Annual General Meeting

Welcome to the Gateway Association’s AGM serving the greater Calgary and Edmonton areas – Treaty 7 and Treaty 6 territories. Every year, Gateway Association recognizes its members and other community leaders for their efforts to make a difference and promote community living, inclusion and strengthening its values. Gateway’s Arbor Awards honour people in six categories. 

Board Members

Legacy Programs

New Gateway Programs

Notable Mentions



Gateway Association

We are passionate about empowering families and people who live with disabilities to live fully authentic lives. We envision a community where all children grow within a family; all children learn together in neighbourhood schools; all adults work at real jobs in the community; all adults have real homes and real friends; and all people are valued, contributing members of their communities.


Gateway envisions a world where all people are valued, respected members of their communities.


Gateway will be a global leader and influencer in community development that looks to our roots and expertise to break barriers for people with disabilities.


Transformation of community through the lens of disability.


Sahana Parameswara

Message from Gateway Executive Director:

Dear Community members,

I acknowledge that Gateway Association (Edmonton & Calgary) is on traditional territories of the many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit in Alberta and express gratitude and respect for the land we use. On my decolonial journey, I pledge to end systemic racism and commit to advancing reconciliation and equitable partnerships. #LandBack will remain my guiding principle as I continue to engage predominantly in Amiskwaciy-wâskahikan (Treaty 6) and Mohkinstsis (Treaty 7) territories.

Centering the pan-disability community’s experience in Gateway’s yearly review is essential and critical to understanding the impact we have versus the impact we wish to have. 2021 continued to be a hard year for the pan-disability community. The inequities experienced by persons with pan disabilities and their family members remained the same as in 2020, and particularly in the areas of safety, access to health services, access to protective gear, loss of financial supports and loss of access to community supports. The variables contributing to the inequities are predominantly systemic barriers and lack of attention/action.

In a climate where funding sources have increased federally and provincially for organizations, how do these inequities continue to thrive? What are the gaps and how do we bridge the gaps? These are questions we need to continue asking and Gateway will persist.

2021 allowed Gateway to expand the scope of our work to meet some of these inequities. The Employment Resource Centres were able to start working with job seekers of ages 16 and up. With the official designation as the Family Resource Centre for Edmonton and surrounding counties, we are now able to walk alongside individuals and their families across the lifespan. Access and accessibility as it pertains to engagement in the digital community is being addressed via Gateway to Digital Inclusion. Enhancing and redirecting the responsibility of inclusive employment from the job seekers to the employers is now a provincial initiative via Gateway to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Hub.

I hesitate as I write about Gateway’s 2021 as I am yet to see the desired collective impact on the community. I ask my own organization and other organizations doing this work to think about questions we are not asking. What else needs to happen? How do we support community members advocating on the ground? Do we pat ourselves on the back for our “outputs/outcomes” or do we persist until all community members have the outcomes they desire and deserve? These questions continue to inform how I deepen my responsibility, both in understanding and action.

I also want to be mindful of Gateway’s journey since it’s birth in 1975. For decades, the Association advocated for meaningful “supports and services”. Decades following, the Association has been advocating for the “supports and services” to be equitable. We are still not there. A concerted effort is required to step away to examine systemic barriers. The systemic changes cannot simply be the “presence” or “absence” of supports and services; that leads to dichotomizing the complexity.

Dr. Bayo Akomolafe from the Emergence Network talks about the space between the binary where reimagining can happen. His question, “What if the way we respond to crisis is part of the crisis?” is a critical query that will shape Gateway’s journey in 2022. The journey will need to categorically center the voices of the community and not act with a sense of urgency so as to allow the community to ask compelling questions and nurture regenerative practices. A decolonizing journey is very humbling as I recognize my privilege and see all that I need to continue to unlearn. I invite my colleagues and community members to be in relation with me on this journey.


Board Members

Michael Wing


Alex Kirkland

Community Disability Advocate

Heath Birkholz

Community Disability Advocate

Heidi Lawrie


Matthew Storey


Vicki Mancini


Sydney Carriere

Director – Family

Norm McLeod

Director – Community

Ronelo Aromin

Director – Community


President’s Message


Legacy Programs


About FRC

The Gateway Association Family Resource Centre (FRC) is located on Treaty 6 territory. Founded by families that envisioned a “gateway to a better life”, our Family Resource Centre is here for families supporting loved ones across all ages with disabilities (developmental, physical, sensory, mental, or neurological) and/or health conditions impacting their well-being, independence and social participation.

