Volunteer Recognition Archive – 2021
Volunteer Recognition- December 2021
Featuring Bill Atanas
The Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA) is proud to celebrate William (Bill) Atanas as the Volunteer of the Month for December 2021.
With decades of professional experience and a passion for community service, Bill’s journey with the Grand River Council on Aging began when he joined the Board of Directors in November 2020. A creative thinker with strong interpersonal skills, Bill makes a valuable impact as a Resident Director, with ongoing contributions to the Finance/Fundraising Committee.
Earlier this year, Bill was part of the Planning Committee for GRCOA’s first ever “The Grand Parade”, a virtual walk-a-thon in celebration and support of older adults. Bill also led as captain for his “Team Nonna”, lovingly named after his 96-year-old mother-in-law, whom Bill is devoted to as an essential caregiver. The event was a tremendous success, raising over $34,000 and ensuring that the GRCOA can continue to build and sustain resources and initiatives that contribute to the quality of life in our community.
Throughout his career Bill, was a dedicated public servant with 35 years of experience in the Municipal and Provincial sector. He has held a variety of leadership and project management positions, successfully overseeing programs in Income Support, Culture, Housing, Recreation and Strategic Service Divisions. Upon his retirement five years ago, Bill was the Director in the Community and Social Services Department with the City of Hamilton.
During his own personal time, Bill enjoys going to the gym, walking with the family dogs, reading, and travelling. He also treasures spending time with his grandchildren and his spouse, who also recently retired.
Bill understands the importance of compassionate support systems and programs to transition individuals and their families through lives’ unfolding journeys. It is with sincere gratitude that the Grand River Council on Aging acknowledges his outstanding leadership. Thank you, Bill for helping us encourage an age friendly community and promote the voice of Elders. We appreciate you!
Volunteer Recognition – November 2021
Featuring Jim Steele
The Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA) is proud to celebrate James Steele as the Volunteer of the Month for November 2021.
Jim’s interest in the Grand River Council on Aging was triggered by his association with Lucy Marco when they were both on the Grants Committee’ of the Brant Community Foundation. Jim was asked to become a member of the GRCOA board and accepted immediately. Recognizing his past governance experience, he was asked to become involved in the reorganization and recruitment of the executive and was elected as Secretary-Treasurer. Since all of this was during COVID, Jim looks forward to meeting his fellow board members in person.
This past summer, Jim was involved in the Grand Parade fund-raising venture of the GRCOA.
Jim has been in Brantford since 1972 and immediately got involved in the community. He began with the Brantford Jaycees and later moved to the Kiwanis Club of Brantford of which he is still a member. He was elected to the old Public Utilities Commission and served there until 1984.
Jim has served on many organizations and civic commissions such as the Civic Center Commission and Brantford Junior Achievement. This allowed Jim to learn from other community volunteers and improve his contributions to the GRCOA.
Jim’s previous most memorable volunteer activity was with the Brant Community Healthcare System where he served a total of twenty years as a volunteer. During his time with BCHS he was chair of both the Hospital and Foundation Boards of Directors. During that time, his most rewarding experience was the transition from three busy hospitals to a single healthcare system. Presently Jim is a member of the Brant Community Foundation and Participation Services Boards of Directors.
Over the past fifty years, Jim has had a varied career as a small business owner, an employee of a municipal utility, a Canadian representative of a New Zealand software company and Secretary-Treasurer of an International Service organization.
It is with sincere appreciation that the Grand River Council on Aging acknowledges Jim’s extensive experience and knowledgeable service. His presence on the Board of Directors helps the GRCOA promote the voice of Elders, and build an age friendly community.
Volunteer Recognition – October 2021
Featuring Nina Okopien
The Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA) is proud to celebrate Nina Okopien as the Volunteer of the Month.
Decades of experience in Nursing through long term care and retirement home settings, and a genuine passion for our seniors naturally led Nina to the Grand River Council on Aging in September 2019. As an agency representative for the Alzheimer Society of Brant, she continues to bring outstanding leadership to the Board of Directors.
Nina, a Registered Practical Nurse, is a Psychogeriatric Resource Consultant and Team Leader serving our community through education, consultation and health promotion.
Her work focuses on improving the quality of life for individuals with dementia utilizing a therapeutic and compassionate approach. In her previous role at Behavioral Supports Ontario, she sponsored community education days and established working relationships with clients, families, colleagues and community partners, to assist seniors transitioning into Long Term Care homes.
The core of her life is her family. She proudly supports her daughter in following in her footsteps into Nursing, and her son’s passion for soccer and travelling with his Rep team. She enjoys camping, bicycling, walking the trails and spending time with the family’s 3 dachshunds that keep them busy and forever entertained with their furry shenanigans.
