Since 2003, Brenda Opie has been learning a living.
She starts her work day with a big smile, a kind word and a bit of teasing for staff at ASD-W's Woodstock Education Centre, while performing her daily duties as a client of CIEVA (Community Industries Employment Vocational Association).
"Brenda comes in everyday and just wants to help everyone," said Jay Colpitts, director of schools for the Woodstock Education Centre. "She's part of the family."
Opie is in charge of recycling and organizing paper, shredding, photocopying, stapling, lamination and delivering the mail. On Fridays, she collects monies for the office Dress Down Fund and turns the cash into staff.
In her spare time, she is busy at her group home knitting and crocheting. Her co-workers at the office are proud of her efforts to knit 300 pairs of mittens which have been donated to students at schools in the district as well as some school staff.
"They are for someone who doesn't have their mittens at school or they lost one," Opie said. "It's a way of helping them out so they don't get cold."
Opie's other homemade creations include pot holders, tea towels and dish cloths. Sometimes she sells a few dish cloths at the office. She recently crocheted an afghan for a staff member's grandchild and hopes to soon learn how to make socks. Most of the yarn for her projects is donated by the community.
"I'd like to try to learn to knit socks and turn the heel so I could make a pair for my brother," Opie remarked. "The work is very relaxing and I like to make things."
Opie picked up her needles in her youth with her mother instructing her to "keep the tension even and fasten off securely." Later on, a teacher named Margaret Harding taught her to crochet. These days, when her needles are idle, she is on the job at the Woodstock Education Centre making her daily rounds.
"I enjoy working here," Opie said. "It's the best job I've ever had. I've made a lot of friends over the years. I look forward to continuing as long as my health is good."
Opie will celebrate her 60th birthday on May 5, but she doesn't worry about getting older.
"Every day is a new day and enjoy each one as they come" is her advice for a happy life along with spending time with friends and family.
For Opie, that means fun times with older brother Stanley, sisters Donna, Carol, and Carla, and Uncle Bert and Aunt Joyce who all live in the Woodstock area.