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Coming up roses at peopleCare: a partnership with Untapped Potential

July 17, 2023

If you’ve been to Hilltop Manor this season, you will have noticed the lovingly tended lawn and healthy gardens surrounding the Home.

The beauty of these outdoor spaces is thanks to a talented group of individuals from Untapped Potential  – an organization that connects businesses with people who are developmentally delayed, capable and eager to work in their local communities for a fair wage.

“It’s great to see organizations like peopleCare open their doors and give people with disabilities a shot at work,” Jason Dudgeon, founder and owner of Untapped Potential says. “Diversifying your organization’s culture to give the most vulnerable people an opportunity to succeed is huge.”

Marc Richardson, Ryan Remigis and Jason Foster have worked as landscapers for peopleCare for two consecutive years through a partnership with Untapped Potential. They were able to develop transferable skills through Dudgeon’s other organization, the Live and Learn Centre in Guelph, Ontario. The multi-service business, like peopleCare, is person-centered, and offers programs designed to help those with developmental disabilities reach their full potential, including summer excursions, cottage getaways, day programs, evening events and social activities.

Ryan Remigis, Marc Richardson & Jason Foster pose by the peopleCare welcome sign.

L to R: Ryan Remigis, Marc Richardson & Jason Foster cleared the weeds from the peopleCare sign – now we can use it for personalized messages!

The team works from May through October spreading mulch, weeding, cutting the lawn, raking and more.

“They go above and beyond in their work,” says Cathy Donahue, Executive Director at Hilltop Manor. “After a clean up day, they took all of the trimmings and debris to the dump and made sure everything was neat and tidy when they left, something we did not ask them to do.”

Donahue says that families and residents have commented numerous times about how great the property looks since Richardson, Remigis and Foster began working at peopleCare.

“One of the residents, Mary, came to tell the crew how happy she was to see all of the rose bushes in bloom, and how well they’re doing keeping the weeds from harming the plants,” says Dudgeon.

Two team members from Untapped Potential proudly stand next to the rose bushes.

Remigis and Foster proudly show off Hilltop Manor’s rose bushes.

Dudgeon – who’s been working with people with disabilities for over 20 years – acts as an on-site coach for the crew. He or another staff member is always there to help answer questions, set good working standards and offer guidance both to his staff and to the organizations he works with.

“All they need is a little support to succeed,” he says. “Companies may be timid to hire someone with disabilities because they don’t understand – but once they do, they quickly see the benefits.”

Richardson is a Special Olympics bowler, and recently returned from Germany where he took home a gold medal. He’s very involved in the Guelph community and loves sports.

Foster has an interest in the Special Olympics as well and has gone through qualifiers in power lifting. He loves the outdoors, fishing and telling jokes.

Remigis loves baseball (specifically the Yankees) and is very active. All three of them like attending local hockey games.

Another thing they have in common? They’re very proud of the work they do for peopleCare.

“Everyone is so friendly and nice,” says Foster. “I enjoy coming in to work to make the residents’ property feel like Home.”

“The smiles on the men’s faces when they come to work – you can just see their excitement,” adds Donahue. “It’s been a great opportunity to go beyond ourselves in offering a meaningful experience for them.”

Dudgeon says hiring a person with disabilities can strengthen the community. “It fosters independence, overall improving their quality of life,” says Dudgeon. “If more companies caught on to that, the world would be a better place.”