Council Members


Séanin Steele

Elgin County Library

Séanin Steele is the Digital Services Librarian for Elgin County Library. She coordinates the eResources for the library as well as connecting all 10 library branches with the wider community. She represents ECL on a number of community groups and is always looking for ways to help community members connect with the services they need. She is passionate about making sure everyone knows all of the great free things the library has to offer. She is committed to helping newcomers make connections within the community whether through STELIP, the library or other community-led organizations.

An image of Dana Vanzanten, a white woman with short brown hair and glasses.

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.

Anna Bergen is the Executive Director of Mennonite Community Services in Aylmer. She loves serving her community, especially newcomers. Having been a newcomer herself, she empathizes with newcomers who seek out the services of MCS and the positive impact this has on families. Her first language was Low German, followed by High German during her elementary years along with an introduction to Spanish, and finally learning English in high school. These experiences have helped shape her views and passion for helping other Low German speaking Mennonites who continue to arrive in Elgin County looking for new opportunities just like her family did.
In her spare time Anna loves to slow down and listen to her soul by taking long walks or hikes. Her longest walk was 50 km in a weekend.

The logo for Service Canada.

Élisabeth Brito

Service Canada

The Employment Services Elgin logo.

Jodi Annett-Kish

Employment Service Elgin

Jodi is the Executive Director of the Elgin St Thomas Youth Employment Counselling Centre. Jodi’s career has included helping all types of people find employment and training opportunities. Jodi is passionate about helping people achieve goals which includes newcomers arriving in Canada. She is a part of several forums that collaborate to build community capacity.

Serena is an Economic and Business Advisor for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, working within the Southwestern region on community economic development projects and resources.  

She holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto and a Master of Science in Capacity Development and Extension from the University of Guelph, where she researched how rural communities can foster inclusion for vibrant, long-term immigration settlement in a manner that is sustainable for individuals and the economy.

Serena is passionate about knowledge mobilization, accessible foodways, community engagement, and sustainable economies. 

The Fanshawe College logo.

John Griffiths

Fanshawe College

A photo of John Griffiths, a white man with brown hair and a beard and glasses.

John is the Manager of Career and Employment Services at Fanshawe College St Thomas Elgin and has been working throughout his career to assist people of all kinds (newcomer or otherwise) to prosper.  He is dedicated to community building and his work includes active participation in a number of community forums.

John is committed to helping St Thomas Elgin grow as an open and welcoming community by building services that newcomers need to succeed in their new home.

A photo of Juliane, a white woman with blonde hair tied back.

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.

Jennifer Grigg is the Community Engagement & Business Advisor for the Elgin Business Resource Centre. EBRC helps local businesses reach their full potential, whether they are a new or existing business. EBRC offers business counselling, business planning, business loans, and networking opportunities in St. Thomas and Elgin County. Prior to Jennifer’s advisor role, she was the Digital Main Street Service Squad lead for EBRC. Jennifer has a strong background in sales and marketing and is passionate about working with businesses at EBRC, whether a concept, start-up, or existing business.

The logo for Thames Valley District School Board.

Michael Tamasi

Thames Valley District School

Michael is the System Principal with responsibilities for ESL and ELD programming with the Thames Valley District School Board.  As an educational assistant, teacher, and school administrator, he has supported students at all levels of the education system. 

The Thames Valley School Board is committed to ensuring equitable learning environments in all of our schools. We strive to create spaces wherein all students, staff, families and community members feel welcome and accepted.  Together, our focus is on developing an inclusive system culture which is grounded in respect and reflected in our policies and codes of conduct, in addition to our curriculum.

The logo for Central Community Health Centre.

Catalina Friesen

Central Community Health Centre

Catalina is a PSW working at the Central Community Health Centre on the East Elgin Outreach program. She mainly serves the Low German speaking Mennonites on a mobile unit she drives out to Aylmer every Thursday. There is a Nurse Practitioner that works on the mobile unit with her that rosters and extends free health care to any and all folks of the Mennonite culture. They are offered service free of charge with and without a health card. If they are requiring blood work or ultrasounds, CCHC pays for those services for them.

The Central Community Health Centre is a place for community members to access a team of healthcare professionals. The organization strives to empower clients and communities to achieve optimal health and wellbeing.

A photo of Paul Jenkins, a white man with short blond hair and a beard.

Paul Jenkins is the CEO of the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce.  He is the former Executive Director of the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital Foundation, Treasurer of the Central Community Health Centre, and active in charitable and community building causes throughout our community.

He currently hosts a show on Rogers TV that highlights small local businesses, and previously hosted “We Are St. Thomas/Elgin,” a program that celebrated new Canadians.

Paul has a Graduate Certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability from the University of Toronto; a Graduate Certificate in Corporate Communications & Public Relations from Centennial College; and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Canadian Studies & American History from McGill University.

Paul lives with his wife, Sandra, and dog, Joanne, in Port Stanley.

The YWCA St. Thomas-Elgin logo.

Shelley Harris

YWCA St. Thomas-Elgin

A photo of Shelley, a woman with short brown hair wearing a pink cardigan.

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.

The St. Thomas Police Service logo.

