Vicky Manderson manages Communitas’ Supported Independent Living program, which normally supports people in the community. She and her staff continue to support the people they serve with telephone calls, FaceTime, emails and other electronic means. (Communitas photo: Krista Petrie)

Communitas Supportive Care staff continue to provide essential support

Abbotsford agency adapts to challenges related to COVID-19 pandemic

The daily routines and experiences of life have changed for most of us because of the current pandemic and that is true for Richard as well.

Richard lives in a home that is facilitated by Communitas Supportive Care Society. While he and his three housemates continue to receive quality care, he has been unable to go on outings or visit with his family.

The staff who care for him are doing their very best to make sure that Richard is safe and that he continues to feel loved and cared for. His days are still filled with fun and laughter. It is this dedication and commitment to care for which Richard’s parents, Geoff and Marci Dirks, are grateful.

“Communitas has our son’s best interest at heart. We have so much confidence and trust in the staff,” Geoff says.

The staff at Communitas are among thousands of social service workers who are providing essential care across communities in B.C. to people living with developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and acquired brain injury.

Karyn Santiago, chief executive officer for Communitas, describes their efforts as “heroic.”

“Our staff are facing these challenging times with bravery and finesse,” Santiago says. “They are stepping up, donning super-hero capes and coming to work. They really are making a difference.”

Staff in Communitas group homes have experienced significant changes to the way in which they deliver care. Everything from how laundry is done to how meals are served has changed with proper pandemic prevention measures in place.

There has been an increase in cleaning, sanitizing, and hand-washing protocols using appropriate sanitizing solutions and cleaning materials. Staying safe means staying home, so staff have had to find creative ways to do activities indoors or in their own backyards.

RELATED: Communitas’ annual baseball event a home run for Abbotsford

Other staff, who support people living in community, have also had to drastically change the way they care for the people they serve.

Before the pandemic impacted all our lives, the work done by day services staff was highly relational, meeting with people in their homes or in the community, participating in group activities, or volunteering together for community organizations.

Now, out of necessity, their support is being offered through regular phone calls, social media connections, and email.

Regardless of whether they serve directly in a home or are having to find ways to work at a distance, all staff have had to set aside their own sense of uncertainty and anxiety in order to be a reassuring presence for the individuals they serve.

Gillian Viljoen, chief program officer for Communitas, is grateful not only for the way in which staff have adapted so quickly but also for the attitude they’ve brought to the challenges they face.

“They are showing such strength and resilience in the face of adversity, doing their best to maintain a sense of normalcy for the people we serve,” Viljoen says.

“Not only are they keeping individuals safe but finding ways to infuse daily routines with laughter and fun.”

For Marie Faulkner, who serves as a licensed practical nurse in a mental health residential home, it is the appreciation of the organization and the supportive relationships of her colleagues that makes working in extreme conditions possible.

“I’m so blessed to be working with such an amazing organization,” she wrote on social media recently. “Communitas is such a beautiful place with beautiful people who assist others. The staff here live out the true meaning of caring for individuals.”

For parents like Geoff and Marci, knowing that their child is cared for by people who are so dedicated gives them a deep sense of peace, especially as they are unable to visit their son.

“These are extremely difficult times and we know that right now, we need to keep distance from our loved one,” Geoff says. “We have peace in knowing that our son will continue to have great care.”

To learn more about Communitas’ services and its response to the COVID-19 crisis, visit

RELATED: Artist’s work adorns wall at Communitas Supportive Care Society


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Richard lives in one of several group homes facilitated by Communitas Supportive Care Society. Richard’s parents are grateful for the quality care that Richard is receiving during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Communitas photo: Krista Petrie)

At the home where Connie lives, staff helped her create an art piece for the window to share some encouragement with those in Connie’s neighbourhood. (Photo courtesy of Communitas)

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