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New for 2018: Monthly Updates From the Desk of Anne Babcock, WoodGreen’s President and CEO


August 2018

Free 2 Be Opens Its Doors on Victoria Park Ave.

WoodGreen's new Free 2 Be (Housing First for Youth Leaving Care) staff team is now set up in new office space at our 1533 Victoria Park Ave. location, and program staff are now hard at work as the first cohort of clients enter the program this summer.

With initial funding from the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab, Free 2 Be was designed and developed through co-design with key stakeholders, including young people with lived experience of the child welfare system. Grounded in the Housing First for Youth model, Free 2 Be aims to improve the life outcomes of young people transitioning out of Toronto's child welfare system by providing access to stable housing, life skills, social connections, wellness, education and employment supports.

The WoodGreen Free 2 Be staff team left to right: Adam Whisler, Nijatha Subramaniam, Rasheeda Guinn, Vanessa Wu, Erik Wexler (Program Manager, Free 2 Be), Jennifer Gourley. Not pictured: Sydney Blum.

Newcomer Dream Job Panel

On July 28th, WoodGreen's Community Connections program hosted "Overcoming Obstacles in Pursuit of Your Dream Job", a panel for newcomers at the Coxwell Library. The panelists described to a packed room how they overcame obstacles as newcomers or indigenous persons to be recognized in their fields. Tremendous thanks to our panelists.

Panelists from Left to Right: Ha Nguyen, Crystal Fernandes, Dr. Hani Bashir, Jodie-Lynn Waddilove, Maryam Al Somahi and Darrell Pinto (moderator).

Caribbean Carnival

On August 9th seniors from across WoodGreen sites gathered at WoodGreen’s Ray McCleary Towers at 444 Logan Avenue for a Caribbean Carnival. It was a beautiful day for carnival games, Caribbean culture, and dancers that got everyone moving. Special thanks to the WareInToronto and Jess O'Reilly teams for sponsoring and volunteering at this event, and we'd also like to thank City Councillor Paula Fletcher and MPP Peter Tabuns for joining in on the fun!

Everyone was smiling at the Caribbean Carnival at Ray McCleary Towers.

Save the date for WoodGreen’s 81st Annual General Meeting!

Featured keynote speakers will share their stories highlighting the IMPACT of their WoodGreen experience, including:

  • Living in WoodGreen’s affordable housing
  • Graduating from Homeward Bound
  • Volunteering to give back to our community 

Date: Wednesday September 26th
Time: Networking reception at 5:30pm, formal program begins at 6:30pm
Place: East York Civic Centre, 850 Coxwell Avenue

Evites and formal membership packages will be sent in early September.
Please RSVP by September 18 to

July 2018

Caregiver Summit

On June 27th WoodGreen hosted a caregiver summit, bringing together a crowd of almost 100 WoodGreen staff, caregivers and community partners for a day of collaboration. Together we were continuing our co-design journey, brainstorming towards creating policies and programs that will better serve the needs of caregivers. This event is a key component of our commitment to the Cultivating Change program, which is run in partnership with Sinai Health Network and The Change Foundation. Together we're embracing a philosophy of care in which caregivers are partners - not visitors.

You can learn more about the event and our next steps here:

Scenes from our Caregiver Summit.

RBC Winning Wheels

The RBC Winning Wheels event was an incredible surprise for all involved! On July 25, a 10-day series of training exercises for a team of RBC Capital Markets new hires culminated with the group building 24 brand new bikes to donate to children enrolled in WoodGreen's After 4 Program. The RBC staff team didn't know who the bikes were going to be given to… until the equally surprised children showed up to the beautiful Fairmont Royal York for this surprise event. Thank you very much RBC Capital Markets for your generosity!

Click here to view more photos on our Facebook page.


WoodGreen's After 4 Youth smiling as they receive their new bikes.