The ultimate goal of our Family Resource Centre is to enhance each family’s expertise on their own children and provide concrete resources that can ease the journey as the family navigates the next steps. Our FRC team is made up of families, neurodiverse individuals, and multiple ethnicities that have varied experiences. The team partners with various organizations to continually increase our diversity of thought and capacity to work with all families.

Meet The 2021 Team
  • Sahana Parameswara (she/her), FRC Director, Executive Director
  • Betty Hahn-Sidor (she/her), Planning Supports Manager
  • Fiona Wilson (she/her), RDSP Coordinator & FRC Administrative Assistant
  • Jacqueline Dymianiw (she/her), RDSP Coordinator
  • Kristina Laban (they/them), Family Resource Centre Coordinator
  • Miriam Ading (she/her), Family Resource Centre Coordinator
  • Stacy Grainger-Schatz (she/her), Planning Supports Manager
  • Yonique Ritch (she/her), Family Resource Manager
2021 Highlights

We were able to offer many new workshops in 2021 both due to virtual access through ZOOM presentations, as well as the addition of 3 full-time FRC staff. We completed numerous presentations on our new Family Resource Centre offerings. We developed 3 workshop series for families who have children 0-15 years old, and Having Difficult Conversations workshop. With online access to reach a broader audience, the FRC team facilitated 3 monthly Families Forward Meetings, including connecting families under 18, over 18, and those not-eligible for PDD

  • 400 Family Support Calls
  • Family Resource Centre had approximately 143 workshop participants
  • Monthly events:
    Families Forward, Over 18 (9)
    Families Forward, Under 18 (9)
    Families Forward, Not Eligible for PDD (9)
Success Story

“So, when I stumbled upon Gateway as the new Family Resource Centre for Edmonton Region, I wasn’t sure what to expect… But what I found was someone who listened, empathized & UNDERSTOOD how I was feeling, as a mom with a child with exceptional needs. Someone who could relate to my concerns about my child & understand my struggle to keep myself healthy, as well.

The 4 session Visioning for the Future, was of great assistance in bringing a few of us caregivers together, to discuss & work on our own individual family goals, while making connections with others. It made me feel less isolated & alone, to know that other Moms were going through, or had already been through, similar struggles.

Since that seminar, I have also really enjoyed other Gateway sessions, on topics such as Speech & Activities & Resources available for our families at EPL. Gateway as an FRC has provided me with the knowledge & confidence to know that our family’s vision for our child is possible!

With heartfelt thanks,
Val Sanderson
Mom to a 4 yr old with exceptional needs”



About ERC

The Employment Resource Centre (ERC) supports participants to find meaningful, paid, employment and meets them where they are at throughout the process. We provide holistic supports and ensure that participants receive resources, and community referrals not only for their employment goals but also for other aspects of their life such as mental health resources. Our employment process consists of five stages including identification, preparation, job search, employment, and retention.

During the identification process, we support individuals to discover their job aspirations which leads into our employment preparation phase where we aim to strengthen their skills and develop successful habits. Then participants are supported to develop their resume, prepare and attend interviews, all while Gateway builds meaningful relationships with employers to support successful on-boarding and job retention.

Our employment team is developing numerous workshops to support participants through all phases of our employment process. The goal of these workshops is to build participant capacity so that everyone that successfully completes the program has the skills and knowledge to be successful independently in the future.

Meet The 2021 Team
  • Renate Burwash (she/her), Director, Diversity & Inclusion Consulting/Director Employment Programs
  • Ashleigh Benson (she/her), Manager, Program Development/Career & Inclusion Consultant
  • Cassie Shaw (she/her), Workplace Inclusion Strategist
  • Emma Kiefftenbeld (she/her), Career & Inclusion Consultant
  • Jamie Thiessen (they/them), Workplace Inclusion Strategist
  • Jasmine Hasiuk (she/her), Intake & Mentorship Coordinator
  • Myra Tanwir (she/her), Career & Inclusion Consultant
  • Sandra Zilka (she/her), Data Coordination Manager/Employment Administrator
2021 Highlights
  • Added 4 new team members
  • Supported 101 participants
  • Implemented 38 workshop/events, including DEAM events, workshops and MentorAbility events
  • The YEG ERC team found 65 jobs
Success Story

