Traditionally, tin or aluminum have been used to mark the 10th wedding anniversary of couples as the two metals are said to represent both durability and flexibility. Those two metals might also be appropriate materials to mark the 10th anniversary of our organization being renamed Epic Opportunities and the remarkable durability and flexibility it has shown over the years.
The not-for-profit agency was originally founded on Nov. 11, 1972 as Hope Centre Inc. by the Christian Reformed Churches of Winnipeg to serve individuals living with an intellectual disability to live and work independently in the community. It’s original purpose was twofold: to offer programs for children and teens and faith-based study groups for adults; and provide for community needs and help people feel cared for and safe.
Ten years ago we forged a new identity to better reflect our vision for the future: one where all people are valued and contributing members of the community.
Started out of a single location in an old two-storey house on Alfred Avenue with a small group of volunteers, the organization has grown by leaps and bounds since becoming Epic Opportunities. It now has 350 employees serving 176 people at 51 different locations across the city and provides six broad areas of service: Supported Independent Living (SIL); home share opportunities; shift-staffed homes; outreach services; day services; and transportation.
Despite the myriad of changes, Executive Director Ruby Reimer says the organization’s key values have remained much the same since its early days.
“Much has changed since this humble beginning and yet many of the same characteristics still define us today. Our story is still one of hope, determination, community, progress and change,” she says. “Our goal is to keep adapting to ensure we stay relevant to the needs that exist in our community.”
It was a desire to adapt to the changing times and the needs of the community it served that led to the transformation of Hope Centre into Epic Opportunities in 2010.
Under the leadership of then Executive Director Jeannette DeLong, it was determined the time had come for a refresh and to more clearly identify the organization’s vision, mission and values more clearly. That in turn led to extensive consultations with people served by the organization and their families, employees and community members on what they thought the organization was and what it should be.
“We went through a whole process of clarifying our purpose, vision and mission. We had to think about who we were and what we were doing, what did that mean for our name and how do we reflect that,” DeLong recalls.
A marketing expert was brought in to help with a rebranding of the organization. They suggested several new names but all of them seemed to miss the mark, especially after the earlier consultations with stakeholders identified empowerment, people and community as key priorities for the new organization.
A member of the Epic Opportunities board of directors at the time, Shari Diamond, began tinkering around with those words and soon after came up with the suggestion EPIC, an acronym for Empowering People In Community, which eventually became Epic Opportunities.
DeLong recalls: “By the time we got to the name Shari put forth it was ‘Yes, of course. That has to be the name.’ It was abundantly clear because of all the consultation we had done at the time.”
Still, it took considerable soul searching as an organization before the name change was adopted. Most importantly, leadership wanted to ensure that the new identity honoured the organization’s past while at the same time providing a better understanding of its current mission.
“It was important for us to reflect an organizational shift away from the concept of a centre. It’s the people that matter,” Reimer says. “To serve people well and reflect a more self-directed and empowered approach we needed a refresh.”
Although she’s no longer directly involved with Epic Opportunities, DeLong says she is pleased to see how the organization has grown and evolved since adopting its current mission and identity.
“I think the name change brought a lot of opportunity to open conversations with people and talk about Epic Opportunities and what we were doing,” she says. “As a result of that, I think we were able to articulate and influence a perspective of inclusion and belonging in a much stronger way with our stakeholders.”
Another important milestone is just around the corner for Epic Opportunities. In 2022 it will celebrate 50 combined years of service and support to the community. While details are still being finalized, you can be sure of one thing: it will be a truly Epic celebration.
“We await this future with an emphasis on hope, determination, community, progress and change for some things truly never do change,” Reimer says. “We know this journey will indeed be epic!”