Last week we had our annual staff-appreciation summer party, taking to Lake Ontario aboard the Captain Matthew Flinders for a scenic evening cruise. This year the WoodGreen Team rocked out 80s style – there were scrunchies, band tees and glow sticks galore! It was a great night to gather with colleagues to celebrate our achievements over the past year.

Click here to view more pictures on our Facebook page.


WoodGreen takes to Lake Ontario for a scenic 80s-themed cruise with sunset views of Toronto.

June 2018

Celebrating Community Partnerships: The Seniors Crisis Services Initiative

On June 13th we came together with community partners to celebrate all of the great work being done as part of the Seniors Crisis Services Initiative. Through a strong partnership between WoodGreen, LOFT, Reconnect Community Health Services, the Toronto Central LHIN Home and Community, South Riverdale Community Health Centre and Haven Toronto, we are able to offer high-quality crisis services including the Toronto Seniors Helpline for seniors across the City of Toronto.


Impact of the Toronto Seniors Helpline by the numbers.



Free 2 Be Gears up for Launch

On June 21 we held a kickoff for WoodGreen's newest program, Free 2 Be, a youth-centered, trauma-informed housing program which supports young people ages 17-21 who have been involved with the child welfare system and are now transitioning to life after care. Grounded in the Housing First for Youth philosophy and model of support, Free 2 Be staff work with young people to help them access and maintain safe and appropriate housing while providing them with holistic services and supports. Our team will be working on client intake at the end of July 2018.

Sydney Blum (far right), WoodGreen's Director of Community Impact & Strategic Relations, pictured with members of the Youth Transitions Advisory Council (YTAC) and Free 2 Be staff at the kickoff.


Special Thanks to WoodGreen’s Many Corporate Volunteers

We’ve been lucky to benefit from so many corporate volunteer teams who are doing great work at several WoodGreen sites. Volunteers have organized family BBQs, spent quality time with the seniors at our day program, planted community gardens, and cooked and served healthy meals to hundreds of WoodGreen clients. Special thanks to all of the organizations for their tremendous support of the clients we serve. Here are a few photos of some of the generous supporters at work!

Energetic corporate volunteers having fun and making a difference at WoodGreen.

If your company is interested in volunteering with any of WoodGreen’s programs, please send an email to

May 2018

    Stephen Vanderherberg, WoodGreen’s Director of Strategic Initiatives was a featured panelist at the national ABLE Financial Empowerment Conference held from May 7-9 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Stephen’s session explored why over one billion dollars in government benefits goes unclaimed each year by eligible Canadians due to barriers that prevent them from tax filing and/or applying. He described the challenges that low-income individuals and families face navigating the system, and outlined successful approaches to building better access and client centred systems.
  On Monday May 28, Irina Sytcheva, WoodGreen’s Sr. Manager of Counselling, Case Management and Support Services together with Jamie Lemen, Supervisor of WoodGreen’s Walk-in Counselling and a volunteer Walk In Clinic Counsellor will be presenting on WoodGreen’s Walk In Clinic at the 6th Annual Addictions & Mental Health Conference held in Toronto.
  On June 4, Ashnoor Rahim, WoodGreen’s Vice President overseeing our Seniors & Wellness, Mental Health and Developmental Services portfolios will co-present with a colleague from LOFT Community Services on Community Innovation to Support Seniors in Crisis at Home at the National Health Leadership Conference being held in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Congratulations to this outstanding group of subject matter experts for being recognized as innovators and leaders in their respective areas of focus!


WoodGreen Celebrates Personal Support Worker Day

On Personal Support Worker Day, I’d like to take a moment to celebrate the important role of WoodGreen’s team of exemplary Personal Support Workers. Every day, they provide a high standard of care to some of the most vulnerable people in our community, enabling seniors to age in place or people to recover from an injury with compassion and dignity. They are a critical pillar of the health care system, and I commend their tremendous commitment to the clients they serve. While most days they are caring for others, WoodGreen showed our appreciation and care for them with a special event: on May 16th, we hosted a celebration at our 815 Danforth Ave location with treats, games and prizes.

