“What will happen with Dougie when we’re gone?”
These were the words that rang in Bob Curley’s ears when the opportunity came along to join the board of directors of Highland Community Residential Services (HCRS) in 1983.
The words had been spoken by Betty Kennedy, who had a son with an intellectual disability. HCRS had been established in 1977 as a community-based supported living community for persons with an intellectual disability. It represented an important departure from the institutional approach of the past; Curley understood it to be the answer to Kennedy’s concerns.
He jumped at the opportunity and continues to serve on the HCRS board to this day. Curley had a young family at the time and a busy, high profile job in the community that gave him the opportunity to work with a lot of organizations. And that he did.
He is a charter member, founder, and board chair of the Pictou County Christmas Fund, a founding member of Big Brothers Big Sisters Pictou County, and longtime member of Kinsmen and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He has been involved in fundraising for the United Way and Pictou County YMCA. He coached hockey and baseball for many years, including the K-40 Cardinals Fast Ball team that won two provincial championships and is himself a Pictou County Sports Hall of Fame inductee. But through all of the opportunities that have come along, he has remained committed to HCRS for 34 of its 40-year history.
“Every year there was always something new, a new challenge that we needed to address. It kept me really interested and engaged in this organization.”
Curley has always been passionate about the financial stability of HCRS and through the years the board was able to navigate from just ensuring that suitable housing was being provided to being able to improve and enhance the quality of housing – and quality of life – for residents.
In the 1980s the organization expanded to support individuals with mental health challenges. In 1999, HCRS began to offer respite services to families of children with an intellectual disability. Today, with an aging population, HCRS continues to adapt its services, this time in response to the age-related health issues such as dementia now emerging among its residents.
But perhaps the most important contribution the organization has made to Pictou County has been its efforts to support the wellness, personal dignity, and human rights of its residents, and the ways its understanding and application of these principles have evolved over the years.
Curley, who is quick to give credit to the many dedicated volunteers he’s served with on the board over the years, has himself served HCRS in many capacities, most recently as chair of its 40th anniversary committee. He feels the organization has an important message to share this year.
“With the right support, it’s possible for persons with an intellectual disability to live rewarding, enriching and meaningful lives, this is the role that HCRS plays in Pictou County. The people we support are a big part of the community; they work here, volunteer, go to the shows, support local businesses. We want to thank our community for helping to make that possible, for working alongside us to break down barriers and supporting us in what we do. Thank you to the employers and partner organizations who have played a direct role in furthering our mission.”
HCRS is celebrating 40 years of supporting individuals with intellectual disability or mental health challenges to live independently in the community. To mark its anniversary, HCRS will be hosting a special reception at the Pictou County Wellness Centre on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m., which will feature a photo essay exhibit called “A Day in the Life of HCRS.”
The community is invited to come hear some of the stories that are the hallmark of the kinder, more joyful community HCRS is creating. To learn more visit HCRSweb.ca.