It was this desire to help others which led David to put his university education on hold and join Epic Opportunities as a disability support worker in 1996. Nearly 20 years later, he is now a residential manager for the organization and supervises staff at two homes.
Although he never did return to university, David says he has absolutely no regrets about his decision to remain with Epic Opportunities.
“I don’t want to say it was love at first sight, but I just felt more confidence than I ever had in my life,” he says of his work supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities in the community.
“It was not that I decided I would do it until something else came along. I didn’t want to do it for the money. I just knew this is what I wanted to do. It’s a constant challenge but in a good way. No two days are alike. There’s something new every day. That’s one of the reasons I stay in it.”
David says part of what drew him to community support work is that as someone with a physical disability – he was born with a mild form of cerebral palsy – he welcomed the opportunity to help others develop their own voice.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the job for David has been witnessing the personal growth in staff and the individuals he supports.
“As a manager I’m helping other staff to grow in the field and to know it’s a career option. It’s really become a mentoring role,” he says.
“I often work with [supported] individuals who have never lived in residential [housing] before. To see such growth in their independence and building relationships is great. My job is not to be family for the individuals I support but rather help nurture and build their relationships with their family and natural support network. In some ways my job is to put myself out of job, to give them skills and confidence for day-to-day living and to be part of the community.”
As one of Epic Opportunities’ longest tenured employees, David has witnessed first-hand the significant growth and change the organization has undergone during the past two decades. It has grown from nine departments to more than 40 during that time while its guiding philosophy has continued to evolve.
“I really like the direction it’s gone in. I feel it’s really become more person-focused…and much more multicultural and multi-faith. [And] I feel my opinion really counts. I’m not just a number. If I have an idea people will listen,” says David, who is Epic Opportunities’ residential representative on the Association of Direct Service Professionals.
One of David’s favourite pastimes is listening to music. He’s a huge folk music fan and has attended the Winnipeg Folk Fest for 20 consecutive years, which he says “helps recharge my batteries.” He’s also an avid baseball fan and says one of his most prized possessions is a collection of old box scores his late grandmother collected.