Naomi started her job and was doing phenomenal at data entry; however, they wanted her to start answering the phones. This has given Naomi a lot of anxiety for her entire working life, so it was something that she felt was impossible to do. We supported Naomi with different strategies and worked with her family to support her as well. Then we discussed with the employer and talked about some steps that Naomi could take and how they could support her. After a couple weeks of being on the job Naomi started answering the phones and started to feel more confident in doing so. This is a huge milestone for her, as this was not something she thought she could ever do. While she’s still growing and adjusting to her role this has given her the opportunity to break free from the expectations she put on herself. Naomi continuously pushes herself and the employer sees how hard she’s working, and it has become a great fit for everyone. She is feeling more confident and taking time to celebrate and appreciate how much she has grown.

Naomi is a job seeker who recently graduated from University this year, completing a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Anthropology. Naomi did a lot of career exploration for the field of Anthropology, however, she graduated right in the middle of Covid which has restricted a lot of job opportunities. We talked about expanding the job search to include all types of up data entry and different administration position that she may be interested in. We spent a long-time job searching and every position she applied for there was at minimum 300 to 500 people that had applied. There was a substantial increase in job applicants in the administration field due to Covid. However, we kept pushing forward with the job search even though it was very frustrating and defeating for Naomi at times. As a recent graduate from University there is always that expectation that you are going to find a job right away once you leave school. This adjustment to our new reality with Covid took its toll on Naomi. In the fall there was a part time temporary position that was open at a small business that specializes in circuit breakers. This was not something Naomi originally thought she would like to work with, but after some discussion she decided to apply as it looked like there was potential for growth within that role. After conversations with the employer highlighting the incredible data entry skills she would bring to the role, Naomi was hired on. This was exciting because the employer mentioned that even though its part time that they would keep the new employee long term and potentially move them to full time work if they are a good fit.



About ERC

The Employment Resource Centre (ERC) supports youth to discover their skills and interests and plan for a career that best aligns with their values. Participants are assisted to develop their resume, action plan, and connect to training or educational opportunities that suit their needs. We offer a variety of virtual workshops to help participants build confidence and practice skills like interviewing and professional communication. Our team builds relationships with the local business community and facilitate talent matches that last.

Meet The 2021 Team
  • Samantha Grabinsky (she/her), Senior Program Manager
  • Courtney Lanouette (she/her), Career and Inclusion Consultant
  • Gene Lachica (he/him), Career and Inclusion Consultant
  • Jae Lee (he/him), Workplace Inclusion Strategist
  • Marnie Quan (she/her), Career and Inclusion Consultant
  • Ricardo Yepez (he/him), Career and Inclusion Consultant
  • Stephen Wright (he/him), Workplace Inclusion Strategist
  • Teodora Jokic (she/her), Workplace and Inclusion Strategist
  • Zehra Voong (she/her), Workplace Inclusion Strategist
2021 Highlights
  • Added 7 new team members
  • Supported 80 participants
  • Weekly virtual workshops (over 100)
  • Career Boot Camp 2021
  • DEAM
  • ATCO EPIC 2021 Charity Golf Tournament
  • Women’s Centre Holiday Toy Drive
Success Story
  • Watch Brooke’s Success Story
  • Our team found 63 jobs
  • We launched Inclusion Works and the GET-Work Expansion project
  • Formed partnerships with Children’s Link and Immigrant Services Calgary


New Gateway Programs


About GTDI

Gateway to Digital Inclusion (GTDI) is a Digital Literacy program for Alberta residents, age 18 and older, who self-identify as having a disability-based barrier. This program was designed to help people gain the basic digital skills to engage online and keep up with the changing digital world. Through a series of interactive online workshops, field trips, courses, and tutorials; participants can build online connections and network, create digital content, have a digital presence, and build employable digital skills. After intake, participants can sign up for any of the workshop they are interested in, repeat workshop if they choose, and access digital literacy tutoring sessions. Gateway to Digital Inclusion helps participants build the digital skills and confidence to work, play, and engage online in a way that is meaningful to them.

