Agnes reflects on many cherished moments.

As part of Community Living Toronto (CLTO)’s 75th anniversary celebrations, we’ve asked people from across our communities to join us in conversations about what the organization means to them, and why it’s important that we continue to promote belonging for the next 75 years and beyond.

Today, we are sharing the perspective of a leader in our community – in every sense of the word. This is Agnes’ story.

I am Agnes Samler and I was the Executive Director of Community Living Toronto (CLTO) for 12 years (1994-2006). Before that, I was the Regional Director in the (then) Ministry of Community and Social Services responsible for providing funding to CLTO.

I know this organization well, and I am thrilled to be sharing some of my story as part of this year’s 75th anniversary celebration.

When I reflect on the word “belonging” my mind goes many places. The first? My family. I belong to a large extended family and I spend a significant part of my time celebrating with them. From birthdays, to graduations, to weddings and more, we come together on the happy occasions and the sad ones. We draw joy and strength from each other. We cherish our moments together.

“Belonging is family, whatever that looks like to you.”

My memories bring me joy. I think of them like a collection of little videos; there are too many to pick a favourite, as they are all in some way precious. As I play some of them back in my mind, especially the memories connected to CLTO, I am reminded of moments like when self-advocates challenged Hilary Weston, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, to a game of billiards as she visited their clubhouse. Or watching people who did not normally speak, laughing out loud as they played in the lake at Shadow Lake Centre. I will always remember the feeling of listening to young people speaking on a panel with great confidence and joy about their plans to attend post-secondary classes.

Throughout the year, Community Living Toronto participates in workshops, events, panels, conferences, and community meetings where people with an intellectual disability are given the microphone to share their knowledge, experiences, and wisdom. Did you know that Community Living Toronto has a group of Influencers that speak about issues that are important to them? Together, they want to raise awareness and create positive change in their communities and beyond. Follow the link to learn more about CLTO Influencers:

“Belonging is a collection of memories from the past that bring us joy, but also the present moments which continue to inspire us.”

These cherished moments are everywhere and they look different for each person. For me, they include the feeling of waking up to the sounds of birds in the morning. Holding the newest baby in our family in my arms. Listening to my 9-year-old nephew talk about the captain of his hockey team who is a girl and who he sees as the leader because she is the best skater. The unexpected kindness of strangers. The hopefulness and actions of the young people in our community.

When I think of my connections to CLTO, I think of how much I have learned from the people supported by CLTO and the many who provide support. My relationship with this organization has been a source of both learning and contribution, with each one providing its own joy and fulfillment.

For people with an intellectual disability, CLTO is a doorway to a whole new expanded life.

For families, CLTO is a partner that assures them that they are not alone.

For communities, CLTO is a source of information and learning that helps communities to tap into the rich resources that people with intellectual disabilities provide.

For all of us, CLTO and belonging are one and the same.

For 75 years, Community Living Toronto has been evolving, learning, and growing to support and include people with an intellectual disability. Together, let’s work toward 75 more Years of Belonging. Here is one way you can help today: Add your name below to show your support.


75 more years of belonging.
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