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Catching up with the Daytime Ottawa audience, Keenan Wellar with Derick Fage on Rogers TV



Welcome back to the show. LiveWorkPlay was founded way back in 1995. It’s hard for me to believe because I’ve known Keenan and Julie for so many years, and they’ve had so many great success stories over the years. Of course, they continue to have challenges when it comes to helping out the people that they help in our community that are living with intellectual disabilities or perhaps on the autism spectrum. Here to tell us more about the great work that they do I’m joined by Keenan Wellar. He is the co-leader and director or┬ácommunications at LiveWorkPlay. Great to see you again.

Great to be back in the studio with all these anniversaries today as it’s 28 years coming up for us.

Congratulations.

Yeah, I think I won that contest, which just means I’m a lot older than most other people.

That’s right.

That’s right. But that’s okay.

Yeah.

I, you know, I think most of our viewers are, are familiar with you. You’ve, you’ve been on the show so often in the past, Keenan, but tell us about those, those beginnings and, and where you are today and, and the growth that you’ve seen over these 28 years.

Certainly in the beginning with Julie and I, we were looking at the, the post-21 problem. So, people with intellectual disabilities
or autistic persons leaving the high school system and not really having, much of a plan for the future. So very high unemployment,
which is still an issue.

Yeah.

Very limited amounts of housing and families wondering what to do. So that’s still pretty much what we’re all about, but it’s all ages now. So obviously we started in ’95 and we were serving people as of 1997, but they got older and we still have the relationship.

So now we’re helping people, you know, what’s your, what’s your retirement plan?

Right?

Yeah.

You know, so it’s amazing how these things have evolved and, that’s what we do. Employment and supporting people to live in, in homes of their own and really to enjoy their life in the Ottawa community. So kind of everything your guests have been talking about earlier, we’re supporting people to access that and, and have a good time.

You mentioned challenges, but I, I did say, you know, you’ve had a lot of successes as well.

Mm-hmm.

And that’s due to the hard work of yourself and your team. What are some of those successes?

I think most recently, one of the biggest breakthroughs we had, so being in Ottawa, the federal government is one of the biggest employers. I know they’re going through a strike action right now, but nevertheless, it can be a great place to work. And that was one of those things, could we kind of break in there and have some people that we support hired into the federal public service. And historically, this had not happened very often.

Right.

But we made a lot of progress. And actually we have 70 people.

Wow.

That work for the federal government.

That’s amazing.

Which shocks me to repeat it.

But it is a fact.

And so that’s been really just over the last seven years. It started in 2015, just developing partnerships with hiring managers and working with government departments, so that’s an incredible story I think.

Yeah, absolutely.

There are still many challenges.

I mean, one that I’d like to touch on is the recent provincial budget, the issues with provincial disability benefits. Where, where does that stand, you know, as far as you’re concerned? I would imagine, Keenan, you’re, you’re not happy with what you saw.

Yeah, I think just on behalf of, of people with disabilities, you know, listening to them. The fact that the housing allowance portion of that disability benefit is still less than $600. So we know realistically in a, in a city like Ottawa, there, there is nothing for $600.

Yeah.

So it, it really means people are using food money, transportation money, other money to just survive, to have a home, hopefully. But also we are seeing the number of people without homes from our population increasing. And that is kind of a new thing because the pension used to be fairly functional, but not with inflation and other things. And there was a small increase, in the budget, but it’s just not even keeping pace. So people are very worried about that. You know, accessing affordable housing, again, it’s scarce, so we work with partners and try to find people homes, but there’s not enough to go around.

One of the things that of course happened during the pandemic is, you know, the social part of what you do at LiveWorkPlay is a big part of, of what you do. People love to gather and like any, like anybody else, you, you missed a lot of those in person, but you, you
were able to keep some things going. You persevered. You’ve got your Make a Buzz event coming back up, which persevered through, but, some of the, some of the people you work with wanted, wanted things changed a little bit, right? Maybe, maybe more social
engagement, smaller events. Tell me a little bit about what happened there.

Right, so we persevered through the pandemic with, with online events, which were shorter by nature as well.

Right.

And then we were able to come back and have our first in-person, at our usual St. Anthony’s Banquet Hall or the Preston Event Center, as they now call it, just before the holiday season in December. And we were actually so busy that season, I didn’t have time to put together much of an agenda for the event.

Okay.

So we kind of served the meal, made a few comments, and then people were telling me that’s the best one ever, the one we did least work on was the best one I’ve ever done. I was like, what does this mean? Let’s think about this. So then we had another chance, just in March, similar, just a dinner. And, I fit in all the speaking in between the two courses. And again, they said this was even better than the last one.

And so I, you know, we have our, our big annual event on May 11th Make A Buzz, but I think we’re gonna focus on hearing that message but we’ll do a few extra things, right? Because we want to give some awards and recognition to our community partners and people enjoy that, right?

Of course.

But they, you know, maybe not the long biography. We’re gonna cut to the chase. Derek’s a great guy. Here’s an award.

Yeah.

And I mean, you’re still keeping that component of, you know, raising funds, right. With, with live auction and, and, and silent auction. But you’ve, you’ve changed that, that aspect a little bit as well.

Right.

We have to manage expectations around that too. It’s still not the greatest time to be going to the business community. And, you know, restaurants are in recovery mode. All of our usual partners and funders, if they want to donate, of course, but we’re not doing the aggressive, you know, you need to give back. It’s like, well, they’re like, I’m, I’m trying to find staff to, to run my restaurant on Sunday.

So trying to stay afloat.

Exactly.

So it’s very, you know, be aware of your community and, and, work together and, and support each other.

That’s happening on, on May 11th, starts at six o’clock and again, it’s just gonna be a fun gathering. Raise as much funds as
as you possibly can. Open to the public. Obviously it is.

Yes.

We have a few tickets still available, so go for it.

You and I ran into each other at the Men’s World Curling Championships and one of the main reasons is because you and I are both big sports fans. Well look at, there’s a, there’s a picture of us right there. I’m wearing my, that fabulous hat that my wife was so proud of me.

We look pretty awesome all the way.

But you live down at Lansdowne, right? Such big sports fans, you yourself and, and Julie. So you must be excited with, you know, everything coming back. I mean, you guys have a place that faces the field.

Right. This time of year is just a constant practice of who are those guys working out? Is that soccer, football, and you know, it’s been the 67s also crossing the field for different reasons.

Yeah, of course.

And very excited about the, the women’s international rugby coming this summer.

Yeah.

Can’t wait to see that.

I’m kind of set. You know, I get real upset when I’m not home.

You got your soccer Atletico coming.

RedBlacks were working out this morning, a few of them.

Very excited.

I’m excited that we, you gotta get them on the show soon because, they, they’ve put together an excellent team.

And Atletico almost all the way last year.

Yeah.

Yes.

Always great to see you.

Say hi to Julie and the team for us here at daytime.

We’ll be back with more right after this.

Will do.