Addressing a 2019 Problem: Middle Class, No Housing


Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti described homelessness as the “the greatest moral and humanitarian crisis of our time.” Los Angeles may be at the epicenter of the homelessness wave—the area has experienced a 75 percent growth in homelessness over the past seven years and has the highest rate of unsheltered people in the country—but this is a nationwide problem, and a growing one.

Check out my latest NPQ contribution where we examine the use of a land trust model to deliver affordable housing through a public-private-nonprofit partnership!

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Back in Action with Nonprofit Quarterly

One of my resolutions kept in 2018 was to start contributing as a write to the nonprofit community – mission accomplished with NPQ!

Keenan Wellar on Nonprofit Quarterly

I took some time off over December-January, and that included an interruption in my newswire writing with NPQ. I am getting back on the keys this week, and you’ll hopefully see a new article from me in the coming days. In the meantime, I am also catching up on my own reading, and came across this post by the editors back in January:


I am pleased to announce that one of my contributions made the list!


While I am thrilled to make this prestigious list, I am not surprised that this particular article represented some of my best writing, because the fair treatment of nonprofit organizations, their volunteers, and staff is something that I care deeply about. I expect I will return to this theme at some point in 2019 should the opportunity arise! Meantime, please check out the full list of top articles, including my own contribution!


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5 Ways to Make a Difference in Your Community

In May, with our colleagues at CE Holmes Consulting Inc., we co-hosted the Vancouver edition of the Canadian Values Conversations, and had the privilege of hearing from some Vancouver BC residents about what matters most to them.

One of the key questions we all walked away with was, “How can we bring our values more to life in our communities?” In this blog we’re exploring 5 simple ways you can use your own values to make a real difference in your community – whether that’s your family, group of friends, team at work, associations you’re part of or more broadly.

1. Identify what matters most to you

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It’s easier to take action when you are clear about your passions. What do you value most? As values can change, it’s a good idea to do a check-in with yourself every few years to discover – or re-affirm – what…

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On Turning 50!




Don’t worry, I didn’t write this while I’m on holiday this week, I wrote it before I left, and using the magic of the interwebs, put it on a publishing timer! I figured at least a couple of people might notice I am turning 50 and I didn’t want to appear ungrateful for your kind words, so here’s a quick blog to say THANKS for being a part of my journey. Also, hi mom and dad! Love you! We’ll be OK! Probably!

ring.jpgIt is somewhat of a weather-dependent idea, but Julie and I might be about to start our ascent of Mount Monroe in the White Mountains of New Hampshire soon after this blog goes live. It’s a network-dependent idea that I might do some Facebook live at various times to mark the occasion, so keep an eye out.


We got engaged here (alongside Arethusa Falls in the early spring of 2001) and I really didn’t feel like having some sort of big party, but I did want this milestone birthday to be memorable, so it came to me about 3am one night (as my good or bad ideas often do): you and Julie should climb a 5000 foot mountain to mark your 50 years.

That’s the plan, anyway. The backup is to climb 500 feet. Either way it will be memorable for one reason or another.

Other than your good wishes, I don’t want anything for my birthday except a better world, so if you want to do a little something, you can make a donation to LiveWorkPlay or any other charity that helps people with disabilities enjoy a more included life in their own communities.


This week’s climbing should be quite different, but you never know!

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“Overhead” and charitable giving: think twice!

I had the opportunity to write about a topic that has been on my mind for many years now, both as a BoardSource Certified Governance Trainer as well as being the co-leader of a charitable organization: the “war on overhead” that has been afflicting charities for much of the past decade. You can download this issue of The Lens (an initiative of the Gateway Association) directly from or check out all of the issues (and sign up for future editions) at I would be very interested in your feedback about my article and whether or not it changed your views about the role of overhead in assessing the performance of charitable organizations!


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Should people with intellectual disabilities be removed from Ontario’s employment standards so they can work for sub-minimum wage? Regress or progress?

Note: 10 minutes from the original interview is not included (mainly introductory information. Entire interview available from the AMI website (podcasts).

With Ontario’s new Better Wages, Fair Workplaces Act (2017) aka Bill 148, sheltered workshops and other sub-minimum wage arrangements must come into compliance with the minimum wage requirements of this updated employment standards legislation.

In the past, wage discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities (such as people with Down syndrome and autism) was permitted through an archaic exemption.

Less than 10% of agencies delivering government-funded services (Developmental Services) are still involved with sub-minimum wage arrangements, and despite clear public announcements that sheltered workshops were ending back in 2015.

In the community of Renfrew, a group of family members has started a well-publicized campaign to remove people with intellectual disabilities from these employment standards.

Sadly, it is the government-funded agency (Community Living Renfrew County South) itself that is the “employer” of a handful of individuals being impacted by the minimum wage requirements, a situation that has caused tremendous confusion.

In this discussion on Accessible Media Inc (AMI) audio show “The Pulse” host Dave Brown takes on the issue with an in-depth discussion that covers both the moral and practical implications of minimum wage and people with disabilities.


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Update: Trekking Our Way To Core Gifts!

Julie and I have given a lot to LiveWorkPlay over the past 22 years or so, but we’ve lost track of how much we’ve received: the incredible people we’ve met, and the experiences we’ve had that would not have been possible on a different journey.


Trekking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path! Five across the back that’s Julie, Jenn Marilyn, Andrew, and Danae. Then we have Barb, Frances, Janie, Marg, and Bruce, with Michael kneeling and Keenan holding the selfie stick!