It is with sincere appreciation that the Grand River Council on Aging acknowledges Nina’s passionate and knowledgeable service. Her presence has helped the GRCOA promote the voice of Elders, and build an age friendly community with the example of “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, to be able to think like they think, feel what they feel, and understand why they are who and where they are…every step is about empathy!”
Volunteer Recognition – September 2021
Featuring Annette Minutillo
The Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA) is proud to celebrate Annette Minutillo as the Volunteer of the Month for September 2021.
Annette’s journey with the Grand River Council on Aging started after meeting Lucy Marco at the CARP Senior’s Fair a few years ago. With a growing awareness of the challenges affecting our aging population, she had recently acquired a relator’s designation focusing on seniors and retirement. After caring for her mother before she passed, Annette decided to share her lived experience, skills and professional expertise with not-for-profit organizations, and joined the GRCOA as a Resident Member of the Board of Directors in October 2020.
As well as the Board, Annette also serves on the GRCOA Housing and Fundraising Committees, and recently coordinated the sponsorships and led as captain of her team for the first ever “The Grand Parade” virtual walk, which took place September 18. The event was a tremendous success and raised funds to help the GRCOA continue to enhance the quality of life in the community.
Annette’s career has taken her from Executive Director of Braemar House School, to Professional Development Consultant, Educator and, now, a Sales Representative with Century 21 Heritage House Inc., with decades of experience in strategic leadership, administration, stewardship and public relations. Currently she specializes in housing options and opportunities for sellers and buyers in the 50 plus age group, and is a trusted advisor committed to providing dedicated service and assistance.
As an alumnus from Western and McMaster University with a personal philosophy of lifelong learning, Annette established the Braemar Legacy Trust where she currently serves as Trustee. She is the Secretary on the Board of Directors for the Sanderson Centre Foundation, and a founding member of the Family Literacy Committee. Her work has been recognized throughout this community and continues to create a lasting impact for present and future generations.
It is with sincere gratitude that the Grand River Council on Aging acknowledges Annette’s inspiring presence and visionary leadership. Thank you, Annette for helping the GRCOA build an age friendly community and promoting the voice of Elders. We appreciate you!
Volunteer Recognition-August 2021
Featuring Jennifer Miller
The Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA) is proud to celebrate Jennifer Miller as the Volunteer of the Month for August 2021.
Jennifer’s journey with the Grand River Council on Aging began in May 2019 after a glowing recommendation. Since then, she has made a valuable contribution as a Board Director that has included facilitating GRCOA strategic planning and sitting as a member of our housing committee.
As a Registered Nurse with a Masters of Business Administration in Management, Jennifer has held various positions in long term care for over 30 years. Currently she is the Administrator at the John Noble Home, dedicated to providing senior housing, care and services with dignity within a safe home-like environment. As the past chair of the Brant Long Term Care Administrators Network, a member of the Board of the Long-Term Care Council for the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Region, and an active member of the Executive Leadership Group of the Brantford Brant Ontario Health Team she has a built a vast network and extensive experience working with the needs of older adults.
When Jennifer is not working or volunteering, she enjoys spending time with her 3 adult children, her husband David and their furry family consisting of cats and a large white shepherd dog. She stays active regularly focusing on her yoga practice and also loves to travel.
Jennifer is a passionate advocate for seniors and our cause and it is with sincere appreciation that the Grand River Council on Aging acknowledges her steadfast service and leadership. Thank you, Jennifer for helping us build an age friendly community and promoting the voice of Elders. We appreciate you!
Volunteer Recognition – July 2021
Featuring Betty Jean McKee
The Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA) is proud to celebrate Betty Jean McKee as the Volunteer of the Month for July 2021
Betty Jean learned about the Grand River Council on Aging through her husband David’s volunteer contributions. Through his experience, she knew that she would also be a great fit and joined the GRCOA team of volunteers upon retirement in 2020.
Since then, Betty Jean has helped develop the Seniors Discount Directory and the email database for our Community at Home Workshops. She currently assists with the facilitation of the Zoom Community at Home virtual workshops and is on the core committee for the first annual “The Grand Parade”. The virtual walk-a-thon, taking place on September 18, celebrates and supports older Canadians. Betty Jean is the Team Captain of “Strides for Seniors” and will be raising funds and awareness to help support GRCOA’s future endeavours and long-term sustainability.
Dedicated to a life of service, Betty Jean has enjoyed a rewarding career in Health Care as a Registered Nurse and Instructor. Throughout the years, she has volunteered with various committees and boards and is actively involved with city functions and charities. As the official escort to her husband, Brantford’s Town Crier since 1992, the couple has been honoured to receive various accolades including the Province of Ontario Volunteer Award.
