Special retirement for Community Living member after 22 years with city

Members of the City of Cornwall Parks and Recreation Department celebrate with Michelle Beland (center, in purple) outside the Optimist Park office Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Michelle is retiring after working for 22 years at the office through Community Living Stormont County's supportive employment program. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – A 22 year relationship between a City of Cornwall department and a Community Living Stormont County client has come to a celebratory conclusion.

Members of the Cornwall Parks and Recreation Department held a retirement party Friday for Michelle Beland. She received a city service award as well as a number of gifts, including an angel broach and a necklace.

Beland is retiring at 58 – after working 22 years at the Optimist Park building at Sunnyside and St. Michel Avenues – doing most of the cleaning of the building.

Community Living support worker Carole Levere told Cornwall Newswatch the parks department has been a great relationship builder for Michelle.

“It’s dealing with natural supports within our community and she’s a prime example of how important that is because she’s such a social person. If she didn’t get out and do this kind of thing and meet people she wouldn’t be able to have those kinds of relationships,” Levere said.

“Michelle is naturally supported for a good part of her shift by all of the workers here. She loves the interactions that she has with people. She knows everybody by name. They all greet her. There is a really good support system in place and when she had difficult times they were very supportive…this is kind of like a second home,” Community Placement Coordinator Nicole Paquette added.

Levere said Michelle had done “exceptionally well” considering she had a stroke 28 years ago and doctors said she would never walk again.

And she’s retiring on her own accord.

“She didn’t say it was enough, we asked her if it was enough. And she said, ‘I’m tired’,” Levere said.

Paquette and Levere both agree the recent retirement of Parks Supervisor Jim Althouse helped Michelle understand what it meant to retire.

“She understood what that meant. So that Jim doesn’t come to work anyone. I think she’s really going to miss coming and talking to the people and interacting with them because that was a big part of her working,” Levere said.

The long time bond between the parks and horticulture staff and Michelle has also helped to spread the word that Community Living members can contribute in their community.

“The inclusion is really important. We have people who have really good skills so we are looking at their abilities rather than their disabilities and focusing on how they can help with other businesses,” Paquette said.

“The group of people here, these city workers from the Optimist Park office, they have been outstanding supporters of our agency’s supportive employment program. They are like our stars. They’ve been understanding and they’ve been there and you can see how they appreciate her and value her. She’s been lucky to work with a great group of people,” Paquette said.

“She goes to church every Sunday,” Levere added. “She sees some of these people at church and they all talk to her so it’s a continuous thing. She’s part of her community then, which is what we are trying very hard to do.”