Abe Harms Mennonite Community Services
Abe and his wife Anita are residents of Aylmer where they also raised their two daughters. He was born of Canadian parents in Mexico which meant he had to learn English as an adult. He grew up on the farm of his parents growing cucumbers and tomatoes.
Abe has held the position of Executive Director of Mennonite Community Services since 1999. Before that he was principal of the Aylmer Bible School and spent a year as guest instructor at a Mennonite college in Switzerland.
Abe has always had a passion for justice issues, especially for newcomers and others who have lacked educational opportunities.
Abe and his wife Anita have two daughters, Elfrieda who is married and has given the grandparents two grandchildren, and Charissa who is working for the Federal Government in Ottawa.
St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce
As President & Chief Executive Officer of the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce, Bob Hammersley is the senior staff officer of one of the largest business and community service organizations in Southwestern Ontario. He has been employed with the Chamber of Commerce network for 28 years and works to represent the interests of over 600 Member-businesses, as well as attract new businesses & jobs to the St. Thomas region.
Bob’s background includes 15 years in media with experience in on-air radio, sales and management. He has owned and operated a family-run retail and restaurant business and has an extensive record of involvement in community projects.
Bob is a strong supporter of community development and community opportunity. He knows that work to enhance how attractive this market is for foreign-trained professionals is a key to continuing economic success.
St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation
Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for all citizens of St. Thomas by attracting, retaining and growing our industrial, business and tourism sectors while fostering entrepreneurship in our community.
St. Thomas Public Library
Dana Vanzanten is Manager, Advocacy and Community Development at St. Thomas Public Library (STPL). She represents the library at a variety of community networking and planning tables, and is always looking for ways that the library can partner with other agencies to best meet the needs of our community members. In addition to promoting the value of the library and all that it has to offer, she also coordinates programs and services that bring the library out of its downtown home into the city at large.
Prior to taking on her current role, Dana worked as both a Library Assistant and a Library Services Coordinator at STPL. Before entering the library world, she earned both and B.A. and an M.A. in philosophy.
Debra Mountenay has been the Executive Director of the Elgin Middlesex Oxford (EMO) Workforce Planning and Development Board for the past fourteen years following several years in advertising in the private sector. A results-driven professional with a focus on workforce development, her areas of expertise include community development and stakeholder engagement to address local workforce planning issues. Debra currently serves on several boards and committees in the region. She holds a degree in English from Western University and a certificate in Adult Education from St. Francis Xavier University.
The (EMO) Workforce Planning and Development Board is one of 26 organizations covering the province of Ontario that form Workforce Planning Ontario.
Jackie Van Ryswyk Employment Service Elgin
Having economically independent residents is an important factor to a thriving community. Supporting newcomers with specific needs and additional barriers to employment means that existing programs offered by ESE are altered to make accommodations. When our community is able to find meaningful work for newcomers we all benefit. Employment Services Elgin with the Support of STELIP strives to make this happen.
Thames Valley District School
Jeffery Robinson is one of two elementary learning coordinators for ESL/ELD in Thames Valley District School, which includes St. Thomas and Elgin County in its region. He and his colleague, Natalee Wales, provide leadership and support to the district’s now 86 ESL/ELD teachers in elementary schools. They also connect with principals, support staff, superintendents, and community agencies to contribute to the overall learning success and wellness of English language learners in TVDSB.
Jeff’s background includes 10 years as an instructor and curriculum writer in LINC/Adult ESL. His past also includes 16 years as an elementary ESL teacher and classroom teacher (Gr 4/5). He and his partner live in Stratford, Ontario where they own and operate a contemporary art gallery.
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs
Jeff Kinsella is an Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) currently responsible for St Thomas-Elgin, Chatham-Kent and Windsor-Essex. His 25+ years of economic development experience includes work in areas such as entrepreneurship and business development and improving access to growth capital. Since joining OMAFRA, he has worked collaboratively to facilitate a wide range of community-based economic development programming across Southwestern Ontario.
OMAFRA develops and delivers leading-edge resources, data and tools that support newcomer attraction and retention in rural communities.
