Jeff Richards’ first day in his new position as executive director of the Wor-Kin Shop was on March 16, and he spent about five days on the job before new restrictions came in from the provincial government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Wor-Kin Shop board made the decision over the weekend to close the facility for the participants until further notice.
Up until recently, Richards was the vice president of strategic development for Southeast College, and when the vacancy came up recently for the Wor-Kin Shop, he contacted the board chair, Lloyd Montgomery, about coming on board as the new executive director.
“I had been at the college for quite a while, and felt the college was in a good place when I noticed the Wor-Kin Shop was seeking new leadership,” said Richards, who felt this “would be a great opportunity for me to serve in a different role.”
While this position is different from what he did at the college, in some ways it’s similar as his goal will be to move the organization in a new direction.
“There’s a lot of things I’m looking forward to. Number one is to serve the people in the community. That’s very important to me, much as my work on city council is,” said Richards.
“I was very proud of the work I did at the college,” he added, as he was also of his work at the Weyburn Chamber of Commerce prior to working at the college.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity, such as with the Harvest Pie Company, and programs such as around supportive employment,” he said. “There’s an incredible group of people working there, so I’m looking forward to working beside them.”
In the meantime, the participants are all at their homes, whether with family or in their group homes, and their caregivers are looking after their needs there while keeping separate as provincial regulations are requiring.
“For the staff of the Wor-Kin Shop, in the next couple of weeks there will be a lot of online training,” said Richards, noting there is also work to do in the facility. This includes continuing the cleanup from some water damage that occurred a little while ago.
“If there’s a silver lining to all of this, and that is hard to find, that might be it, as we have the opportunity to get some things done and to learn about how to work with each other,” said Richards.
In the statement issued over the weekend, board chair Lloyd Montgomery said, “The Board of Directors has met with the Wor-Kin Shop Leadership Team, and we have approved a plan that we believe is the best path forward at this time. We are in constant contact with our partners in the community as well as the Government of Saskatchewan to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the people who depend on us while remaining diligent in our efforts.”
All Wor-Kin Shop services and facilities were closed as of March 20. This includes the Harvest Pie Company, Vocational Training Centre, and the Supported Employment Transition Initiative.