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GOVRC hosted its 50th anniversary banquetMore than a half-century of making a difference was recognized on Wednesday, Nov. 2, when GOVRC hosted its 50th-anniversary banquet at the Dr. Carson & Marion Murray Community Centre in Springhill.

More than a hundred people participated in the festivities, including GOVRC clients and volunteers, parents and entertainer and speaker Terry Kelly. Kelly, who is a seven-time East Coast Music Award winner and a member of the Order of Canada, told GOVRC members to never give up their dreams.

“Don’t ever think you’re not valued,” Kelly said. “All of you who are working there and volunteering there have been contributing to your community. Never undervalue what you’re giving back. The things you make every day, and everything you do make this community better. You are important to this community.”

GOVRC, or the Golden Opportunity Vocational Rehabilitation Centre, opened as an activity centre in 1971 and was organized by parents, Lois Field, Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Snair and Collingwood United Church minister Ellen Wilson. The program had seven clients and included social and recreational activities such as making small crafts, knitting, colouring, bowling, dances and other events.

It was funded via grants and received free rent from the ROAB Lodge and continued to be operated by volunteers until the late 1970s when the provincial Community Services Department began providing an annual grant that enabled the centre to hire a full-time coordinator, Joanne Hunter, and saw a change in the focus to teaching vocational skills that produced quality controlled products that were sold to raise money and provide life skills programs.

The workshop opened in Springhill’s industrial park in 1980 and in 1988 an expansion was completed and a greenhouse constructed.

Today, the organization is governed by a community-based board of directors, has a manager, two full-time and one part-time staff member with 22 clients from across Cumberland County. Products include wooden pallets, survey stakes, kindling, packaging, stripping wires baked dog biscuits, bedding plants, an online auction and laundry services.

Life skills, other than vocational ones, are enhanced through individual program plans.

“We now operate a half-million-dollar business whose priority is providing a quality service for its clients with intellectual disabilities,” board chair Ernest Gilbert said. “Balancing the two is a challenge, however, it’s rewarding to see the support from our community and it’s rewarding to see the sense of accomplishment and improved self-esteem that the clients achieve.”

The festivities also saw the presentation of plaques to three long-serving clients, including Faye Brooks, who is retiring after 50 years of service to GOVRC.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Brooks said following the ceremony. “I’m going to miss the people I’ve worked with.”Brooks received a standing ovation as she made her way to the front of the room to accept her award from GOVRC manager Paul Williams.

Danny MacArthur was recognized for 34 years and Terry Black for 30 years of service with enthusiasm, integrity and dedication. Cumberland County Mayor Murray Scott and Councillors Mark Joseph and Angel McCormick were on hand to present certificates of congratulations from the Municipality of Cumberland.

Scott, who emceed the evening, said GOVRC has been an integral part of Springhill and Cumberland County from the time the program got its start.

“GOVRC has been in this community for 50 years and every bit as much as GOVRC gets out of the community, the community gets out of GOVRC,” Scott said. “Being on the board has been an honour for me. GOVRC has had a tremendous impact on every one of its clients, but I strongly believe the community has benefitted a great deal from every person at GOVRC. I can’t say enough about them.”

Another highlight of the evening was a performance by Kelly of several of his hits, including Mama Likes to Rock n’ Roll, Celebrate Life and A Pittance of Time, which he dedicated to Springhill veteran Russell Fisher.