‘Invisible champions’ in the non-profit sector being recognized

February 16, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

The Dufferin Community Foundation is working with local charities to recognize the “invisible champions” that dedicate their careers to helping others as the region marks Non-Profit Appreciation Week, running until Feb. 19.

The Foundation has compiled stories from a handful of local not-for-profit organizations to share with the public. 

Family Transition Place

Norah Kennedy, executive director at Family Transition Place (FTP), shared a bit about Bonnie Waterfield, FTP’s executive assistant. 

“She has been with FTP since its inception. In fact, she was part of the very first Steering Committee formed in 1983 to determine what needed to be done to support women who were being abused in our community. From the recommendations of that group, Family Transition Place (or, as it was known in those days, Hillside House) was born. Since that time Bonnie has been a continuous part of the bedrock of the organization. She has worked overnight shifts in the shelter, answered the phones, supported the programs, kept the Board, and the ED’s, organized and is an active participant in many aspects of the visioning, planning and running of the organization. Despite her long history with the organization, she is one of the first to say, ‘just because we’ve always done it this way doesn’t mean it has to be done that way!'” said Kennedy.

“Bonnie has a passion for inclusion and diversity work and sits on the internal IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility) Committee, as well as the Region of Peel’s Diversity Round Table. She is not afraid to examine her own biases or preconceived ideas, and often challenges others to do the same. And she is more than just a good team player internally. She has offered her minute taking and agenda compiling talents to the Dufferin Situation Table and the Hills of Headwaters OHT Mental Health Working Group, when other resources were not available. During the early stages of the pandemic, when the OHT was looking for volunteers to help staff the phone lines for tests and vaccines, Bonnie volunteered. Bonnie is an enthusiastic supporter of the arts in the community and is a regular audience member at Theatre Orangeville!”

Kennedy concluded, “All too often, administrative support work goes unrecognized in our organizations. I have to say however, that without the Bonnie’s of the world, very little would get accomplished.”

Community Living Dufferin

Looking at Community Living Dufferin (CLD), an organization that assists people with special needs, local developmental support professional Michael Bonikowsky is being recognized for his over 10-year career with the organization.

Executive assistant at CLD, Karen Murphy Fritz, said Bonikowsky works in a residential home that supports four adults with intellectual disabilities.

“He is a true leader of both staff and the people he supports,” said Fritz. “He adamantly believes that his work at CLD is his ‘calling.’ He has a drive and passion for the work he performs but most importantly for the people whom he supports.”

She continued, “Mike leads with a quiet confidence, with the utmost respect for those he supports and those he works alongside.”

Pine River Institute 

The Pine River Institute, an organization that helps young adults or adolescents with addictive behaviours and other mental health issues, has an employee who’s being recognized for Non-Profit Awareness Week. 

Heather Kelley, PRI’s communications director, shared, “Jamie [Ragazzon] is program manager at Pine River Institute (PRI). Among other things, he is responsible for ensuring staff coverage on our campus near Horning’s Mills, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. As you can imagine, this task became much more complex during the pandemic over the past few years. Jamie navigated outbreaks and the changing protocols for both our staff and students, all while confronting the complexities of an ongoing health human resources shortage.”

Kelley added, “In addition, Jamie is responsible for day-to-day programming for our students, who number about 50 at our Mulmur Campus. This too is always a demanding part of the job, but none of us could have foreseen the additional challenges that COVID, flu, and RSV would impose.”

Jamie has tackled changes in visiting rules, trying to develop programming where we were often required to stay within the facility and not venture out into the broader community. He has adapted to all these complexities and limitations with his usual understated can-do attitude. 

Jamie accomplishes all his tasks quietly and effectively. He has a deep commitment to PRI’s students and families and has been an invaluable member of the organization’s team for almost 15 years, said Kelley.   

“I believe that PRI has a good reputation across the province as a program that provides innovative and quality programming for the young people we see who are struggling with addictive behaviours and often other mental concerns,” said Vaughan Dowie, CEO of PRI. “But as a human service program, what makes us good at what we do is firmly grounded in the people who work at Pine River.” 

Orangeville Food Bank

Another organization that supports people who are vulnerable or struggling, nourishing them physically with nutritional food, is the Orangeville Food Bank. 

The food bank’s executive director, Heather Hayes, shared a bit about its volunteer coordinator Lori Robertshaw.

“Lori Robertshaw is a name that keeps bubbling to the surface in almost any community conversation you have about volunteering. Throughout her career, she has made time to ensure that local not-for-profits had the support and the funds they needed to do their work. From the Heart and Stroke Foundation to Soup Sisters and her most recent work with The Mourning Glory Society/Death Café, she can be counted on to build up our community,” said Hayes.

“At a recent Volunteer Appreciation Event for the Orangeville Food Bank, her friends were asked to serve so volunteers could truly enjoy the evening. One remarked that being Lori’s friend meant having opportunities like the dinner to give back to the community while having fun. She is extraordinary in her caring and her effervescence for life, Dufferin is a better place because of her work!”

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