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Charlottetown woman with intellectual disabilities says citizen advocacy group helped turn her life around

Cassie Acorn, right, says she wouldn’t be where she is today without Twilah Stone. The two women were matched by the non-profit organization P.E.I. Citizen Advocacy Inc. to help Acorn, who has intellectual disabilities, adjust to life on her own.
Cassie Acorn, left, says she wouldn’t be where she is today without Twilah Stone. The two women were matched by the non-profit organization P.E.I. Citizen Advocacy Inc. to help Acorn, who has intellectual disabilities, adjust to life on her own. - Dave Stewart
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

A Charlottetown woman with intellectual disabilities says she wouldn’t be leading an independent life if it wasn’t for P.E.I. Citizen Advocacy Inc.

Seven years ago, Cassie Acorn, 34, was able to move out of a community care facility into her own apartment and handle all of the normal challenges of daily life after being matched with Twilah Stone, who works as an advocate for the non-profit organization and serves as its president.

“She means a lot to me," Acorn says.

“I’ve told her in the past she’s like a second mother to me. I never had a mother figure growing up, and we instantly connected, like a mother and daughter. I know she’s my advocate, but I know I can go to her and tell her about certain things, like if someone is being mean to me, she’ll give me advice."

P.E.I. Citizen Advocacy Inc. supports adults with intellectual disabilities, usually those who don’t have family support or friends they can count on. The organization gets to know potential clients, finding out what their likes and dislikes are, why they want an advocate and match a willing volunteer in the community. The organization then leaves it up to the advocate and client as to how long the relationship lasts.

Clients are also connected to community-based service organizations that can provide one-on-one support two to three times a week, such as taking them for groceries, if their advocate isn’t available.

Cassie Acorn, right, says she wouldn’t be where she is today without Twilah Stone. The two women were matched by the non-profit organization P.E.I. Citizen Advocacy Inc. to help Acorn, who has intellectual disabilities, adjust to life on her own. - Dave Stewart
Cassie Acorn, right, says she wouldn’t be where she is today without Twilah Stone. The two women were matched by the non-profit organization P.E.I. Citizen Advocacy Inc. to help Acorn, who has intellectual disabilities, adjust to life on her own. - Dave Stewart


Fundraising option

The organization normally has an office staff person who keeps in touch with advocates and clients, but due to the pandemic, that staff person has been temporarily laid off. While government contributes about $20,000 a year toward that person's salary, it is not enough even for a part-time position. So, the organization fundraises the rest.

"As with most not-for-profit organizations, we are experiencing trying times right now," said Stone. "It has become particularly difficult to raise the funds we need in order to fully do our work. That is why we are very excited to be the recipient of an upcoming fundraising event."

The board of directors has hooked up with P.E.I. musician Todd MacLean, who has agreed to host an online fundraiser on Friday, May 29, as part of his Quarantunes Isolation Concert series on Facebook. Bridget Blanchard will be performing on the show.

During the show, which starts at 8 p.m., people will be given co-ordinates if they wish to make a donation. People can donate by e-transfer, cheque or at citizenadvocacy.com.


At a glance

Following is information on the online fundraiser for the P.E.I. Citizen Advocacy Inc.:

  • Takes place on Friday, May 29 at 8 p.m.
  • Will be broadcast on Quarantunes Isolation Concert series on Facebook.
  • It will be hosted by P.E.I. musician Todd MacLean and feature Island artist Bridget Blanchard.
  • Donations will be accepted via e-transfer, at citizenadvocacy.com or by cheque.


Good relationship

Stone said her relationship with Acorn is pretty genuine.

“Mind you, we’ve had our moments," Stone laughs, “and COVID was one of them. I got protective of Cassie (in regards to physical distancing). I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to her – I would never forgive myself."

Stone said the whole point of matching volunteers with clients is to empower adults with intellectual disabilities and help improve their confidence. She knew Acorn didn't want to live in the community care facility and was proud of her for going out on her own and finding an apartment.

“I was matched simply to help her get out and then (the relationship) was supposed to end, but we thought, maybe there was something more to our relationship."

Acorn said Stone still helps her now, whether it’s taking her to a dentist appointment or meeting with her financial worker or accessibility worker.

“She is my trustee and helps me with my problems when I need her to," Acorn says.

“We also have fun together. We go out for meals and she buys things for me that are important but that social services won’t pay for, like a fan for my apartment for the summer, new winter boots or running shoes."

Acorn has been living on her own for the past seven years and is now writing her autobiography with a support worker who “has good editing skills".

“I have Twilah to thank for that. She gave me my voice."


Twitter.com/DveStewart

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