Samantha Wakefield

St. Thomas Police Service

Samantha is the Corporate Communications Coordinator for the St. Thomas Police Service representing the verbal, visual and digital voice of the Executive Office. Samantha issues thousands of messages every year in print, on social media, TV and radio.  Daily communications consist of media releases and social engagement however, it’s not unusual to see Samantha maintaining close ties to the Community Engagement Unit attending events in the city or at the scene of a major incident to liaise with the media and ensure citizens receive accurate information in a timely manner. In addition to her job, Samantha sits on the Chief of Police – Community Inclusion Council, is the Crime Stoppers Coordinator for Elgin St. Thomas and is in the 1st year of her 2nd term as a Director of the Board for the Elgin Business Resource Centre.

The City of St. Thomas logo.

Teresa Sulowski

St. Thomas Social Services

A photo of Teresa, a white woman with brown hair and bangs and glasses.

Teresa Sulowski is the Supervisor of Children’s Services for the City of St. Thomas-Elgin with the responsibility of planning and managing licensed child care services and early years programming. She represents St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services on the STELIP Council. Teresa has worked in various areas of Early Learning Programs including 20 years at the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario, 9 years with the London District Catholic School Board, and most recently with the City of St. Thomas-Elgin. In addition to working full time, she works part-time teaching in the Early Childhood Education diploma program at Fanshawe and Conestoga Colleges. Teresa holds a B.A. in Adult Education from Brock University, and a M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Athabasca University.

Zeeshan Syed

St. Thomas Islamic Centre

Mr. Zeeshan Ejaz. Syed moved to St. Thomas in February of 2021 and is currently working for Entegrus Powerlines Inc. as Engineering Manager and is also a part of the Media Outreach team of St. Thomas Islamic Centre (STIC). Mr. Syed by profession is a Professional Engineer and holds Bachelor of Engineering Degree from Karachi, Pakistan and a Master of Engineering Degree from University of Western Ontario specializing in Electrical Power Systems. Mr. Syed came to Canada as a student back in 2014 and since then have moved across Southwestern Ontario from East to West. Mr. Syed also actively participates in different initiatives within the community representing the Islamic Centre, ranging from organizing Educational Sessions for the community, to keeping the community engaged with the Islamic Centre. Mr. Syed’s goal under the direction of the management of STIC is to ensure that STIC is not just a place of worship but a valuable contributor and an engaged member of the community.

Elgin County logo.

Carolyn Krahn

Elgin County Economic Development

Carolyn Krahn is the Manager of Economic Development, Tourism & Strategic Initiatives for the County of Elgin. She leads a team focused on supporting local entrepreneurs and promoting community growth. Carolyn, a lifelong resident of Elgin County, strongly believes in taking a comprehensive approach to economic development and building sustainable communities. Outside of work, she enjoys sewing and designing clothing, constantly learning and creating with her hands.

Devin is the Senior Manager of Employer Services and Strategic Partnerships at WILL Employment Solutions – a nonprofit, charitable organization that supports newcomers seeking employment in Ontario; and helps employers source the skilled workers they need.

Devin oversees the activities of WILL Immploy, an employer-focused project of WILL Employment Solutions that provides recruitment services, mentorship programming and employer education/training services to successfully hire, onboard and retain immigrant talent.  WILL Immploy is also an Immigrant Employment Council (IEC), serving all of Southwestern Ontario, that is part of a National Network of Immigrant Employment Councils (IECC) that assist employers in effectively integrating immigrant talent into the Canadian labour market. Devin also guides the activities of WILL Access – a project that helps immigrant job seekers continue their career in Canada in regulated professions. 

Devin has an extensive background in government relations, corporate communications, stakeholder relations and issues management.  He has worked for several elected representatives at both the federal and provincial levels of government, served as a Senior Advisor to the Ontario Minister of Labour, and has worked on many projects, programs and services aimed at addressing challenges and inequities in employment, immigration, labour laws and workplace safety. 

Melanie Neerhof

Fanshawe College, St. Thomas/Elgin Regional Campus

Melanie is the Associate Dean of the St Thomas Elgin Regional Campus, Fanshawe College and works to build community connections to unlock potential for students and the communities the College serves.  Fanshawe College St Thomas offers a variety of post-secondary programs, graduate certificates and apprenticeship opportunities.  Fanshawe College’s mission is to provide pathways to success, an exceptional learning experience and a global outlook to meet student and employer needs.

Mike is the Manager of Business Development & Entrepreneurship for St. Thomas Economic Development. Through this role he oversees the Elgin/St. Thomas Small Business Enterprise Centre, and the Horton Farmers Market. In addition to his work as an economic developer, Mike has experience in the software, agriculture, and media production industries.

It is St. Thomas EDC’s mission “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.” This mission absolutely includes newcomers to St. Thomas, and as our business community becomes increasingly reliant on newcomers to meet local workforce needs it is more important now than ever for our community to be a welcoming place for newcomers to settle.

Chiyemenma (Chichi) Kejeh

Newcomer Representative

Chiyemenma Kejeh (Chichi) is an enthusiastic communications professional. A serial entrepreneur with expertise spanning over a decade and a strong background in business development,  engineering, management consulting, and public speaking.

New to Canada as of September 2022, Chichi joined his lovely wife Amarachi and they have chosen St. Thomas as home. He is passionate about community building and loves to meet people from different backgrounds and cultures. Chichi is one of the co-initiators of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Initiative in our community. 

As the Senior Business Development Consultant at Fanshawe’s Strategic Initiatives and Business Development Department, Chichi works with industry partners in the community to develop and optimize products and processes leveraging a collaborative partnership with the College.

Download the Terms of Reference for the St. Thomas-Elgin Local Immigration Partnership Council