After more than three decades at a single job, most people would probably be looking forward to retirement.

Then again, most people didn’t have a job like Cheryl Gillett.

Staff and clients at the Ska-Lu-La Workshop in Merritt recently celebrated Gillett’s retirement, which proved to be a bittersweet moment for the longtime employee.

“I didn’t want to retire but life got in the way. You go to work and you feel good about what you do, and you always feel good being around [the clients],” she said. “I really do miss it a lot.”

The Ska-Lu-La workshop has been a long-standing institution in Merritt. The organization provides opportunities for people with disabilities to work alongside staff in a variety of roles, learning important life skills along the way.

“I always say that I learned more from them than I ever have taught them,” said Gillett. “They all have very, very special personalities and there are no two the same.”

Sometimes, the job requires staff to take the group outside of the workshop — occasions that Gillett fondly remembers.

“Over the years we’ve done some things with them that are really amazing,” she said. “We had a few really good trips with all of them for a period of a few days.”

One trip in particular — a five day trip via train to Jasper with 12 clients — was an adventure from start to finish, said Gillett.

“We had to get up at 1 a.m. to catch the train at 4 a.m. in Kamloops,” she said. “It was such a lovely time — it was a learning curve for all of us.”

Other times the job involved facilitating paid work for the clients. For 16 years, Gillett and two Ska-Lu-La clients would head over to A&W to help cook the onion rings in the morning.

Though health issues forced Gillett to stop working in 2018, the workshop wasn’t able to celebrate her retirement until this past month.

But being retired hasn’t stopped her from dropping by for a coffee, and to see the clients she has known for so many years.

“My perspective is basically: it was a wonderful job. It didn’t matter how down in the dumps you might be, as soon as you got in the door, five minutes later, you were in the greatest mood,” said Gillett. “It was just such a warm happy place. No matter how bad things are going for you, when you go down and have a coffee or you go down to work, within ten minutes you’ve forgotten all that stuff.”