By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND—The Jennie Deagle Dream Fund, a charitable endeavour granting ‘wishes’ to a number of citizens receiving support through Community Living (CL) Haldimand, has announced this year’s nine recipients.
Dream Fund Chair Heather Furtney explained of the fund’s name, “Jennie Deagle was instrumental in creating the foundation of what we know as Community Living Haldimand now.
Deagle first got involved when she realized the obstacles her son Jim would face as a child with cerebral palsy and mental health issues at a time when much less was known medically about either. When Deagle attempted to enroll Jim at Green’s School in Caledonia in the mid-1950s, he was rejected, with the teacher that saw him at the time noting a fear of catching his ailment. Things, clearly, have changed a lot in the intervening years.
“She was involved with a group of parents, along with the Fisherville Lions, who created a school in the Canfield area, where children who were not welcome in the public system because of disabilities were able to experience school like their peers did,” said Furtney. “She even drove the bus.”
Knowing that her son would continue to need educational opportunities and a place to belong once his schooling was complete, Deagle obtained a former school building located on Highway 56: “That led to her becoming involved with the institution of CL itself. When the services grew from just a school to both employment services and residential lots for folks to live in, she became involved there too.”
Furtney praised Deagle as someone who “believed strongly that people with intellectual disabilities should experience life to the fullest, just as all of us do. She was prepared to make that happen.”
She elaborated, “She actually would take groups of supported people places and they would raise money doing various things within the community so those people could go to Florida, or go on a longer camping excursion…. The more I learn about her, the more I know that we as a committee have a great responsibility to honour that.”
Deagle’s efforts over the years did not go unrecognized, with her being named one of only 12 recipients in 1992 to receive the Ontario Community Action Award, and the central office for CL is now known as the Jennie Deagle Complex.
It was upon Deagle’s passing five years ago that Furtney said the idea to create a fund in her name first came about “to honour the invincible spirit Jennie possessed.”
“We talked about dreams. Many of the individuals we support do not have money for things like trips or experiences, things that we all dream about. It’s very unique to that individual,” explained Furtney.
While doing some initial fundraising for the Dream Fund, the Board was approached by the Golden Horseshoe Antique Society, who were dispersing funds following the disbanding of their membership: “They made a very generous donation. So, for us, that was a real shot in the arm, and it added to the pressure that whatever we were going to do, we wanted to get it right. The reason that they chose us, is that Jennie had always impressed them as someone who did wonderful things.”
Applicants can either make a submission themselves, or can do so with the help of family, friends, or support workers. The only requirement is that the applicant is supported by CL.
“That takes many forms; we have people who are supported and require 24-hour care, to people who live independently and need a different level of support,” said Furtney.
“We’ve tried to make the process as open as possible, because we know there are many different ways people that are supported could choose to apply,” said Furtney, noting that the fund had over 30 applicants this year, making for a tough decision-making process for the board.
“As a committee we go through everything, talk about the dreams, and begin to narrow it down, and make our final decision. The individuals are then notified, and the work on gathering the dreams starts that day. Whether it’s a piece of furniture, or the opportunity to do something. That happens as soon as we make our decisions.”
Those interested in contributing can visit clhaldimand.com/about/the-jennie-deagle-dream-fund, where you can make a donation to the fund or learn more about their charity golf tournament, scheduled for September 22.
While Furtney called the fund a “work in progress,” she said the ultimate goal will always be to carry forth Jennie Deagle’s generosity and kind spirit to future generations. “We’re all really committed to finding ways for the fund to allow people to reach out and touch those dreams that otherwise might not have been available to them.”