My name is Hal Jenner and I was a member of the Twin Valleys Community from November 1975 to September 1979. I was not your typical student at Twin Valleys. I was 23 years old when I arrived so I was older than the regular students. I came there because my cousin and my brother were both there. She was a student and he was part of the staff. I fell in the cracks in between the two because of my age and my emotional and mental difficulties at the time. I had just been released from prison in Indiana on drug charges and was politely asked to leave the country as I had dual nationality and they preferred that I live in Canada and not the United States. I was at a time in my life where I was on a very downward spiral and if it had not been for Twin Valleys and George Bullied (Founder and Director) I would have ended up either dead or doing “life on the instalment plan” (A bit of time in jail and bit of time out, repeat forever). George saw that I had potential, something that I never saw in myself, just as he did with everyone who walked onto that property. He put me to work immediately and gave me a place to stay for a few days while I decided what it was I was going to do with my life. I stayed for close to 4 years. While I was there I worked my way up to be a staff member (what we called a Communitarian). I learned many skills through all the different jobs that I held:
Bricklayer, carpenter, farmer, cook, store operator, group leader, counsellor, telephone operator, night security, ditch digger and plumber among many others.
The most important skills were taught through example by the other staff and the students at the school. We all had things we needed to learn about ourselves and things we needed to teach others. We all learned that we were more than just our jobs. That they did not define who we were, just that they were a facet of us and because we changed jobs often we learned that we could do many things that we never had imagined. We learned to give orders and to take orders. We learned that age did not necessarily mean that you were right just because you were older. Sometimes the students were our best teachers. We taught life skills and job skills so that the students were better prepared to live in the outside world when they left. It prepared me for the outside world when I left 4 years later. I had a job skill that became my career for life. I became a child care worker in a psychiatric children’s hospital first and then continued in many different areas of Social Services for the next 20 years. My time spent as Head Cook for many meals at the school allowed me to get hired as the head cook for a children’s camp one summer when I was between jobs. My skills as a counsellor and doing so many different jobs came in handy later in life when I worked on community productions of Musicals and Dramas. My time helping out in the elementary school helped when I volunteered at my own children’s school. So I learned that everything I was doing there had an impact on my life forever. I do not know where I might have been if not for Twin Valleys but I know that my life could never have been as full as it has been without it. I also know that this is true for just about everybody who ever lived at Twin Valleys. It was not perfect, no place is, but it was the best thing for me and for many others who were in need of guidance and support at a critical time in our lives. We truly were a family there and I hold each and every one of the people that I shared that part of my life with close to my heart.
I am looking forward to the Wardsville 200th Anniversary celebrations because it is giving me a chance to reconnect with old friends and family. I believe that we have something special to share with others and look forward to showing you all what the heart of Twin Valleys was and what it is today for we all carry it in ourselves and share it on a regular basis with friends, family and coworkers.