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At Creative Options Regina, employees can connect with each other and their communities through frequent gatherings.Provided

As the end of her second maternity leave drew near, Amanda Clarke knew that if she was going to have to spend her days away from her children, it had to be for something meaningful. So she left the corporate world and moved over to Creative Options Regina (COR), a non-profit organization supporting people in the community experiencing disability.

“What really drew me to COR was its purpose and the opportunity to make a difference,” she says.

Even though Clarke, as COR’s chief culture officer, isn’t on the front lines, she supports those employees who are and feels like she’s contributing to the bigger picture. And the impact of working at COR has been far-reaching for her.

“For me, it was about balance – it was about feeling good about my day and connecting my family to a greater purpose,” says Clarke, who has three children under the age of seven. “It’s been really incredible.”

One of the things that really sets COR apart is the philosophy of ‘Gentle Teaching,’ which not only informs the organization’s approach to care, but also to the employee experience. Ben Raine worked for several years at COR just as the organization was starting out. He was drawn back in part by what he calls “the intentionality of its leaders.”

“Caregiving is hard on the best of days,” says Raine, an employee experience advisor. “But the leaders put significant time and attention into ensuring that employees are cared for. You see it through the hiring process, in the benefits plan, even just in sharing meals together.”

Gentle Teaching has become ingrained in the culture of the company. “We know that if our employees are doing well – front-line to everyone in leadership – we’re going to be better care providers for the people who need that care,” adds Clarke.

Another thing that drew Raine back to COR was the opportunity to dream – “not just being allowed to dream of what change could look like, but being equipped to be able to do it.” By doing so, the organization fights the more common perception that caregiving is a stopover kind of career move, he adds. “What COR does successfully is cast the vision that this can be your career and we want you to grow with us.”

One of COR’s initiatives, 4to40, has had an impact not only on the community the organization serves but on its employees and their families. Through 4to40, COR works with employers to help connect them with people experiencing disability for meaningful work. Clarke’s husband was eager to bring one of the people COR serves into his office every day. “Him being a champion for it is a wonderful opportunity,” she says.

And for her children, many of COR’s frequent gatherings – barbecues, parties, appreciation nights, dinners – are open not only to employees but to their families and to the people COR serves.

“It has a larger impact in terms of culture,” Clarke adds. “Wherever we can, we’re making intentional efforts of getting people together to nurture community, which ties back to our central purpose of creating community and connection. And at the same time, I’m teaching my kids that everybody has different abilities and about how we help and support and celebrate each other.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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