When Karen Baldwin lost her life to cancer on Nov. 28, 2015, her passing left a huge void in the lives of many of the people she worked with and for at Epic Opportunities.
Baldwin was involved with Epic Opportunities for nearly two decades, first as a volunteer when the organization was still known as Hope Centre and later as a Direct Support Worker and Manager. Her dedication to Epic Opportunities and its mission earned her the respect of dozens of employees and people the organization serves.
Earlier this fall, a monument to Baldwin and her many contributions was installed near the English Garden at Assiniboine Park. A memory stone with the inscription “Karen Baldwin, 4Ever In Our Hearts, 2015” will serve as a permanent reminder of her legacy of caring. The stone was paid for by several of Baldwin’s co-workers.
Coordinator Sarah Wake, a long-time co-worker who spearheaded the memorial project, says Baldwin had such a huge impact on so many people that she and others wanted to do something to ensure that her efforts would be remembered.
“I’ve been here for 23 years and no one impacted me like her,” Wake says.
“People saw a huge value in what she brought to the organization. She just really personified our values as an organization. It was just who she was. ‘You need help? I’ll be there.’ She was always the first person to volunteer for something or to work a shift. People really respected her.”
Wake says the idea to place a stone at the park to honour Baldwin’s memory and contributions seemed a fitting gesture. Assiniboine Park has hosted many Epic Opportunities events over the years and it’s a place where people will be able to remember Baldwin in a positive and meaningful way, she adds.
Baldwin’s husband, Bob Pigeon, recently visited the site where his wife’s memory stone is located and says he was touched by how her co-workers came together to honour her memory.
“It was an honour that the people there at Epic thought enough of her to do something like this,” he says. “I know she was well-liked by a lot of people and a lot of staff. It made me feel good that the staff would take their money and donate it towards something like this.”
One of the very first people to visit the site was Judy, who Baldwin supported for many years as both a DSW and a manager and someone she says had a huge influence on her life.
“It felt like she cared about me, she cared a lot, and I cared about her a lot,” says Judy, adding she felt a mix of both happiness and sadness while visiting the site of the stone.
Baldwin was involved in a number of important initiatives at Epic Opportunities over the years including her efforts to promote an atmosphere of teamwork and positivity among her peers regarding challenges with on-call scheduling.
Perhaps her most lasting influence, though, will be on the numerous support staff and managers she worked with prior to her passing. Manager Ana Lapina, who at one time worked with Baldwin as a DSW, says she was a mentor to her and countless other people.
“I think one of the things she was good at was building relationships with everyone. She made the effort and took the time to really get to know you and show how she appreciated you.”