Thank you WoodGreen PSWs, we are so proud to celebrate all that you do!

Anne Babcock, President & CEO celebrates PSW week with staff

April 2018

In Celebration of WoodGreen's Volunteers!

During the month of April, we celebrated National Volunteer Week to acknowledge the contributions of WoodGreen’s 1,000 + volunteers who help deliver service to over 37,000 clients every year. Whether it’s offering support through walk-in counselling, delivering Meals on Wheels to isolated seniors, supporting newcomers in their job search or helping people living on a low income file their tax return, WoodGreen’s volunteers make a meaningful difference in the lives of the clients we serve.

Our Volunteer Services Unit organized 2 events to show our appreciation and celebrate the contributions of these individuals. I was joined by Lara Shohet, Board Chair, and Antonella Ceddia, Vice Chair, as we thanked WoodGreen’s volunteers for their efforts, and recognized those who reached service milestones. Special thanks to The Forth on Danforth and Genghis Khan Mongolian Grill for hosting these festivities!

Steve Vanderherberg, Director of Strategic Initiatives (left), with a group of volunteers receiving their service award.

Rites of Passage Fundraising for Indaba in London

In June 2016, WoodGreen’s Rites of Passage (ROP) hosted an “Indaba" (a Zulu/Xhosa, term for gathering), to showcase the outcomes of our unique Cultural Rites of Passage process in assisting young people as they move from adolescence to responsible adulthood. In August of this year, ROP partners in the UK are hosting the next “Indaba” conference, and 13 Rites of Passage alumni, accompanied by staff, will travel to London to participate.

In order to offset some of the costs associated with attending the Indaba, ROP will be hosting a series of events over the next few months to fundraise. In November, the team hosted a 10 year anniversary celebration, with ticket sales going to support the trip. On April 27, they are holding a bake sale, and will deliver treats to many of WoodGreen's locations.

If you would like to help Rites of Passage meet their fundraising goal, please contact The WoodGreen Foundation.


Right Photo: Paul Osbourne, Manager of Rites of Passage, sipho kwaku, Director of Employment Solutions, Workforce Development and Sarah Bashir, Youth NetWORKs Outreach Worker

March 2018

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Visits WoodGreen

On March 7 we were honoured to welcome Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to our 989 Danforth Ave. location to learn more about our Financial Empowerment Services for people living on a low income.



Left: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited with tax clinic clients & volunteers. Right: MP Adam Vaughan, Steve Vanderherberg, WoodGreen's Director of Strategic Initiatives, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Anne Babcock, WoodGreen's President & CEO, MP Rob Oliphant, MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith and MP Julie Dabrusin.

I was thrilled to lead the Prime Minister & MP Julie Dabrusin on a tour to showcase the fantastic work of our free, volunteer-run Income Tax Clinic. Last year, the clinic returned $17 million back to low-income clients and completed ~7,500 tax returns.

Thank you Prime Minister Trudeau and MPs Julie Dabrusin, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Adam Vaughan & Rob Oliphant for joining us! It was a very special day for our staff, volunteers and clients.

Click here  to see more coverage of the event.

Celebrating the Resiliency of Women on International Women's Day

When reflecting on the strength and resilience of women, we can think of no better example than the amazing women of WoodGreen’s Homeward Bound program. On March 8, joined by Minister Peter Milczyn, Ontario’s Minister of Housing and Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Ed Clark, former CEO of TD Bank and Homeward Bound graduates, we officially launched the outcomes of a 5-Year Retrospective Evaluation, funded by the Local Poverty Reduction Fund. The study examined the long term outcomes in housing, employment and income for participants of Homeward Bound & the results were incredible.

Also at the event, Brigette Chang-Addorisio announced a $1 million endowment gift made by the Raymond Chang Foundation to Homeward Bound. We are immensely grateful for this generous donation.