Many years ago thanks to our great friend Mike Coxon, we heard about Bruce Anderson and how he was supporting organizations to benefit from hopeful and resilient teams. Any work in human services can take a heavy toll on staff, and their mental and physical health impacts the quality of their relationships with those they are helping. We have worked very hard alongside our colleagues to build an organizational culture where we don’t pretend that “being professional” means being unaffected by challenges in our own lives, in the lives of the people we support, their families, or our volunteers.


We both learned something from everyone on this trip, but in terms of those who “demanded our gifts” it was Julie and Danae, Keenan and Michael.

But this isn’t about that,  it’s just a preamble for answering the inevitable question “How’d you end up following this guy along the coast of Wales and then to his house on Vashon Island in Washington State to become a Core Gift Master Facilitator?”

While the trip was technically in the personal domain (and certification in the professional domain) we long ago abandoned any notion that one’s full-time vocation lives in a separate dimension in some place called “work.” Who we are is everything we do, no matter which clock we are on. And so it is that without knowing Bruce through work, we’d not have gone on the trip. And without having gone on the trip, we’d not have ended up completing the certification.

Although certainly possessing of unusual wisdom and also possessing of an intriguing Viking-like appearance, Bruce would be the first to say it’s not just about him. The walk was a co-leadership experience with Andrew Bryan of TrekEpic fame as well as the group of trekkers they managed to assemble. One of the them was another great friend Marg McLean, and let’s face it, without her recommendation we’d probably have been scared off by the entire idea. OK, well, Keenan speaks for himself on that one.


Another amazing group! Back five Keiko, Dan, Julie, Andrew, Joy, then Bruce and Danae, and in the front Wesley, Tracy, Lisa, Keenan, and Charles.

As it happened, it was a marvelous experience on many levels, and one that we’d recommend for others. If you are skeptical, read on!


Julie and Dan got into some deep discussions down at the fire pit!

When the opportunity came to take our appreciation for the Core Gift experience to a deeper level, we found ourselves in Bruce’s living room (and kitchen, and back yard) with yet another incredible group, sharing a different type of journey. We even got to spend some time with Jenn (yep, small world).

This was an intense experience because it’s actually harder to be vulnerable in the presence of people you respect than in front of complete strangers. And in this case, it’s both – people you already know and admire, plus newcomers who have a breadth and depth of experience that make you blurt out an authentic “wow” as you get to know them.

If you’ve read this far, it’s probably because you are still waiting for some answers, like WTF is a Core Gift?


Keenan was paired with Keiko for a key piece of the Master Core Gift Facilitator training.

“Your core gift is the central and innermost contribution that will require both courage and heart for you to bring to the world” or so says Bruce Anderson, but he’d also take care to ensure that you understand this is an ancient concept, not something created in the 00’s to give people something to do on staff retreats.

Every person on the planet is a unique collection of skills, talents, gifts and one core gift. They lie on a spectrum that goes all the way from basic skills we need in daily life, to talents that we have a natural ability for, all the way to the central spark or core gift that gives our life purpose and stability through our darkest moments.

Why should you discover your gifts?

It can be an important way to get to know ourselves better and understand not only “what we are good” at but what brings us joy while doing it. Paying attention to our gifts and especially our core gift allows us to nurture and build on what we are already highly motivated to do. Our self-esteem grows. We recognized that our gift is connected to our purpose in life and we begin to look for new ways and places to use it.

What’s this got to do with LiveWorkPlay or other human services?


Believing everyone has a gift helps us to better understand and be more compassionate with the people in our lives. We also begin to see the world around us through the lens of gifts. In a healthy community, the gifts of every single person are valued and needed but it can take time and effort to make these connections.

This is especially and perhaps uniquely true of people with intellectual disabilities – given they have so many encounters with others based on their perceived deficits, the opportunity to have a different lens – one that is focused on assets and contributions – is a vital role that we can play.


How do you find out what your core gift is?

One way is to have a core gift interview done. It is a series of 19 questions which are thought-provoking but not intrusive. Well, maybe a little, but in our experience, it is rare that anyone is unable to answer. The interviewer helps the interviewee sort through their own answers to develop their core gift statement.

It’s not necessary that the interviewer is a certified facilitator, because all the information needed will be available by following the process and the steps. But what we’ve learned is that more experienced interviewers can be helpful in organizing the information and asking clarifying questions that can help the interviewee when they get caught up in the details.


The “group gift” can be a great exercise. On the trek we all gathered over drinks and came up with this statement that everyone new was exactly right!

What are we going to do with this?

We are still in the preliminary stages of incorporating core gifts into our culture at LiveWorkPlay. We certainly want to honour and promote the gifts of the people we support, our employees, our volunteers, and our community.

One of the ways we hope to do this is through the planning processes we utilize in welcoming and supporting individuals and families who have put their trust in us to help them pursue the life they want in the community. In some ways, it is a familiar practice for all of our staff team – getting to know the people they are supporting and looking and listening deeply to understand what is important to the person, and what excites them.

People with intellectual disabilities may not have a lot of experience with others who are looking to follow their lead (more commonly, they are used to being told things, not doing the telling) so we have to ensure that we bring the core gifts concept into their lives as part of an overall effort to build trust and develop mutual respect.

To that end, we ourselves must be vulnerable and ensure that we do not mistakenly communicate our interest in core gifts as some sort of “disability evaluation tool” we are implementing. Rather, we are looking to help the individual develop confidence in who they are and what energizes them so that we can in turn be of help in supporting them to live the life that is right for them.

And so, what about Julie and Keenan’s core gifts?

You probably have some guesses about that, and you’d like to compare that with what our own experiences have revealed. Well, we’ll do that, but another time. It will be a great opportunity to take a deeper dive into understanding the difference between skills, talents, gifts, and core gift.



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