Change Can Happen. Profiles in Community Leadership

Central City Foundation is celebrating examples of extraordinary community leadership. We are highlighting the dedication and determination of those whose support for community-led solutions helped people in our inner city and beyond and have demonstrated that change happen in our community.

2023 Celebrants

Cheryl Robinson, Chief Executive Officer, Urban Native Youth Association

Cheryl, who comes from the St’at’imc and Nisga’a Nations, has spent over a decade empowering Indigenous youth to make positive changes in their lives through UNYA’s individualized services, opportunities and supports. She is currently leading the development of the new, greatly expanded Native Youth Centre. Read more about Cheryl Robinson

France-Emmanuelle Joly, Executive Director, Vancouver Women’s Health Collective

France-Emmanuelle is a feminist leader and tireless advocate for equity and inclusion. Her steadfast commitment to centre the voices of all women and gender-diverse people has helped to ensure that services and supports in our community truly meet their needs. Read more about France-Emmanuelle Joly

Maura Gowans, Indigenous Relations Consultant and Cultural Training Leader

Maura is an inspiring healer who has supported and guided women in the inner city for more than two decades. As a consultant and counsellor, Maura continues to ensure women in our community have access to the necessary services, supports and traditional cultural practices along their path to healing and wellbeing. Read more about Maura Gowans

Sarah Stewart, Executive Director, Aunt Leah’s Place

Sarah has built on Aunt Leah’s legacy of caring and has helped change the landscape for young people in foster care, built more spaces and better services for new mothers and has started the organization’s journey towards truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Read more about Sarah Stewart

Rowena Veylan, Founder and Lead Instructor, The New School of Fundraising

Founder and Lead Instructor at the New School of Fundraising, Rowena is working to build equity and expand access to exceptional learning and professional development for non-profit fundraisers. She continues to demonstrate an exceptional commitment to share learning and help fundraisers build the capacity that will make change in the community. Read more about Rowena Veylan

Alice Kendall, Executive Director, Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre

For over 25 years, Alice has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to women in our community. A place of respite, connection and belonging, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre (DEWC) continues to centre the needs of women in the development and expansion of programs and services. Read more about Alice Kendall

Kinbrace Community Society

For 25 years, Kinbrace has been building connection and belonging with and for refugee claimants arriving in our community. In addition to welcoming families from all parts of the globe into their transitional housing community, Kinbrace is now sharing their understanding of the transformative power of human connection through the Beyond Refuge program. Read more about Kinbrace Community Society

2022 Celebrants

Rhiannon Bennett, Co-Founder & CEO, Hummingbirds Rising Consulting

Rhiannon, a tireless activist, consultant, facilitator, trainer and educator, is being celebrated because she has been working to ensure individuals and organizations have the tools to decolonize their work and challenge systemic oppression. Read more about Rhiannon Bennett

Chris Friesen, Chief Operating Officer, ISSofBC

Chris is being celebrated because he has worked tirelessly to build connections and break down silos in the immigrant services sector to ensure the best services and supports for newcomers, including a quick and innovative response to meet the unique needs of Ukrainian refugees. Read more about Chris Friesen

Brianne DeMan, Charitable Programs, Davin Boutang, Community Specialist and Sean Miles, Director, Binners’ Project

We are celebrating Binners’ Project because, with perseverance and resilience in challenging times, they have continued to provide equitable and accessible employment opportunities for community members who are often marginalized and facing multiple barriers. Read more about Binners’ Project

Margaret Pfoh, Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Housing Management Association

We are celebrating Margaret because, for over 25 years, she has fostered community development through empowerment and respect. Recent AHMA collaborations have lead to critical programs and initiatives such as the 2021 Housing Strategy for Urban and Rural Indigenous Peoples. Read more about Margaret Pfoh

Matthew Smedley, Executive Director & CEO, Mission Possible

Matthew is being celebrated because with his leadership, Mission Possible continues to offer accessible income earning opportunities that also help provide a sense of purpose and worth for community members who are facing multiple barriers to employment. Read more about Matthew Smedley

Mebrat Beyene, Executive Director, WISH Drop-In Centre Society

Mebrat is being celebrated because she has relentlessly challenged the community to address women’s safety in the DTES and has advocated for the need for a gender-based lens to the collaborative work being done through the Coordinated Community Response Network, as well as other collaborative initiatives. Read more about Mebrat Beyene

Samantha Kearney, Manager Development, BWSS, My Sister’s Closet

Samantha is being celebrated because she manages BWSS’ social enterprise, My Sister’s Closet, which celebrated its 20th-anniversary last fall. Her leadership has ensured that this Eco-Thrift Fashion Boutique has thrived at two locations plus an extensive online thrift store. Read more about Samantha Kearney

Palexelsiya Lorelei Williams, Butterflies in Spirit

Palexelsiya Lorelei has tirelessly and passionately worked in the community to demand justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Both individually and through the Butterflies in Spirit dance group she founded, Palexelsiya Lorelei is providing critical care, support and advocacy for MMIWG family members. Read more about Palexelsiya Lorelei Williams

2021 Celebrants

Mary Clifford, Director of Indigenous Early Years, Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society at the Phil Bouvier Family Centre

Mary is being celebrated because of her commitment to adapting the services and programs at the Phil Bouvier Family Centre when the pandemic hit to ensure Indigenous families and community members were supported and connected. Read more about Mary Clifford

Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director, Battered Women’s Support Services

Angela is being celebrated because she acted immediately to reorganize services and programs when she realized the COVID-19 pandemic would present new and immediate threats to the health and safety of women and girls in our community. Read more about Angela Marie MacDougall

Steve Johnston, Executive Director, Community Impact Real Estate Society

Steve is being celebrated for his commitment to bringing together community organizations who were struggling to maintain their services and programs when the pandemic hit to collaborate and coordinate essential support for our inner city neighbours from a community-focused and community-led approach. Read more about Steve Johnston

TRRUST Collective Impact – Project Manager: Erica Mark and youth leaders

TRRUST Collective Impact is being celebrated because of their efforts to ensure youth aging out of care and the community organizations that support them  were provided opportunities to engage and advocate for their needs during the pandemic. Read more about TRRUST Collective Impact

Naved Noorani, Executive Director, Potluck Café & Catering

Naved is being celebrated because of his unwavering commitment to ensuring community members in the DTES were fed and nourished during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about Naved Noorani

Nicolas Yung, DTES SRO-Collaborative – Chinese Seniors Expertise

Nicolas is being celebrated because of his commitment to ensuring that Chinese seniors living in SROs, who were made the most vulnerable by the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent shutdown of services and supports in our inner-city community, were kept safe and connected. Read more about Nicolas Yung

Johanna Li, Manager, EMBERS Eastside Works

Johanna is being celebrated because of her unfaltering commitment during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensuring access to continued income-earning opportunities, peer work and community income supports that saved lives for those left out by government programs. Read more about Johanna Li

Caithlin Scarpelli, Director, Communications & Fund Development, Atira Women’s Resource Society

Caithlin is being celebrated because of her commitment to adapting services and programs during the pandemic to ensure women were safe, cared for and connected. We also want to recognize her extraordinary commitment to the community, showing up time and again to support her colleagues and those folks made most vulnerable during the pandemic in the Downtown Eastside. Read more about Caithlin Scarpelli