As soon as Laurine Schmelzle found out she had a family member being helped by Reena she called to find out how she could assist. “Through a total miracle we found Reena, and Sandy Keshen could not have been more help…in fact, if your name is Sandy at Reena, it means help.” Laurine started volunteering on a communications committee, with long-time Reena Communications Manager Minnie Ross, later joining the Reena Board and becoming its Chair from 2010-2012.
One of the challenges Laurine remembers dealing with was sorting through the Judaic rules that were required of those who live in Reena residences. “I’m not Jewish, but I 100% supported the menus, and other things that were required,” says Laurine. “We protected the values that Reena presented…I believe that the foundations of Reena are powerful and even though Reena is a Jewish organization, they welcome everybody, including my family.”
The second challenge Laurine recalls facing during her time on the board was Sandy Keshen’s retirement. Laurine was part of the search committee the was set up in addition to an outside, third-party recruiter who was hired to receive and manage all applications. “We said to Sandy (Keshen), you know your son’s been around this place a long time, it would be nice if he would apply. The person who did the search for us highly recommended a young man whom she had no idea was related to Sandy Keshen. She said is he by any chance related? She really did not know,” says Laurine. “We got the best person we could have got in the universe. We all know what Bryan has done. And I for one am a cheerleader of everything that he does. He has taken us many places we wouldn’t have gone otherwise. We are so blessed; we were blessed to have Sandy, and we are blessed to have Bryan.”
Laurine is proud of the work she has done and continues to do at Reena and the standard of excellence that is set in everything Reena does. “Many people who provide services see themselves as overseers, not companions to the people they are serving, and I think that makes their life quite different. So, I think Reena does that very well,” says Laurine, noting that no matter what an individual’s abilities or disabilities they are equal and equally involved in decisions that are being made about them.
One of the things Laurine is most proud of is Reena’s willingness to share its knowledge with others in the sector, where so many other organizations are protective of what they do. “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”
Laurine Schmelzle is still involved with Reena via the nominating and governance committee but declares that nothing that she ever did was possible without the others who came before. “We have seen further by standing on the shoulders of giants. Those giants, many of them, are previous Reena Chairs. I’m humbled, I’m honoured, Reena taught me how to be a true friend to people with disabilities.”