Betty Jean’s interests include photography, gardening and studying French. She is a proud mother to 4 children and their spouses, along with 14 wonderful grandchildren. She states that she enjoys surprising them with regular deliveries of homemade goodies and finds her family and friends to be an endless source of delight!
It is with heartfelt appreciation that the Grand River Council on Aging acknowledges Betty Jean’s steadfast service and encouraging presence. Thank you, Betty Jean for helping the GRCOA build an age-friendly community and promoting the voice of Elders.
Volunteer Recognition-June 2021
Featuring Lill Petrella
The Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA) is proud to celebrate Lill Petrella as the Volunteer of the Month for June 2021
Lill had been following the work of the Grand River Council for several years throughout her tenure at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and their involvement in our annual Taco Fest. As she nears her pre-retirement years, and continues to care for her elderly mother, she has become more aware of the importance of advocacy for our seniors and joined our volunteer team in 2020.
Lill is currently on our Education Sub – Committee and also was a presenter with the Community at Home Workshop Series, representing the CHMA by educating citizens in various ways to stay mentally healthy during Covid 19. Her 18 years employment with CMHA, Brant Haldimand Norfolk branch has been as Team Lead in Mental Health Promotion and Education Programs. Previously she worked for 19 years in the field of multicultural mental health and immigrant settlement in various positions with Immigrant Settlement & Counselling Services, ranging from Ethnic Community Counsellor, Program Manager and eventually Executive Director.
Staying active is an important part of Lill’s life, as she makes time for long walks, bike rides and gardening. She enjoys time with her family and friends, attending live concerts, outdoor festivals, and states that once the pandemic is over she hopes to travel back to Italy.
Lill has a genuine interest in increasing the quality of life in our community and has dedicated her career to helping others. It is with sincere appreciation that the Grand River Council on Aging acknowledges her ongoing contributions in promoting the voice of Elders and building an age friendly community. Thank you, Lill. We appreciate you!
Volunteer Recognition- May 2021
Featuring Gloria Ord
The Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA) is proud to celebrate Gloria Ord as the Volunteer of the Month for May 2021
Gloria’s journey with the Grand River Council on Aging began in June 2015 in her role as Client Advocate and Counsellor at Grand River Community Health Centre. She currently serves as a Community Agency Representative on the GRCOA Board of Directors and has willingly volunteered at various health fairs and events including our annual Taco Fest.
Prior to relocating to Canada from Scotland with her husband in 2004, Gloria worked with seniors in a nursing home and with adults with learning disabilities in group homes, where she specialized in creating sensory gardens for wellbeing. She currently facilitates various community groups, horticultural therapy and workshops online; truly appreciating being able to include her passion for gardening and creativity through her work.
Gloria makes a conscious habit to express thankfulness and appreciation for life with “an attitude of gratitude”. This outlook guides her throughout her work and generates a genuine interest in increasing the quality of life for others in our community. She treasures her time with her family and enjoys knitting, sewing, and creating macramé or beautiful planters with drought plants for her garden.
Gloria brings an encouraging, light-hearted presence and perpetual smile to our team. It is with sincere appreciation that the Grand River Council on Aging acknowledges her contributions in building an age friendly community and promoting the voice of Elders.
Volunteer Recognition- April 2021
Featuring- Darlene McNeil
The Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA) is proud to celebrate Darlene McNeil as the Volunteer of the Month for April 2021.
It was through a good friend that Darlene learned about the Grand River Council on Aging and started volunteering in 2020. She quickly joined the Subcommittee on Education and worked diligently with a group of volunteers to further the development of the “Seniors Discount Directory” which launched earlier this year.
With a keen appreciation and gift for public speaking, Darlene is an integral part of the volunteer team, organizing and delivering biweekly workshops on a broad range of topics for the “Community at Home Virtual Workshop Series” which has become a great source of knowledge sharing and connection for many members of our community.
Throughout her career until her retirement in 2011, Darlene was a dedicated public servant working in the Provincial Court System in Brantford and later for the City of London Municipal Traffic Court. Although she had a full career, she always made time to volunteer with various community organizations in different municipalities. Darlene has been a member of the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority in Brantford for nearly 40 years, holding Executive Positions within the Chapter. She is also a grateful transplant recipient and promotes Organ Donation actively through public speaking engagements.
In her free time, Darlene focuses on healthy living through fitness programs and sports such as golf and pickleball. Before the pandemic, she enjoyed various adventures traveling across Canada in her camper. Most recently, she has been taking online classes, expressing her creativity with unique forms of acrylic and watercolour painting, and learning how to play the piano.
