Written by Toby McCrae
Every organization has a place on its walls where carefully-selected words describing its mission, vision, and values are on display for all to see. Rarely, however, do you find genuine truth between the words on the walls and the living DNA of a workplace’s culture. This is the ninth year that St.Amant is being recognized as a top Manitoba employer, and its investments in people continue paying off.
“We’re expanding our values-based culture with a people-first focus. Our staff know they’re respected and appreciated, so they consistently go above and beyond to provide outstanding support and service for more than 2000 people with developmental disabilities and autism,” said Shirley Labossiere, St.Amant’s acting president and CEO.
Labossiere says this year’s award is another opportunity to talk about a few things many people don’t know about St.Amant. Today, 85 per cent of St.Amant’s work happens in Manitoba communities and in Winnipeg neighbourhoods; not inside the original buildings at 440 River Road in St. Vital.
“Our teams support people with developmental disabilities and autism in approximately 80 independent homes now. We have four community-based St.Amant early learning autism sites, and we’re working with children and families in nearly 50 First Nations communities across Manitoba through Jordan’s Principle,” she said, adding that St.Amant has a mandate through Jordan’s Principle that includes providing holistic clinical supports to children, and delivering training and education to meet the learning goals that community-based programs have set for themselves.
St.Amant was once known as a place where people with disabilities would spend most of their lives. Today, the 440 River Road location is a place where people come to receive short-term health and stabilization services, before they return to their homes. Over the past five years, St.Amant has supported families in the process of moving 55 people into their own homes, where they can choose where to live, and are supported to become more fully-included and independent in their communities. The more than 700 staff in St.Amant’s community residential program not only provide basic daily life supports, they also enable and advocate for meaningful social inclusion opportunities, jobs, and friendships. As a large, multi-faceted resource for Manitobans with developmental disabilities and autism, St.Amant now employs over 1800 staff.
There is a strong focus on personalized and ongoing professional development, with continuous opportunities for staff to enjoy long-term, rewarding career growth. Mindfulness is now a core competency for all staff, and St.Amant is operationalizing the practice across the organization, recognizing the scientifically-proven positive benefits. Training topics include mindfulness at work, mindful self-compassion, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and even silent retreats. Training opportunities include two-hour sessions, eight week half-day sessions, and up to five-day silent retreats.
“Our holistic approach to work is essential. A connected and mindfully-present staff person can provide the most engaged and meaningful experiences to people we support, and their families,” said Jennifer Kilimnik, St.Amant’s director of human resources.
St.Amant is also known for its leadership in Manitoba’s disability rights movement, and played a pivotal role in the Disability Matters Vote campaign, held during the provincial election. DMVote united thousands of Manitobans in the call for dignified incomes for people with long-term disabilities, fair wages for direct support professionals, timely access to critical services, and employment.