Meet The 2021 Team
  • Lee Pilkington (she/her), Project Lead, Digital Literacy Coordinator YYC
  • Alex Kirkland (he/him), Community Consultant
  • Jessica Frechette (she/her), Digital Literacy Coordinator YEG
  • Kevin McKee (he/him), IT Coordinator
  • Sahana Parameswara (she/her), Research and Development 
2021 Highlights
  • Build a website – Work Simulation is an 8-week (8hr per week) course. Learners gain foundational knowledge about the internet and engaging online, and then participate as a team to build a website. During this course, learners apply for and are hired into different positions at a simulated tech company. As a team, participants create mission, vision, and values statements and build a multi-paged website for a client company of their making. For their final project, each learner prepares and delivers a presentation about their experiences in the work simulation and their role on the website building team.
  • Look Stuff Up Online is a 4 session (1hr per session) series that introduces important things to consider while searching online. Topics include search engines, fake news, password security, and fact-checking, among others.
  • Email Basics is a 1 hr workshop where participants can learn about and practice the basics of writing professional emails for their job search and workplace communication.
  • Digital Citizenship is a 1 hr workshop that talks about what it means to be an active person online. In this conversation-based course, we discuss sharing your passions and interests, advocating for causes you believe in, and connecting with an online community.
  • Explore Canva is a 1 hr workshop that explores the free online digital design program, Canva. We try out different features of the website and create our own digital design.
  • Online Boardgames is a weekly online social group where Participants learn about setting up online accounts, navigating online apps, meet other learners, practice online social skills, and have some fun.
  • YouToo Can YouTube is a 4 session (1hr per session) workshop series that walks learners through being a viewer on YouTube as well as a video creator on YouTube. We take a look at useful features, talk about what kind of video we would like to make and how to share our passions through a video, and explore the YouTube video editing software.
  • ePortfolio is a 4 session (1 hr per session) series that guides Participants through the steps of creating an online portfolio, on the topic of their choosing, using Google sites. As a group, we discuss the different types of portfolios and potential topics, design and layout, tools and features, as well as finding, creating, selecting and organizing content. Learners build their sites using images, videos, links, and documents, as well as descriptions of their content, statements about their motivation or skill, and interest in the topic.
  • Online Social Connections are 1 hr tutorials and virtual fieldtrips that take Learners through the process of downloading and installing social apps, checking out online spaces. Participants practice using chat rooms and message boards, navigating tools, and joining voice and text chats.
  • Explore LinkedIn Learning is a 1 hr workshop that takes learners on a virtual fieldtrip through LinkedIn Learning, a database with over 13 000 free online professional courses. We explore how to access the website, find content, and save and join courses.
Success Story

Two websites completed by participants in the Build a Website Series/Work Simulation:

Gateway APP

About The App

The Gateway to Digital Inclusion mobile app is designed to assist any Albertan family in navigating life while supporting a loved one with a developmental disability. The app covers topics across the lifespan and is available to 24/7. This allows Gateway to join community members on their journey, wherever they are at. Workshops and programs are available to help develop digital literacy skills. Additionally, the APP aims to complement all the different programming being executed by various teams at Gateway. By organizing events and workshops on themes such as mental health, story sharing, art and expression, our team is working towards providing a more holistic experience.

Meet The 2021 Team
  • Lee Pilkington (she/her), Project Lead
  • Kevin McKee (he/him), IT Coordinator
  • Sahana Parameswara (she/her), Research and Development
2021 Highlights

1. App Interface Development
2. App Launch
3. Execution of different channels – Live Chat, Family Chat, Learning Resources, YouTube, Spotlight

2022 Growth Plans

1. Spotlight Channel – quarterly themes around self advocacy, digital literacy & citizenship, art-based programming
2. Expression based programming – open mic, open studio, story sharing
3. Skill Share Program – community leadership, internal and external engagement
4. Chat with an Expert – Inviting participants and community members to share their expertise on things that matter the most (ranging from issues such as housing and food security to art, technology and mental health)
5. Community Meetings – Engaging with internal Gateway Association teams to spread more awareness about the APP and gain more external participants.
6. Complimentary Programming – based on what the other teams at Gateway are offering
7. Live Chat Engagement


About GEDI-Hub

With Alberta and Canadian workplaces currently experiencing workforce shortages, especially because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and with these shortages only projected to become larger in the next 10-15 years, Gateway Association was able to quickly identify an opportunity to formally and continue to support Alberta employers in becoming more inclusive. Utilizing proven workforce strategies such as equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and leaning into our existing 10+ years’ experience in supporting job seekers and employers informally through our employment program, plans for a provincial EDI resource centered were created.

