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The Wesway Story


Wesway’s roots go back to 1973 when there existed in Thunder Bay a group of volunteers, two church groups and a relatively small amount of money.  The name “Wesway” combines the names of Wesley and Wayside United Churches.

Starting out with $5000 of “seed money”, the groups identified that there was a real need for support and respite care for families with children with a developmental disability. At the time, there were very few supports for people with a disability.

It was suggested that a home type facility would be of tremendous benefit to these families.  With that goal in mind, a proposal was presented to the Ministry of Community and Social Services and was approved in September 1978.

From September 1979 until mid-January 1981, Wesway operated a four-bed home which could offer limited support to a restricted number of families in the City of Thunder Bay.

In April 1981, Wesway’s concept of parent relief and family support moved in a new direction.  Wesway developed a community-based program in which caring families would offer to “host” children with a developmental disability.

The benefits of this type of service were widespread, particularly the possibility of serving a larger number of families as well as to children with a wide range of special needs.

As children become adults, their parents grow older and continue to require support - sometimes even more than they had in earlier years.  In 1984, after two years of active political lobbying and diligent work by Wesway’s staff and board, funding was obtained to begin to provide respite care service for adults with a disability living in the City of Thunder Bay.

In 1987, Wesway obtained funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services to provide respite care to families caring for seniors with a range of conditions which cause them to be dependent on their families for care, such as strokes, Alzheimer Disease, Parkinson Disease and other health conditions. Additionally, Wesway launched its Community Friend service.

Wesway continued to listen to families in order to develop a flexible range of respite services that would cater to the individual needs of caregivers. In 2001 Wesway began to provide out-of-home respite to children with multiple needs.

In 2008, Wesway received funding to provide respite service in the District of Thunder Bay, for children with a developmental disability, physical disability and/or autism spectrum disorder.

Wesway also identified a serious lack of respite services options for seniors in the outlying communities in the District of Thunder Bay. Later in 2008 a pilot project was created to offer our Family Directed Respite Funding model in communities east of Thunder Bay, for caregivers who lived with a senior with a disability, chronic health condition, Alzheimer Disease or related dementia.

In 2010, Wesway launched another pilot project to offer Family Directed Respite Funding to seniors living west of Thunder Bay, in the Districts of Kenora and Rainy River.

Interest from families living in communities throughout these districts was high, and we're happy to say these services are now ongoing.

In 2013 Wesway celebrated our 40th Anniversary, and we are helping more families than ever! Our services are available in dozens of communities throughout Northwestern Ontario in both official languages, and our range of available services has grown significantly since Wesway’s inception. Wesway looks forward to continuing to grow to meet the needs of families throughout the communities we serve.

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