Judith Wiley Central Community Health Centre
Juliane Hundt St. Thomas Elgin Settlement Services
Juliane is the Manager of the YWCA’s Settlement Service program which assists newcomers to Canada make the transition into their new community and to become active members of Canadian society. In this role, she also manages the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada program which assists adult learners to gain confidence using English in everyday life and to prepare for Canadian citizenship.
As a member of the Council, Juliane is committed to STELIP’s efforts to strengthen St. Thomas-Elgin’s capacity to welcome newcomers and to promote their full and meaningful participation in community life. She is particularly interested in breaking down stereotypes and assumptions about newcomers and strengthening the services they need to make independent and well informed decisions.
Kate Burns Gallagher Elgin County Economic Development
Kate is the Business Development Coordinator for Elgin County and has been working with Elgin since 2008.
She has her BA in Communications from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Post Graduate in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Fanshawe College.
Prior to joining the team in Elgin County, Kate gained experience in marketing, event planning and program management, with the not-for profit sector and the federal government.
Kate is an active volunteer in the community, having served on the boards of the St. Thomas Stars Jr. B Hockey Team, North America Railway Hall of Fame as well as helping organize many community events.
By ensuring that we have welcoming, caring and inclusive communities, we are able to attract and retain both residents and businesses in Elgin County.
Mark Masseo Elgin Business Resource Centre
Mark Masseo is a Business and Loans Advisor with Elgin Business Resource Center (Elgin CFDC). Since starting at EBRC in 2013, Mark has been extensively involved in rural and community economic development through an business outreach partnership with County of Elgin, Economic Development.
With a General Business Diploma, Fanshawe College, a B.A.(Hons) in Demography/Economics minor, a Masters program in Medical Sociology Mark has held various operations/distribution and sales management positions in private industry, as well as a business owner and entrepreneur.
In addition to STELIP, Mark has had local involvement with area Chambers of Commerce, is a mentor for the Small Business Enterprise Centre Starter Plus Program, and currently sits on Economic Development Committees for the municipalities of Southwold, and West Elgin.
Sandra Poczobut Elgin County Library
Sandra Poczobut has been Manager of Programming and Community Development for Elgin County Library since 2014. She has Masters of Education and Curriculum Studies from Western and holds degrees in Education and Fine Arts from York University and The University of Alberta. She has worked internationally as an educator in both Europe and Asia, and has supported Internationally Trained Professionals from the areas of Design and Architecture in Toronto.
As an immigrant to Canada from Poland at the age of 7, Sandra understands the challenges that many new comers and their families face when moving to a new country.
The Elgin County Library is a system of 10 branches with the mission to provide welcoming, include and supportive environments that foster lifelong learning, creative expression, community engagement and cultural vitality in harmony with a rural way of life.
I have vivid memories from my childhood joining my mother on fieldtrips she would take with her ESL classes and feeling the support she received from the community around her. I have always felt a strong connection to those who have immigrated to Canada because of my life story. I am so grateful for the opportunities my parents were able to provide for me and my siblings as a result of their decisions, and feel passionate about making others who are transitioning feel welcome in their new home country.
Shelley Harris YWCA St. Thomas-Elgin
Shelley is the Director of Education and Settlement at the YWCA St. Thomas-Elgin with the responsibility of overseeing Adult Education, Settlement Services, English Language Classes, the St. Thomas-Elgin Local Immigration Partnership (STELIP), Skills Connect Employment Project. She was the 2013 provincial winner of the Council of the Federation Literacy Award and supports client-centred programming.
She began her career in Northern Ontario working with Aboriginal learners and has worked with individuals living in poverty, women’s groups, newcomers, and multiple barriered learners.
The YWCA has a long and solid history of leadership in community building and Shelley embeds this spirit throughout her programming.
Shelley is the mother of three beautiful daughters and a grandmother. She enjoys watching them discover their gifts, talents, and individual paths.
Elgin County has a beautiful landscapes, a rich agricultural history, and has the potential to be an inviting community where diversity is welcomed. I want to be part of that!
Mark Tinlin City of St. Thomas City Councillor
St Thomas appoints a city councillor to the board of STELIP in a supportive role to demonstrate the city’s commitment to the aims and objects of STELIP programs and projects; to encourage a collaborative partnership with city departments and services as well as other local agencies to support social economic inclusion of newcomers to the city.
Download the Terms of Reference for the St. Thomas-Elgin Local Immigration Partnership Council