Communitas celebrates 40 years

The Abbotsford organization held an anniversary barbecue to mark 40 years of supporting people with disabilities.

Eugene Klassen (left) and his friends Henry (centre) and Alvin attended the 40th anniversary barbecue celebration on Saturday of Communitas Supportive Care Society. Klassen has served with the organization for 30 years.

Eugene Klassen (left) and his friends Henry (centre) and Alvin attended the 40th anniversary barbecue celebration on Saturday of Communitas Supportive Care Society. Klassen has served with the organization for 30 years.

Nearly 600 people gathered at Mill Lake Park in Abbotsford on Saturday, Sept. 6 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Communitas Supportive Care Society.

Staff, families and clients enjoyed a barbecue meal, mingled and shared memories of an organization that has provided support for people living with disabilities.

On display was a visual timeline created by Jonathan Goertz that tells the story of Communitas using drawings, and banners made by each Communitas home and program were hung throughout the area.

As CEO Karyn Santiago welcomed guests, she made the connection between past and present as she introduced the current Communitas board chair.

Dr. Marlyce Friesen is the daughter-in-law of the late pastor David A. Friesen, who, together with pastors P. D. Loewen and Henry Born, responded to parents who were looking for a way to support their adult children living with disabilities.

Friesen reminded those gathered at the event that an organization with a rich 40-year history doesn’t just happen without the work of many.

“We stand on the shoulders of those who saw a need and responded to it,” she said. “We have also learned – and continue to learn – so much from the people we serve.”

Communitas began in the 1970s with the vision of a group of parents who had adult children living with disabilities.

These parents recognized that their children would outlive them and were concerned about how they would be cared for.

Reluctant to place their children into institutions, they established the Samaritan Society for Comfort and Cheer and approached the Mennonite Central Committee BC for help in establishing a group home where their children would be cared for in a loving and nurturing home environment.

The first group home, The Cedars, was established in 1974.

Today, Communitas supports people living with disabilities in more than 40 programs and homes in the Fraser Valley, Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan.

For more information, visit

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