Winner of Pioneer Award hears from proud and grateful daughter

Eric McCarthy
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DEBLOIS -- As Community Inclusions’ annual meeting was about to conclude Wednesday, Lois Ann Handrahan tentatively approached the microphone and sought permission to speak.

Inez Handrahan, center, receives congratulations from her daughter, Lois Ann Handrahan, left, and Community Inclusions’ residential services coordinator Ethel Ellsworth after being named the organization’s 2014 recipient of the Pioneer Award. The award, now in its tenth year, recognizes individuals for long-term commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities.
Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer

She proceeded to tell the audience how proud she is of her mother, and that she loves her very much.

Earlier in the meeting, Inez Handrahan had been presented with the organization’s tenth annual Pioneer Award for her longtime commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities.

That work started shortly after Lois Ann’s birth in 1959 and is ongoing.

“I love you so much, Mom; you always make me so proud,” she declared. She thanked Community Inclusions and the awards presenter, Ethel Ellsworth for acknowledging her mother’s work.

“Mom, you are really special to me. I love you very much. Thank you very much,” she concluded.

Ellsworth, coordinator of Residential Services for Community Inclusions, read the award citation.

“Inez is known for being committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities, empowering them to be independent, to exercise their rights – rights to education, to work and to their place in the community,” Ellsworth announced.

The organization, which has gone through some name changes before arriving at Association for Community Living, was still very much in its infancy when Inez became involved.

Inez, who was visibly moved both by the recognition and by her daughter’s from-the-heart speech, admitted lots of effort was spent on fundraising to acquire teachers in the early years.

“In 1959, there was very little professional knowledge, education or support for people with different abilities, and their families,” Ellsworth said of the early efforts by Inez and her late husband Hubert.

“They soon got involved in bringing families together from the community to discuss how to improve the lives of their family members through supports and services,” the presenter reported.

Those efforts, she said, included helping to get a classroom started at Tignish Regional High School for people with different abilities.

“For 55 years Inez has been a strong voice and an active advocate for people with disabilities,” Ellsworth said.

“I made up the speech because I love my Mom and I’m so proud of her that she got the award,” said Lois Ann. “She’s a good cook. She always makes cookies and that kind of stuff.”

Organizations: Residential Services for Community Inclusions, Association for Community Living, Tignish Regional High School

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