A Year in Review: Annual General Meeting Recap
Written By: Dr. Lindy Zaretsky
I am so proud to stand before you as Chair of SAAAC. So much has been achieved in recent years, and I am excited to be working with outstanding board colleagues, committed volunteers and staff and an exceptional Executive Director. I am here because I fiercely believe in this organization. I continue to be awed by the work that we do.
As SAAAC enters its 8 year of serving the community, we asked ourselves what has contributed to our success and to the success of our clients. The answer, today more than ever, lies in the fact we are working in partnerships with community organizations, businesses, employers, funders and donors.
Our collaboration with Autism Speaks Canada, Els for Autism, MCYS, ESDC, Pooran Law, Community Living Toronto, and many others, extends our services to clients we could not have reached on our own. Big-hearted companies like Nava Law, Lastman’s Bad Boy, OHM Developments, Computek College, IWI Consulting Group, MD Law and many more Sponsors and donors enable us to bring innovative programs to under-served groups. Strong partnerships among our staff, volunteers and Board of Directors add to the quality of our work.
With over 140 volunteers, 9 full time and 10 part-time staff, we are continuously growing, adding strength not only in numbers but in expertise and experience. This year, we are collaborating across service areas to bring much-needed programs to over 50 new clients, including children, youth, and newcomers. Board members guide us with sensitivity and a firm commitment to excellence. Volunteers participate in every area of SAAAC. This year alone 140 volunteers donated over 30,000 hours of service; with most of the hours directly involved in program areas.
We are proud of our accomplishments for this past year, which include 73 % growth in revenue, the launch of our Living N Learning Day Program, Summer Camp, Pre-employment and Employment Preparation Programs, and Subsidized day programs and Sports.
I have been privileged to chair this fantastic organization for the last year, and have been actively engaged over the past year, inspired by SAAAC’s commitment to providing more and more front-line service to individuals and families while working hard to keep administrative costs at a minimum. We have a strong committed and inspired Board and staff and together we have accomplished a great deal. We have built strong partnerships and begun to build infrastructure to grow and not just be good, but be great!
This year, it is our collective dream that we grow our services in two ways. First, there is an identified need for specialized employment preparation programs for young adults, and 2) accessible programs for economically disadvantaged families (ADE – Assessment, Development & Empowerment). The ADE model is aimed at connecting families in need of support with quality services. Our programs provide children, youth, adults living with autism, and their families, with the tools and resources they need to succeed.
Thanks to funding from Autism Speaks Canada, SAAAC is currently working hard to launch a walk-in clinic that will focus on reducing the wait time for an autism diagnosis, which in turn should influence more timely access to early intervention services. Ultimately, this clinic will not only be a place for diagnosis and suggested interventions, but will also serve as a parent resource centre where they can learn how to best support their children, and how to access information about programs and services, if an ASD diagnosis is made.
Expansion of our arts programs is another area of focus. More specifically, Music & Dance programs will be created as they promote much learning for our children, youth and adults who enjoy creatively engaging through the arts and are motivated to learn how to communicate more effectively and interact with others. The programs are designed with their strengths and talents in mind so that they have different media through which to express themselves, particularly important for individuals who are non-verbal.
We thank all three levels of government, and our funders and donors for sharing our vision. With all of us working together, we will continue to add immeasurably to the lives of hundreds of individuals and families living with autism as well as mental health challenges) in the Greater Toronto Area.