Almaguin Highlands Community Living celebrating 50th anniversary

The upcoming annual general meeting of Almaguin Highlands Community Living (AHCL) will be historic.

The organization is celebrating its 50th anniversary of service to the region.

In addition to a dinner, the annual general meeting features a performance from Michael McCreary of Toronto, an autistic comedian who uses his comedy to dispel myths about Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Also the November 4th meeting will see someone win a $6,000 vacation anywhere in the world.

Lauren Ryckman, who is AHCL's Director of Support and Services, hopes the Dream Vacation draw raises $23,000. She says all the money from the draw benefits the people the agency supports. Ryckman says 3,000 tickets have been printed. Details can be found online at or the agency's Facebook page and Huntsville Travel is handling the travel arrangements. Ryckman says the winner can also opt for the $6,000 cash.

The same website address also has details about how to purchase tickets for the dinner and comedy show.

Ryckman says this is the first time AHCL is holding a fundraiser of this nature. The goal is to create a fund where the people it supports can access the money and engage in fun activities that may otherwise not be possible.

The catchment area for AHCL is large. Along Highway 11 it serves all the communities from Callander to the north to Kearney in the south, a distance of nearly 100 kilometres. It also covers communities to the east like Magentawan, Port Loring and Chisholm. Ryckman says the catchment area just about covers the East Parry Sound region.

The agency receives its funding from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.

AHCL employs about 60 people and although head office is in Sundridge, the majority of the workers are employed in Powassan where Community Living has most of its group homes and programs.

Ryckman says AHCL provides services and support to people with developmental disabilities and their families.

In addition to the group homes, with each having a maximum of four residents, Ryckman says there are other programs like SIL, which stands for Supported Independent Living.

Ryckman says with this program the individual either lives with family or on their own and gets support from AHCL staff depending on their level of need for everyday living. She says an example of this is showing people how to operate a microwave. Ryckman says they won't be able to use a stove at home but they can use a microwave to heat up meals and snacks.

Ryckman says the people AHCL serves vary a lot in their disabilities.

“Some can live very independently on their own,” she said. “They only need help with transportation or medical appointments. Then there are others who need significant support.”

At the main office in Sundridge there is the community participation support program. Ryckman says the people in this instance participate in activities like skill building, community participation, work and they also volunteer. She adds in all the instances “family members know their loved ones are safe”.

In total the AHCL serves about 100 adults and children.

Although some of the celebratory events have taken place, like the June golf fundraising tournament, there are still a number of other events planned beyond the annual general meeting next month.

Ryckman says one is the upcoming Christmas drive.

“We're able to provide gifts for the families we support and have lots of Christmas decorations,” she said. “In our parking lot (on Highway 124) we'll have Christmas blow-ups, and we give out hot chocolate and candy canes”.

Ryckman says it's a time of year the people it supports look forward to.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget