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Recycling fire continues to impact local organization

Rhonda McKenzie is enjoying her time planting seeds at Venture Training's greenhouse, but says she misses her job sorting recyclables.
April 15, 2013 - 5:36 PM

Finding the perfect occupation can be a tough job all on its own.

For a group of Vernon people with a range of developmental disabilities, it's even harder, especially after having watched their dream jobs go up in flames.

Through the Vernon and District Association for Community Living, around thirty Venture Training staff sorted material at the Greater Vernon Recycling and Disposal Facility. That all changed when a fire swept through the facility and turned the workplace to dust.

According to Ed Columbus, Venture Training Manager, the sorting job was perfect for a certain skill set.

"Everyone has different needs," Columbus says. Other participants in the program have found their niche in woodworking, park maintenance, and vandalism repair.

"The recycling facility participants have specific challenges and skill sets, they have a higher needs ratio (with a supervisor). Many of the jobs we have are just not suited to those participants displaced by the fire."

Participants say they enjoyed the familiar routine at the sorting facility. They knew what to expect, and that was a comfort.

"It was shocking at first," Rhonda McKenzie, a Venture Training participant, says of the devastating fire. "Now I'm planting seeds... It's okay, but I miss recycling."

Under the supervision of Angel Schulz, several participants are planting a garden. It's different from what they're used to, but they're not afraid to get their hands dirty.

Schulz says the food grown in the garden will be used in some of the association's day programs, including cooking groups.

"I don't know anything about gardening, and neither do they," Schulz says. "I think everyone misses the routine. Now, every day is different, sometimes we don't know what we're going to do until we get here. Everyone knew their job really well and did it really well, but we're adjusting."

Participants might not know what each new day entails, but the association is making sure opportunities are there for them.

"It was a real scramble at first," Columbus says. "For the first day, we asked participants to stay home, but we found something for them the next day."

It's an ongoing challenge to find work suited to the group affected by the fire, but that's not the end of Columbus' problems. As a result of the fire, a large chunk of revenue has been lost to the association.

Money generated through the sorting work was used to pay participants an honorarium of $10 a day, as well as to finance other programs.

It's uncertain whether the facility will be rebuilt or if material will permanently be transported to the Kelowna location. If it is, work, and money, will be diverted from Venture Training.

"We're going to work with the regional district on the rebuild and try to find a place for ourselves there," Columbus says, acknowledging the site may never be rebuilt.

An impact report about the participants displaced by the fire will be presented to the Regional District of North Okanagan board of directors at a meeting Wednesday.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call (250)309-5230.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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