Debra Marsh began her work with Reena in 1996 and while she has had many roles over her 30+ years, as Learning and development Manager, she now oversees how training is provided at Reena.
Debra says she has always felt extremely supported and valued by Reena and the people involved in it, “…And that support has been a guiding light, or force, for me with Reena. As an agency we’ve had good times and bad times and I have been involved in both. But for me that was one of things that kept me alive here and kept me wanting to push forward and wanting to give that back to other people. I wanted people to feel that valued.”
Marsh helped build the learning and development program over the years into the industry standard it is today. What started with only mandatory training for Reena employees, has now grown into training for thousands of people every year from some fifty different organizations. “As an agency you have to recognize that some of the staff you bring in have certain skills, and other staff maybe don’t, so we started building our own portfolio. And that’s kind of what happened…we just grew and grew and grew based on need.”
As a result, Reena’s Learning and Development program not only trains Reena employees, but University and College students and others with an interest in the field as well. In fact, Reena’s Aging course is taken to long term care homes across the province to teach staff there how to understand the population Reena serves. The Aging with a disability training has even gone on a ‘road show’ in Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia and, according to Marsh, is on the cusp of going national.
Working at Reena has provided Debra with many different memorable experiences. But one which she says stands out in her mind happened in her early days as a home supervisor and involved an older individual. “When I was supervising one of the homes, there was a gentleman who lived there at the time named Harry Edelstein, and he was a ‘character’. Harry tended to be sort of gruff with people …and I brought my young son to work one day, and he was in my office on the floor playing with cars and Harry came downstairs. l said, I’m just going to wait and see how this plays out, and Harry became this tender, gentle grandfather figure. He reached in his pocket and offered a candy to my son and was stroking his hair telling him he was such a good boy. For me, when I look at that moment, I get shivers and chills all the time because its not something that you get to see when somebody is aggressive…and I got to see a side of him that always makes me feel like that’ s what this is all about.