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In the mid-1990s, our Board President and founder, Phyllis Santone, began exploring possibilities for her daughter, Rita, after graduating from high school. Phyllis quickly found that there were no appropriate prospects or opportunities for work and socialization in the community for individuals with a developmental disability like Rita.
Phyllis envisioned the existence of a setting that would provide individuals the opportunity to learn valuable work skills, continue building meaningful relationships and be acknowledged as valued citizens in their community.
Phyllis, along with a few other parents of children with developmental disabilities advocated for an alternative solution to the government funded programs offered. In 1998, “Employing Special People” was established with the intention of making and selling promotional buttons and chocolates to provide trainees with employment skills so that they could take on meaningful vocations within their community. Thus, a parent driven model for a journey to belonging, began.
Four years later, with on-going support from the community and a grant from The Ontario Trillium Foundation, ‘Alternatives Integrating Special People in Vaughan’ was born. Alternatives moved out of Phyllis’ basement into a unit in the community and established itself as a registered charitable organization.
In 2005, the organization continued to evolve with the times and changed its name once again to ‘Alternatives Integrating People with Cognitive Challenges’.
Relaunching ten years later with the program changing its name and organization branding to ‘Creating Alternatives Day Program’ marked the beginning of a new era for the organization.
Creating Alternatives has grown tremendously over the years with generous support from donors. A program that started with only 4 participants in 1999 has grown exponentially to currently support over 57 individuals. Over the years, Creating Alternatives has supported and advocated for over 80 individuals.
Along the journey of the past 20+ years, Creating Alternatives has succeeded in providing this same vision and opportunity to many others who have joined the organization for the very same reason it was established. A safe and supportive environment where participants can learn, socialize, and integrate in the community.
Our goal remains for equity through the fair and respectful treatment of all people. This is achieved through an intentional and respectful focus on, and recognition of, everyone’s unique qualities, attributes, and creation of inclusive environments where all individuals feel respected, accepted, and valued. Equity, inclusion, and diversity is embraced as a source of learning and pride.
Creating Alternatives is engaged in ensuring that the concepts of equity, diversity and inclusion are understood, and barriers are eliminated.