Darlene has a genuine interest in increasing the quality of life in our community and it is with sincere appreciation that the Grand River Council on Aging acknowledges her volunteer contributions. Thank you, Darlene for your kindness, enthusiasm, sharing your talents, and encouraging an age friendly community. We appreciate you!
Volunteer Recognition – March 2021
Featuring Sara Darling
The Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA) is proud to celebrate Sara Darling as the Volunteer of the Month for March 2021
Sara’s journey with the Grand River Council on Aging started through her role as a Community Service – Learning Co-ordinator at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford Campus. She joined our Board of Directors as a Community Agency Representative in the Spring of 2019, and has since been a positive and dynamic presence, volunteering with our annual fundraiser, Taco Fest; assisting Laurier students in being involved with the work of the GRCOA; and most recently joining the group that is hosting our “Community at Home Workshop” series.
Through her role at the University, Sara works very closely with local organizations to explore and identify experiential learning opportunities for Laurier students. Over the years she has assisted students in learning about and becoming involved with the GRCOA through their projects and field placements. Currently, GRCOA has 3 students assisting in establishing a crowd funding campaign, creating a distribution data base and providing content for the GRCOA newsletter, which launched earlier this year.
Sara began her career working with young children and their families and has served in various roles in education, coordination and facilitation. She has over 15 years experience with local projects and initiatives which focus on community building and bringing people together with common goals.
As a devoted wife and mother to a hockey loving son, Sara states that she and her husband spend a lot of time in arenas, and enjoy traveling and exploring together as a family. During her personal time, Sara reaps the benefits of practicing yoga, reading, and spending time in nature. She also makes time to be present with simple pleasures in life such as sunny days and meaningful quotes.
The Grand River Council on Aging is grateful for Sara’s dedication and service. Her integrity and professionalism continue to build an inclusive and age friendly community which echo the sentiments by Helen Keller “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Volunteer Recognition- February 2021
Featuring Sharon Norris
The Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA) is proud to celebrate Sharon Norris as the Volunteer of the Month for February 2021.
Sharon’s journey with the Grand River Council on Aging started approximately 2 years ago while attending one of our workshops. She was inspired to start volunteering shortly after and has since dedicated her time and talents in various ways.
With a keen attention to detail and accuracy, Sharon assisted with the development of GRCOA’s “Volunteer Data Base”. She also served on the work group which helped develop GRCOA’s online “Seniors’ Discount Directory” to assist the age 55 plus population maximize savings with over 250 local discounts in Brantford, Brant County and Six Nations. Most recently, Sharon has been volunteering her editorial skills to assist with our new “Community at Home” newsletter which launched earlier this year.
Sharon is retired from a successful career in Administration, working in various sectors with a diverse clientele. She is a positive and motivated individual with a natural inclination towards community service. She started volunteering with the Literacy Council for Adults over 30 years ago and also served in various roles as a volunteer at a local long-term care home for several years before the start of the pandemic. During her personal time, Sharon enjoys spending quality time with her grandkids, going on outdoor walks with the family dog, reading and learning.
The Grand River Council on Aging is grateful for Sharon’s humble service. Her encouragement, professionalism and integrity continue to build an inclusive and age friendly community while increasing the quality of life for all its citizens.
Thank you, Sharon. We sincerely appreciate you and all your contributions!
Volunteer Recognition- January 2021
Featuring Maryellen MacLellan
The Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA) is proud to celebrate Maryellen MacLellan as the Volunteer of the Month for January 2021.
It was during a Housing Forum in 2018, when Maryellen announced her retirement that she was warmly greeted by Lucy Marco and invited to join the GRCOA’s Board of Directors. Since then, she leads as the housing expert, assisted with the planning of our annual Taco Fest and serves as GRCOA Treasurer.
Maryellen has over 40 years of experience in the Social Housing sector, starting with the Brant and Brantford Housing Authority and on to the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Housing. During her service, she was responsible for the implementation of the Special Priority Policies for victims of family violence, Race and Ethnic Relations Policies and Quality of Life Policies. Later in her career, she worked her way to General Manager of Niagara Housing.
Prior to her retirement, Maryellen was responsible for the building of Brantford’s first self-sustaining, energy efficient, mixed income 57-unit apartment building for persons over 60. Maryellen has dropped out of her retirement for a short period of time to return to the City of Brantford as Acting Director of Housing and Homelessness and coordinated the team responsible for the Marlene Ave. “Home for Good” affordable/supportive housing development.
The Grand River Council on Aging is grateful for Maryellen’s dedicated service. Her leadership, extensive knowledge, experience and integrity continue to build an inclusive and age friendly community while increasing the quality of life for all its citizens. Thank you, Maryellen.
We appreciate and celebrate you!