to offer services to kids," said Barnett.
During its formative years the NSDRC campaigned to make the North Shore more accessible to the disabled and fulfill their mission statement of "working for a community for all."
"In the early 1980s there wasn't accessible buses, there wasn't accessible housing and there wasn't even accessible walkways," said Barnett. "We started to get into housing because it was a big issue. We built several group homes in a row and in the meantime continued to work very heavily with the government and the municipalities to improve accessibility within the community."
Today NSDRC has a staff of 230 people and is able to provide services to more than 300 people.
Barnett says that the NSDRC has come a long way in the past 35 years.
"It used to be a very closed system. Now kids can go to a camp like Pedalheads with
staff, with friends or with peers. It has changed to become a very integrated service," she said. "We have made some really great strides and have developed a good relationship with the municipalities."
With how much NSDRC has changed over the years, Barnett is excited to recognize that progress at the celebration.
"We are very happy to show our memory lane segment which will be a series of pictures and vignettes from our past of all of the services we have offered," she said.
Barnett said about 350 people attended the celebration, which she described as a casual affair.
"We are not dancing or singing or anything like that," she said. "This is not a formal recognition ceremony with plaques and awards. There will be food provided by a great caterer and it is a picnic theme, so there will be hamburgers, hot dogs, there is a vegetarian option, a salad bar and there will be refreshments as well."
Though the celebration was a public event, Barnett said that the priority was to have people come that have a connection to NSDRC.
"We were looking for people who are currently, or formerly, served by our organization. We were looking for people such as parents whose children were in the infant development program," she said.
"We have a whole generation of adults on the North Shore that have come through this service. We wanted to see people we haven't seen in a long time."
The party was planned by a group of 20 volunteers that are all connected to the NSDRC. For Barnett the planning process is something she is extremely proud of, and something that she feels is symbolic of the entire organization.
"We didn't hire an event planner and it is not my assistant or the fundraising department planning this. It is a group of people that have come together, and that has been great because the individuals are the strength of our organization," she said.
For those interested in learning about the NSDRC, they can email nsdrc@nsdrc. org or call 604-985-5371.