Inspiring possibilities: building a community where everyone is included

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For charitable organizations, fundraising has never been as challenging as it is now.

“Due to COVID-19, we had to cancel our Valentine Tea this year in addition to cancelling our 65th anniversary celebrations last year. We want to make sure that our impact on the community is not forgotten,” explains the CEO of Community Living Tillsonburg, Cathy Hudson.

Community Living Tillsonburg was founded in 1955 by local families. Prior to then, services for individuals with developmental disabilities focused almost exclusively on isolated care in large, institutional settings. The efforts of the families initiated a movement to provide community-based services and eventually the first local classroom was established with four students and one teacher.

In 1959, spearheaded by the Rotary Club of Tillsonburg, Rotary Westmount School was built using community funds. The new school accommodated 20 students and three teachers.


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As students grew up and completed their education, families looked for activities to keep them busy and productive within the community. Employment, recreational and social programs were all developed. Today, the organization supports over 300 people.

“The Valentine Tea was started in 1973 by forward-thinking, hardworking volunteers who decided to hold the event in the basement of St. Mary’s Church,” says Hudson. “Little did they know that it would still be going strong 48 years later.”

The event, which was eventually moved to Avondale United Church, is staffed by over 60 volunteers.

The money raised goes to children’s and family services, providing opportunities for people with disabilities through supplies such as computer equipment, specialty software, specialized assistive devices and augmentative communication systems as well as educational and recreational programs.

Due to the challenge of providing social services during the pandemic, Community Living Tillsonburg is planning a series of virtual workshops and events that will be hosted on their website.

“Our focus has been on helping people to stay healthy and safe,” says Hudson. “Our staff have done a phenomenal job of keeping everyone safe, connected and entertained.

“We’ve launched a donation campaign but we know how difficult it’s been for everyone so even if you can’t donate there are other ways to help, either by learning more about us, volunteering or saving the date for next year’s Valentine Tea.”

For more information, contact Crystal Saunders at 519-842-9008 ext. 246. To donate send a cheque to Community Living Tillsonburg, 96 Tillson Ave., Tillsonburg, ON, N4G 3A1 or make a donation online at or by e-transfer to

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Community Living Tillsonburg.

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