The GEDI-Hub project officially started on December 13th, 2021. This new initiative helps Alberta workplaces to utilize equity, diversity, and inclusion strategies as proven workforce strategies and is a “one-stop-shop” in helping these workplaces build their EDI capacity and knowledge. Gateway Association not only possesses 10+ years of experience directly supporting diverse job seekers but also supporting employers and the addition of the GEDI hub allows for Gateway Association to provide a full-service, wrap-around and more formal resource to support our existing programs, clients and stakeholders. The GEDI-Hub is funded by the Government of Canada and its services will be offered at no cost to workplaces. In addition to supporting workplaces, the GEDI Hub will support the promotion of employment-focused service providers through a service provider directory and marketing activities. The GEDI-Hub also connects and introduces workplaces to a diverse talent pool of job seekers through a network of Alberta service providers. once launched, the Hub will assist with all types of workplaces and organi¬zations – ranging from small to enterprise-level and for and not for profit.

When fully operational in 2022, the GEDI Hub will be Alberta’s first and only free workplace EDI resource centre. The GEDI Hub will offer customized consultations, free weekly workshops, and offer resources located on the website. It will meet each workplace where they currently are in their EDI journey- whether starting from the beginning or finalizing an existing strategy. In the new year, a team of Diversity and Engagement Consultants located across the province will be recruited and hired. The GEDI Hub’s official launch date is scheduled for February 9th, 2022.

Meet The 2021 Team
  • Sean McEwen (he/him), Director
  • Hayley Richards (she/her), Diversity & Engagement Consultant
  • Shannon Black (she/her), Marketing and Communications
2021 Highlights

The GEDI-Hub team started at the end of 2021 and with Gateway Association’s December break, the focus on beginnings of the project were focused on setting up administrative processes for reporting and creating the new website including collecting and creating content.

2022 Growth Plans

Once launched, the GEDI-Hub will begin its support and assistance of Alberta workplaces through resources on the website, weekly free workshops and customized consulting. The GEDI Hub will also begin to connect with service providers to begin populating the website’s service provider directory and planning and implementing further service provider engagement strategies. The Team will focus on building, cultivating and leveraging existing and new partnerships.


Notable Mentions

St. Eugene’s

Mayor’s Virtual Luncheon

Deam 2021

Holiday Party

ATCO EPIC 2021 Charity Golf Tournament

Career Bootcamp


Gateway Association for Community Living
Statement of Operations


Arbor Awards Nominations


The Frondosus Award recognizes the hard work and commitment of a volunteer working in the areas of community living and inclusion.

WINNER – Danielle McKinnon

Inclusive Employment

The Opus Award recognizes a business that has had a direct role in the transformation of a person who lives with an intellectual disability through meaningful, inclusive employment.

WINNERMelanie Bayley, President ATCO Electric

Family Strength

The Confirmo Award recognizes a parent or family member who has experienced an exceptionally challenging year, but persevered with courage and strength, like the strength and stability of a tree’s trunk.

WINNER Richard and Catherine Perry

Youth Leadership

The Pomus Award recognizes a youth or young adult whose ambition and hard work in promoting community living, makes our community a more vibrant and better place. This person will demonstrate strength and commitment in advocating for inclusion and the rights of everyone.

WINNERChristine Wincentaylo

Community Leadership

The Communitas Award recognizes the commitment and dedication of a community leader who works hard to make our neighbourhoods a better place for everyone. This person should demonstrate the values of inclusion in everything they do and be a true role model.

WINNERJohnathon Red Gun

Service Sector

The Ramosus Award is an opportunity to recognize someone from the service sector who has helped you achieve your dreams by ‘branching’ outside their normal role or responsibilities. This person uses every opportunity available to demonstrate and educate about the values of inclusion and community living.

WINNER Chantelle Painter (The Brick)


Arbor Awards Nominations

Every year, Gateway Association recognizes its members and other community leaders for their efforts to make a difference and promote community living, inclusion and strengthening its values. Gateway’s Arbor Awards honour people in six categories.


Our Gateway to Digital Inclusion mobile app is designed for job seekers, self-advocates and families. Access our free resources by downloading the app.

Contact Us

201- 10941 120 Street NW
Edmonton, AB  T5H 3R3
Tel: 780-454-0701


1206 20 Ave SE
Calgary, AB  T2G 1M8
Tel:  587-779-7888



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