Kelchris sees changes

After 17 years, the mother who started Kelchris Inc. in Virden decided it was time to retire from her role as executive director of the organization and take her son home, into her own care again.

“It was time for a change in my life,” Barnesky explains. I decided to resign my position and care for Kelly myself. It’s been so wonderful with him at home....”

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Deb Barnesky started Kelchris, one of two such non-profit organizations that support independence for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Her last day at work was March 24, and by early May, Barb Finley had been hired by the board of directors to fill the position as executive director.

Barnesky said of Kelchris, “I’m so happy that they decided to continue it. I wish the very best for everybody at Kelchris. I feel that I created a wonderful thing and wanted it to continue, because people need help.”

Barnesky explained that four original board members continue, while there are a number of new people on the board.

She started the agency because of her non-verbal son, Kelly, who is now 37. Since then, many people have received support from this organization.

She laughs and says, “My biggest decision of the day is now, ‘Kelly, where are we going to go for a ride? What are we going to have for lunch?’”

She does miss the adults she worked with in Kelchris and says, “It’s the people that are important.  I sure miss the individuals.”

New Executive Director

Barb Finley is relatively new to Virden as well as to Kelchris.

Trained as a hair stylist, she lived and worked in Winnipeg, also working with the Bank of Nova Scotia many years. Through the bank, Finley was transferred to Virden, where she worked for about three years.

A friend pointed out the job opening as executive director at Kelchris, and Finley applied. “I was ready for a change,” she explains.

She’s enthusiastic about her new role, to say the least.

“It’s awesome and I love it. It’s so different from anything I’ve ever done,” she says.

Finley likes working for a non-profit organization, and she enjoys the people she works with.

“I come to work, and my day is never the same,” she says, describing her role as it differs with the various adults she works with. Some, live on their own, but need the support of someone to help them with the multitude of things others take for granted.

“There’s so much diversity in what I can do in this job,” Finley says with enthusiasm.

She admits there’s been a huge learning curve, but Finley knows others who are also involved in helping challenged adults. She’s excited about finding new fundraising ideas, and getting new ideas for the day program such as having a girl’s night, a pizza night, getting together for fun or music in the park. And, Finley hopes there will be some new people coming into the day program.

“We have great staff members that are fantastic,” she says of the mature and also younger staff; speaking of them as one team.

Many of the clients work at stores in the area. She names Tanis, who works at the Flower Attic, Tammy who works at Kelchris and with her mother at ROSA Second Time Around Thrift Store as well as at the CPR Historic Centre. Danielle is a young woman who has a job at the Dollar Store and Jenna is also going to start working with Val Smith at ROSA thrift store.

Finley remarks on the outpouring of community support, whether it be to, and through, Association for Community Living (ACL), or through Kelchris.

“Here, all these individuals, girls and guys, they’re all out working. We’ve got single individuals as independent living clients, we’ve got individuals that live in the houses (group) and then we’ve got a day program.

 “I think that the most amazing thing I discovered here in Virden ...  you wouldn’t get this community effort in a big city,” she says, regarding the integration into the community at large. The director says she gets good reports from employers, regarding her clients.

Organizing meals, budgeting for groceries, hygiene, and the practicalities of housekeeping, are some of the areas of support through Kelchris. Some clients are extremely independent, she explains, but still need the support. “We’re just like a coach,” states the new executive director.


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