Inclusion Alberta Chief Operating Officer Wendy McDonald Receives Rotary International Service Above Self Award

June 30, 2020

Inclusion Alberta is thrilled to announce that our Chief Operating Officer Wendy McDonald is a recipient of Rotary International’s Service Above Self Award. This award is Rotary International’s highest distinction and is given out to individuals who have demonstrated exemplary humanitarian service with an emphasis on personal volunteer efforts and active involvement in helping others through Rotary.

Wendy was presented the Service Above Self Award this week from Rotary International Director Jeffry Cadorette with following words of acknowledgement:
“In 2000, (Wendy McDonald) was preparing for her year as president of her club. She attended the Rotary International convention in Buenos Aires. At that convention she was inspired by the late incoming RI President Frank Devlin who challenged Rotarians and clubs to create employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. She describes this moment as a moment when her life as a Rotarian and her life as a mom collided. She and her husband have two sons, one of whom has a developmental disability.

Following the convention, she came home and began to do some research. In Alberta and across most of North America there is close to an 80% unemployment rate for individuals with developmental disabilities. This means that the individual lives a life of isolation, poverty and government assistance, a life without possibilities. Her club began the Rotary Employment Partnership in 2001, it became clear that Rotary could not do important work without partners. A partnership was formed between Inclusion Alberta and the Government of Alberta. The government of Alberta provides the funding for the partnership and Inclusion Alberta connects individuals with developmental disabilities to the jobs created by Rotarians and assisting the employers to sustain employment by utilizing natural support. By capitalizing on this substantial network, and the networking capacity of Rotarians to create jobs, this initiative has proven to be the most cost-effective employment strategy in Alberta in the last 19 years. There are currently over 30 clubs in Alberta involved, over 580 jobs have been created to date and the average wage is substantially above minimum-wage. The income of individuals with developmental disabilities increases by 50% on average upon the individual joining this partnership. There has been success in both urban and rural communities. The Rotary Employment Partnership has been recognized internationally by the ESSL Foundation’s Zero Project as one of  40 innovative practices worldwide.”

Wendy was deeply honoured to receive this prestigious honour and spoke about how it takes the support, drive and dedication of others to achieve the success of the Rotary Employment Partnership. “You don’t do this work for 20 years by yourself, there is a whole bunch of Rotarians and others in community without whom we wouldn’t have created almost 600 jobs”.

About Rotary International Service Above Self Award:
This award is Rotary International’s highest honour and recognizes up to 150 Rotarians worldwide annually. Recipients have demonstrated exemplary humanitarian service with an emphasis on personal volunteer efforts and active involvement in helping others through Rotary. The service must be continuous, the award is internationally competitive. Out of 1.2 million Rotarians and over 540 districts only up to 150 people are selected each year. This award is very special and while all Rotarians serve and should be recognized for their service, the individuals that receive this award are in a league of their own.

About the Rotary Employment Partnership:
Inclusion Alberta’s Rotary Employment Partnership is working to reverse the unfortunate unemployment rates for people with developmental disabilities. People with developmental disabilities want to and can work, they just need the right opportunity. Those opportunities are being provided by Rotarians who are opening the doors of their networks and their businesses to create meaningful jobs, making dreams come true.

The Rotary Employment Partnership was co-developed by Wendy McDonald and Bruce Uditsky, CEO Emeritus, Inclusion Alberta.

For more information contact:
Tara-Lee LaRose
Executive Assistant
Inclusion Alberta