Susan McCallum is the new executive director of the Colchester Community Workshops. Submitted photo

TRURO – For close to three decades, Susan McCallum has called the Colchester Community Workshops home, and earlier this year, she took over the reins as the new executive director.

She started as a summer student upon graduating Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology. And she never left.

“They had been advertising for a fulltime instructor position, and they held off on that until the end of my summer student position,” said McCallum, about a month into the new position.

“I never left. Because I’ve had a hand in so many programs over the years, it didn’t feel like it was the same job.”
Before taking on this role, McCallum spent nine years as the operations manager, which is roughly the same time Don Hoadley spent in the executive director position. When Hoadley retired, the position was something McCallum was hesitant about.

As operations manager, I was hands on with the clients and staff, and I didn’t want that to end,” she admitted. “I’m proud of how far the workshop has come over the years – we’ve grown and expanded the programs. I wanted to be able to still remain involved with the clients at a different level.”

McCallum and the rest of the staff know the organization is in need of growth, and plans are still in the works.

“We’ve outgrown our space,” she said, admitting the workshops has purchased the former Halliday’s property, but wouldn’t expand further on the purchase as the executive board would make an announcement at a later date.

With 80 clients currently in service, there are still another 15 on a waiting list. It takes about a year-and-a-half to two years from the time a client goes on the wait list until they’re part of the workshops.

“Hopefully we can shorten that. We’ve been fortunate in community placements – employment and volunteer positions – and some are going onto educational pursuits, so hopefully we can shorten that wait,” said McCallum.

Over the years, the community has offered “overwhelming” support to the workshops and its clients, and McCallum said they can’t thank the public enough.

“Years ago when we started the New To You store, we weren’t sure if we’d get enough donations. But the community has been so generous to us,” she said. “The community has been coming to our services, whether it’s the New To Your or the café, and anytime we’ve identified a need or that we were looking for something specific, the community has always stepped up. Because of that, we feel we’re in a position we can give back to the community.”

She said the workshops has been working with Third Place Transition House and Canadian Red Cross in that respect.

“We are in a more reciprocal place with the community,” she added.

So what’s kept her with the workshops for the past 28 years? It’s simple – the clients.

“It always comes back to the clients,” she said. “We had one individual who hadn’t been a client for very long, and we were on an outing one day.”

She said the client had how much the staff gets paid, and she admitted it wasn’t about the money.

“There’s a saying – we get paid a million dollars in memories,” said McCallum. “You make so much of a different in people’s lives, and I want to continue that.”