Friday, 16 March 2018 05:48

Southwest Homes executive director preparing for retirement

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Southwest Homes Executive Director Susie Eidem will retire at the end of June. Southwest Homes Executive Director Susie Eidem will retire at the end of June.

For the past 17 years Susie Eidem has seen many changes at Southwest Homes and she has been an integral part of the organization's growth during that time.

 

She has been the executive director of Southwest Homes since 2001, but will be retire at the end of June.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “This has been a phenomenal place to work. I’ve just learned so much and grown with the agency. The agency was so small when I started. The people that I won’t have daily contact with is probably my biggest loss. I’ll absolutely miss being part of the agency and being able to impact in a positive way so many people, but at the same time a new chapter is always good and I am looking forward to the next chapter, spending more time with my husband and travelling and family time.”
The process to select a new executive director for the organization has already started and candidate interviews took place in the last week of February.
Decisions will be made and hopefully someone will be in place in the last half of the month of April she said.
During this transition period she will then have an opportunity to provide guidance to the person who will step into her position.
“'We're a big organization,” she said. “We have over a $5 million budget a year. It's very complex and even for people who understand complex things it's unique because there's so many different things to know. So we're thinking about a two-month time for me to do some training and teaching and make sure that person feels really confident and knowledgeable enough to take the reins.”
Southwest Homes has been providing services in Swift Current for people with intellectual disabilities since 1974. It manages an independent living program as well as a community-based day program. The organization's goal is to support and empower individuals to achieve their goals and to be valued members of the community.
Eidem was one of only 10 employees when she joined the non-profit organization in 2001. At that time there was just one group home and a small independent living program.
“I wasn’t full-time,” she recalled. “I did all of the finances, I did kind of everything. I had a couple of hours of training before I started my job. That was it, because there was no one here to train me. It was just so much smaller. Our growth has changed the way the organization operates and it brings you up to a higher standard when you have 100 employees.”
She has a background in special education and she worked for 15 years at the former Swift Current School Division.
“I really enjoyed that job, but I wanted something more and I decided this would be an opportunity,” she said. “So I took it and it’s been the best thing I could have done for myself.”
When she became the executive director the organization was still called Southwest Homes for the Handicapped.
“One of the first things we did was change the name, because it just had a bad connotation,” she said. “It told people what we did, but we felt we wanted a more positive image for the agency.”
The organization has been without an executive director for some time when she was appointed, and one of her first challenges was to get to know the organization, which she did in a hands-on way.
“I feel like I slid into it pretty easily,” she said. “I am somebody who likes to get in and see what happens in the frontline and so I did a lot of that. I filled shifts if we had nobody else to do it and so I really have grown up so to speak with the agency as it grows . I still fill shifts, not whole shifts, but I can cover off for an hour if I’m needed. I don’t have a problem doing that. I think that’s important to stay in touch with who it is we’re impacting within our agency.”
Southwest Homes opened a second group home in 2005, but the organization's growth started three years later.
“We had a lot of people on our waiting list and we went and talked to the MLA, who was Brad Wall at the time,” she recalled. “He helped us petition in the city and through that petition process and reading those names out [in the Saskatchewan Legislature] we finally got recognized that we needed more attention in our city. So we started five whole programs in one year, which was a really big jump.”
Southwest Homes is currently responsible for eight group homes in Swift Current that accommodates 27 individuals.
“We had nine until a couple of months ago, when we had to close one from the child and family program because the kids had aged out and we had vacancies there,” she said. “So the government made the decision to close that program in order to be able to utilize those dollars more effectively.”
There are still people on the waiting lists for residential spaces and the day program. These numbers will fluctuate, but near the end of February there were five for residential and eight for day program.
“There’s still people that need help, but we also have to look at what we can manage within our city and getting the qualified and trained staff in here and making sure we ran high quality programs,” she said. “More important than growing is doing the best job you can with what you got.”
Southwest Homes will continue to look at ways to expand or adjust their services working closely with Social Services.
For Eidem the best part of her job has always been the ability to make a difference in somebody's life and to help a person to grow and to achieve a goal.
“I think those are the things that will stick out in my mind when we can help someone reach their dreams or meet some long-term goal that they have that is not always an easy road to get there,” she said. “Certainly those things are what makes the job meaningful and worthwhile. I really think it's an important job. It's not working with the numbers and budgets that's important, but really working with the people and those are the memories that stick out.”
She hopes to still stay connected with Southwest Homes after her retirement and help out where she can can.whatever role.
“I'm sure it will be a sad day on my last day and I'll miss it, but I made so many friends here too that I plan on continuing those relationships and staying in touch and helping out when I can in whatever facet I'm needed,” she said.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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