    Leo Salom, Chair of The WoodGreen Foundation Board, Brigette Chang-Addorisio, Andrew Chang, Pauline Hockenstein, Director of Homeward Bound & Neighbourhood Programs, Ed Clark & graduates Olay & Pauline.
    Minister Peter Milczyn shares remarks about the incredible findings of the 5 year retrospective study.
    Ed Clark sat down with Kim Parlee to discuss Homeward Bound and why he and his wife Fran have been long-time supporters of the program. Click here to watch.

February 2018

Financial Empowerment Gears Up for Tax Season

As we draw nearer to tax season, our Financial Empowerment team is busy training volunteers who will help thousands of low income members of our community file their tax returns. This ensures our clients can receive many other valuable benefits they are eligible for, such as the Canada Learning Bond, Guaranteed Income Supplement, Canada Child Benefit and subsidized paramedical supports, just to name a few.

In 2017, the Financial Empowerment team returned over $17 million back into the hands of clients, completing 7,393 tax returns. Working to empower our community with the knowledge & skills they need to manage their finances and make informed decisions, we are looking forward to another busy tax season!

For more information on Financial Empowerment Services, click here.

The Financial Empowerment team of staff & volunteers from last year's tax season.

2017 President's Awards

What sets WoodGreen apart is our remarkable team of 750+ staff who work tirelessly to create new paths to opportunity for 37,000 people each year. To recognize the outstanding contributions of this incredible team, the President’s Awards were established to celebrate individuals and teams who demonstrated excellence in leadership, innovation & collaboration over the past year. Nominated by their colleagues, managers and staff teams, the winners were announced at our annual Staff Appreciation Dinner in January.


    Carrie Chen & Cristina Pascual on behalf of the Assisted Living Team were the proud recipients of the Partnership and Collaboration Award for the Alternate Level of Care project that supports seniors in the hospital transition back into the community.

Each of the winners will be featured on LinkedIn over the coming weeks, so make sure you follow us on social media for updates on our work in the east end!


Congratulations Rites of Passage!

Congratulations to WoodGreen's Rites of Passage for winning the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) Rose Fortune Award – For Strength of Character and Firm Resolve 2018!

In honour of Black History Month, sipho kwaku, Director of Employment Solutions, Workforce Development shared some insights on the Rites of Passage Program. You can read the full blog here.


    The Rites of Passage team accepting the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) Rose Fortune Award - For Strength of Character and Firm Resolve 2018!

January 2018

Dear friend of WoodGreen, As we begin our work in 2018, I'd like to take a few moments to share some highlights with you. In keeping with our strategic priorities, we continue to focus on sustainable, innovative programs and services that put clients at the core of everything we do.

This month, we are excited to officially break ground at 1117 Gerrard St E, expanding our affordable housing portfolio. Formerly home to Riverdale United Church, the site will be transformed into a 5 story, 35 unit affordable housing complex for seniors. The project is expected to be completed by spring 2020. With the extreme cold in much of Canada this month, we can see clearly the incredible need for safe, affordable housing for everyone, regardless of their income.


A rendering of the new 35 unit building planned for 1117 Gerrard St E.

The holiday spirit was strong at WoodGreen! We were pleased to receive donations of toys, food and care packages from corporate groups, sports teams, schools and local toy drives. Mary Fragedakis, City Councillor for Ward 29 also dropped off a major toy donation from local community members on December 21! These gifts brightened the holidays for so many of our clients, and we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks for the generosity of this community.

On Christmas day, our Meals on Wheels staff, along with a team of 70 volunteers delivered 340 hot turkey lunches. In addition to providing hot meals to seniors, Meals on Wheels serves as a vital life-line that connects isolated and vulnerable people to the community.

Meals on Wheels staff & volunteers gather on Christmas Day to deliver hot turkey lunches.
Some of the many generous gifts donated over the holiday season.

We are looking forward to a wonderful year, collaborating closely with our partners, staff teams and clients to ensure we are truly creating a Toronto where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.