By Kenyon Stronski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
On 48th Avenue in downtown Taber, there is a peculiar consignment store known as The Beary Patch. A store many know — but do you know who is behind it? What are they about? The Taber Special Needs Society (TSNS) was formed in March of 1987, originally being coined as The Concerned Citizen for Exceptional People. Later, being changed to the name it still holds today.
Over the years, the TSNS would build bridges with a variety of clientele, including but not limited to Unifirst and the recycling depot, opening plenty of wonderful opportunities for the people under their wing.
Upon conception, the TSNS was a much smaller program than it is today, only offering a summer program for children aged six to eight.
Today, the society is home in a beautiful building on 47 Avenue, in the heart of Taber — providing the community with a large-range of living supports for many settings, offering people the opportunity to create a home of their own and live for their own goals and independence. As of today, the TSNS contributes to and staff 17 homes around Taber. The people the agency supports either rent residences or are a homeowner.
The TSNS offers a ‘Person Centre Plan’ — which does just as it says, the agency puts the person in the centre and discusses goals and aspirations. Then, there is a collective creation of a plan to try and meet those goals and aspirations. The society’s Executive Director Krista Douglas believes the agency contributes wholeheartedly to the quality of life of the individuals, while helping them live more normal lives.
The society offers many opportunities for individuals to explore the working world through a variety of ways, assisting them in becoming valued members of their community.
Through supported employment, the TSNS identifies what the people they care for want to be and what they are good at — by finding a job that accepts them, the staff learns the job and then supports the individual in learning and gradually fading out support over time.
There are many things the TSNS has to be proud of, and Douglas said one of them is the ability to have an agency like this in Taber, so families or individuals don’t have to go to Lethbridge for their needs to be met.
Alongside this, the TSNS operates the Health Loan Locker (HLL) or previously the Medical Loan Equipment Locker for the community. The HLL is a place in which, if required, residents can acquire equipment such as wheelchairs, bed railings and other medical household needs. This valuable equipment is completely free of charge, and the TSNS only asks for a donation — whether it be monetary or volunteer time.
In addition, the TSNS provides a sizable job market to the community, as well — offering up to 74 jobs before the COVID pandemic began.
Like many other local agencies, the TSNS has not remained unaffected by the pandemic. Currently, the TSNS isn’t able to operate The Beary Patch, and it is difficult for the location to accrue funds and donations due to being out of the public eye. Furthermore, the pandemic has impacted the amount of clients utilizing the TSNS, leading to a lot of the people they support being unable to work.
Douglas said individuals are very social, and now “we have a beautiful building that sits empty. It’s hard, so hopefully it clears up soon.”
Yet, as always, even in the darkest of times — there are lights that shine bright. The TSNS has been dreaming big, and have large plans for the future of the society. A big one being updates to the main building, including adding a garden for individuals to plant and work in, as well as updates to the HLL building — which includes a new up-to-code ramp, so “everyone can enter the facility.”
When asked about the society’s future, Douglas noted, “It would be good to see people we care for weaved into society.”
The Taber Special Needs Society is a non-profit organization and for donations or inquiries you can reach them at (403) 223-4941.