Debra Mountenay

Elgin Oxford Middlesex Workforce Planning and Development Board

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.

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.

Bob Hammersley

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.

Cindy Hastings

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.

Dana Vanzanten

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.

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.

Jeffery Robinson

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.

Jeffery Kinsella

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.

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.

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.

Stephanie Andrews

Service Canada

Stephanie Andrews is a Senior Citizen Services Specialist with Service Canada. She acts as a liaison and builds relationships with key stakeholders in the community and engages them in identifying needs and delivering services.  Service Canada offers programs and services for individuals, organizations, and employers.  Stephanie can arrange Social Insurance Number clinics and provide information sessions, to facilitate access to benefits and supports, on Employment Insurance benefits, the Work-Sharing program, Job Bank, Labour Market Information, Canada Pension Plan (including Canada Pension Plan Disability benefits), Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

Stephanie received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wilfrid Laurier University. This was followed by a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from Western University and she also attained a Human Resources Management Certificate from Fanshawe College.

Bilal Khalife

Local business owner, Traditional Fish and Chips, Galleria 916

Bilal Khalife entrepreneur and community member, believes in change, evolution and new opportunities. 

Throughout his career, Bilal has created and operated multiple business concepts. He worked with multinational brands of which are Armani, Versace, Tom Ford, Max Mara,..  where his mission was driving visions, strategies and operational plans across different markets. His international exposure has developed his empathy and interpersonal skills to effectively manage diversity. He is trilingual with a dual degree in Business Management and Advertising. 

His involvement with STELIP is driven by his eagerness to make a positive impact within St Thomas / Elgin community.


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