Grant Gustafson worked at Prince Albert S.H.A.R.E for over 31 years but on Thursday, Sept. 29 it was time to celebrate his retirement.
To recognize all of his contributions S.H.A.R.E. named the road behind their property Gustafson Lane and announced the decision to Gustafson at a special barbecue.
S.H.A.R.E. executive director Robin Knudsen said there would be a hole at the operation without Gustafson, who had been with them for almost their entire 35 years of existence.
“(We’re) very disappointed to lose Grant—very big shoes to fill,” Knudsen said. “(He) has been a staple of S.H.A.R.E. for over 31 years, and because of him is because we have this building here, he works in the other building next door. He’s the one that kind of makes sure that all of the maintenance is done and all of those things. It is going to be hard to lose him.”
The S.H.A.R.E back lane is one of the busiest areas on the property because of the garage sales, and bottle drop offs, and other events. Knudsen said the road functions as the organization’s main street, since it runs right through their property, so it made sense to rename it after Gustafson.
“What else do you do for a person that has put that much time into an organization like this and helped so many people,” Knudsen said. “We thought, ‘we have to do something to recognize him, something that will be here for long after we are here. People will now know what it means.”
Gustafson said he was grateful for the honour, and for his time with S.H.A.R.E., but said it was just time to retire.
“The timing was right,” he explained. “We had someone in the wings who could take over. I wasn’t being the least bit pushed out the door, in fact, (they said), ‘keep the keys, use some space.’ It just worked out very well.”
Gustafson did a little bit of everything during his time with the organization, although he retired with the title of General Manager.
He started out as a vocational program coordinator, but moved on to other roles over the years.
“I did about two per cent of the work and most of the organizing,” he said.
“As a charity we didn’t have money to hire (people to get) everything done, and I had a background in being able to fix and build and do stuff.”
His many skills made him an asset to S.H.A.R.E and his role evolved. That gave him a chance to put the skills he developed working 10 years at Northland Office Equipment to good use.
“As my kids say, I got sweet skills, so I was a good fit,” Gustafson said. “I came in here running the vocational program. It’s a place for the guys to come and work, just a regular workplace, and on top of that then looking after the building (and) vehicle maintenance.
“Now we are doing a little better. We are hiring out more of the vehicle stuff, but we have done everything it takes over the years to keep the whole program going.”
S.H.A.R.E stands for Self Held and Recreation Education with the mission of promoting the respect and dignity of people affected by mental challenges through ensuring their own goals, feelings and beliefs.
Gustafson said the organization went through three phases, the first being a 10-year period where they got on evening footing, followed by another 10 where they built their business model.
“We have gotten it to rate that lets the organization survive better,” he explained. “Then the last 10 years was more building capacity for the future. Halfway through that we bought the warehouse next door.”
What started out as one small building has expanded to three, plus a large shed. It now covers the entire property.
Gustafson said it’s a big change from when he started out, when the organization had just one small building and a vehicle.
“We had an old wrecked Astro van parked outside there that was falling apart, ropes literally holding it together,” Gustafson remembered. “We built that up to what we have got today.”
When asked what he would do in his retirement, he deferred to his wife Barb Gustafson.
“There is quite a long list of things to be done at our home,” she said. “We have a house that is over 100 years old, so there is just ongoing maintenance.”
“There are two lists: there is the list that I have of things to do and then there is the list of things to do that I have done already that I haven’t told her,” Grant said. “There’s about 10 things on that. That’s my reserve list.”
“Plus we have a cabin that’s similar vintage, so lots of work to be done,” Barb added.
Another high priority will be his 6.4 grandchildren. The reason it is 6.4 is there is a seventh on the way.
Gustafson said he wouldn’t have succeeded at S.H.A.R.E. without some help along the way. He’s’ grateful for the many people who helped contribute to the organization and made his time there enjoyable.
“I only want to make sure everyone knows that my success here is due to our members coming in,” he explained. “There are about 50 of us, total. I am about two per cent of the success. To try and get to this point on my own would be impossible.”
Knudsen explained that the come and go barbecue was another way that they could credit Gustafson for all of his work.
“We invited lots of the public and lots of the board members were here today. We had lots of different public organizations that we sent notices out to and had them come out as well,” Knudsen said.
“All of the guys and gals that worked for us all wanted to do something for Grant. It was just a way to show their appreciation,” he added.
Along with the Lane naming, they also presented Gustafson with a penguin.
“We used to put those out on people’s lawns way back when people had birthdays or celebrations,” Knudsen said. “We had some extra ones, so we had all of the clients sign it and give one to Grant as well, because he used to have to put them out at 7 o’clock in the morning.”