· In January of 2002, the Self-Advocates of North Perth group was formed with the goal of educating people in the community about those living with disabilities and to show the importance of having an opportunity to speak for themselves and direct their own lives. The group continues to bring awareness to barriers in the community and works to develop solutions that allow all residents to be engaged citizens. · In 2005, the Avon Maitland District School Board launched it’s “Cultivating Character” program to develop positive citizenship qualities in students. The curriculum included 10 Character Traits: o Fairness – Treating everyone in a just and accepting manner o Honesty – Being trustworthy, sincere and truthful o Empathy – Understanding how someone else feels o Respect – Valuing self, others and our world o Courage – Facing the challenge o Integrity – Doing what is right and honourable o Optimism – Choosing to be positive o Compassion – Showing care and consideration o Perseverance – Staying purposeful and committed o Responsibility – Being reliable and accountable
· The Self-Advocates group received funding from the Ontario Community Inclusion Project, “Building Inclusive Communities”, a fund intended to help communities develop a plan to nurture more inclusive mindsets and behaviours in their community (funded through Human Resources Social Development Canada). We were one of only five communities to receive this funding. As a result, a facilitation team was put together to develop the “North Perth Community of Character”. The facilitation team included representatives from groups such as Seniors, early childhood education, schools, Community Living, municipal Parks and Recreation Department, Chamber of Commerce, and the Health Unit. · The Character Attributes included in the AMDSB “Cultivating Character” curriculum were adopted by the Community of Character and Inclusion was added for a total of 11 character traits. · A logo competition was held with an open invitation to the community to submit designs. A Community of Character logo was chosen, submitted by local designers Ernest and Gabriele Hertweck, that reflected the mission of the organization.
· Stakeholders and supporters included the local schools, the Municipality of North Perth, the County of Perth, the Self-Advocates of North Perth, and Community Living North Perth. Also represented were the OPP, Early Years Centre, recreation groups, seniors and youth. · In September of 2006, the Self-Advocates group launched a public awareness video titled “Together We’re Better” to celebrate diversity and the benefits of inclusion. The event was packed by community members of all ages. This inspirational event was so well received that it was decided that it should become an annual event. · In March of 2007, a public meeting was held to introduce the Community of Character initiative. It was described as an initiative where a wide variety of community groups, faith communities, schools and businesses recognize and promote a series of character attributes. · In May of 2007, the program was presented to the community by the Self-Advocates at an AMDSB “Cultivating Character” event featuring Justin Trudeau (who had just announced his entry into Canadian politics) · A “Character Corner” advertisement was set up in the local newspaper as a simple way of celebrating and recognizing positive stories from citizens demonstrating the identified character traits. This has transitioned to a bi-monthly ad in the municipal newsletter. · Ontario Trillium Foundation funding was received in 2015 for the purpose of hiring a co-ordinator to manage and expand the Community of Character and build it to a self-sustaining position. · In 2017, the Community of Character registered as a not for profit business in Ontario and with Revenue Canada and has submitted a request to be registered as a charity. · Local groups held fundraisers to help fund the Community of Character initiative while promoting the program and its goals. Fundraisers included o a breakfast hosted by Wallace Public School’s Roots and Shoots program o Legal office TarBush Giller and Real Estate office Don Hamilton Real Estate host Chili Luncheons annually o Paint night fundraiser hosted by Diana Sweets Restaurant · Community events sponsored by the Community of Character included: o “Character Counts” workshop (May 2008) with speaker Robin McQuillan of K-W Counselling Service o “Return on Character” workshop (May 2018) with speaker Gerard Seijts of University of Western Ontario o Workshops offered to all grade 6 students in North Perth each year that focus on the character traits encouraged by the Community of Character. Workshops have included mask making and yoga o Annual “Together We’re Better” events featuring speakers such as Wendell Clark and local individuals who have exception stories showcasing some of the character traits promoted by the Community of Character. This event also now features a spaghetti dinner cooked by students and served by Me to We groups from the local schools. o Annual “Character Run” featuring 1,3,5, or 10km run or 3km walk designed to encourage all residents to participate in outdoor physical activity while encouraging each other. The Run was initiated by a community group who donated the profit to the Community of Character and the Community of Character has become more involved in planning and hosting the event over the years. o Character in Sport workshops for local minor sports coaches (“Coaching with Character” based on the Dual Coach model) o Character Week (first week of November) celebrations include Member Appreciation Breakfast, an ad in the local newspaper, the Together We’re Better evening dinner/speaker, various events throughout the week such as Parent discussions, litter clean ups and more. o Promote Random Act of Kindness day alongside community members, and the Stratford Foundation