Tag: mayor don iveson
Karen Lynch was just eight years old when she “repurposed” some money she had taken from a UNICEF donation box. When her parents found out what she had done, they determined the consequence to her actions would be to volunteer at a local charity. Her parents arranged for her to volunteer at GEF’s Meadowlark Lodge and play the piano for the residents. It is still unknown today if the real punishment was for Karen or the residents. This was the first time Karen was introduced to GEF Seniors Housing, and she has kept that memory with her ever since. Many years later Karen is still a part of the GEF Family. She has been a member of our Board of Directors since 2014 and the Board Chair since 2017.
Karen is a respected civic leader, with over 40 years of diverse experience. Her reputation for making things happen and getting things done is well known in Edmonton. Karen’s passion is creating and nurturing networks of people involved in building community leadership, which makes her a perfect fit for GEF. She has served on the boards of the Edmonton Public Library, Volunteer Canada and Alberta Ballet, and as the elected President of the Alberta Library Trustees Association. Her extensive experience in politics and her wealth of knowledge has proven to be an asset to our organization.
Being a Board Chair is no easy feat and chairing meetings is the least of what she does. “An important aspect of being the Chair is creating and shaping the agenda and conversations for meetings [to ensure the organization is always following the right path and the] board members can speak up and bring the value to the table to be able to shape what GEF does.”
“Part of my job is to help recruit new board members along with the rest of the Board. We look at our matrix to see who is retiring or leaving and then we try to encourage people to approach the City or approach us, to see if they would be suitable for the Board and if they have talents or knowledge they can share and contribute.”
When reflecting back on the past five years, Karen doesn’t think the organization or the Board has changed very much. “This is an exceptionally well led organization. What I think has changed, is the environment around us. We’ve had two complete changes in the government, both federally and provincially. We’ve had many new council members, so in that respect, the connections with the external community has changed. I think that we are starting to do a better job of reaching out to other community partners we may not have known about in the past.”
Karen has been a dynamic leader and visionary for the Board of Directors of GEF Seniors Housing. She has a vision for where we need to be as an organization and the talents and passion to help us strategically get there. Her desire throughout her time on our board has been to make GEF the best organization it can be and she will not stop driving the enhancements until we get there!
For GEF Seniors Housing, the Edmonton Municipal Election started on September 12, 2017, when 25 of the candidates for City Council met with members of the Board of Directors and Seniors Management team over breakfast at McQueen Place. After CEO Raymond Swonek’s presentation provided an overview as to who GEF Seniors Housing is and how the Foundation adds value to communities, the candidates asked engaging questions and expressed their support for the Foundation’s mission.
In the weeks following the breakfast meeting, the candidates took to visiting GEF Seniors Housing’s buildings all throughout the city, totalling well over thirty formal visits through eight Wards. Some of the visits were even formatted as full panel discussions with a range of different candidates all running in the same Ward, sharing their platforms and answering questions.
Through many of the meetings, there was a clear support for addressing several issues faced around seniors and social housing. As the new Edmonton City Council takes shape, GEF Seniors Housing is excited to continue its working relationship with the City of Edmonton and is looking forward to seeing what new opportunities arise from strong collaboration.
Thank you to all the candidates who ran during this election for your visits to GEF Seniors Housing buildings. The conversations brought to light many of the issues seniors face every day and helped spur a lot of creative ideas to help improve the quality of life for seniors in Edmonton.
Congratulations to Mayor Don Iveson on a successful campaign to be re-elected. We’re looking forward to your second term as Edmonton’s Mayor.
Congratulations to all of the incumbent City Councillors taking your seats once again for another four years in office. We’re looking forward to continuing our strong relationships in your communities.
Lastly, congratulations to the new City Councillors: Jon Dziadyk (Ward 3), Aaron Pacquette (Ward 4), Sarah Hamilton (Ward 5), and Tim Cartmell (Ward 9). We’re looking forward to working with you on new projects and helping to make sure no senior ever has to worry about where they will call home.
With new capital projects moving forward such as Sakaw Terrace, Elmwood Terrace, and the redevelopment of Strathcona Place, GEF Seniors Housing knows it has allies in Edmonton’s City Council, sharing a vision of accessible and affordable housing options for everyone.
A man sits on a workbench next to a construction site. He wipes the sweat off of his brow and stares up at the beaming hot July sun. He’s been working all day and has five more days on this job site. He laughs as he takes a sip from his water bottle.
“Back in Pakistan, this heat is nothing,” he says. “It feels hot because in Edmonton, we’re at a higher elevation, so we’re closer to the sun. But Pakistan has hot, gusting winds that you never get here.”
He’s a father of three currently renting an apartment in North Edmonton. The construction site is in south east Edmonton and the bus ride takes him an hour and a half one-way. He landed in Edmonton five years ago looking for a better life for his family. He looks down into the dug up pit, with the first bit of concrete foundation of what will soon be the first home he’ll own in Edmonton.
“In Pakistan, the power goes out, the gas goes out and you can’t cook for your family,” he explains. “I’m so happy to be here in Edmonton.”
He’ll be the proud owner of one of the 58 homes being built by the Habitat for Humanity Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, one of the largest Habitat for Humanity projects ever to be hosted in Edmonton. Members of the GEF Seniors Housing staff worked alongside the former United States President and other dignitaries such as Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and country music stars Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, and Eric Paslay.
Sheridan Kleininger, Communications Assistant with GEF Seniors Housing, has worked on volunteer build projects in the past. “I helped build a home in Ecuador,” she says. “That was an amazing experience, of course, but it’s different when you’re working on something that’s in your hometown.”
Upwards of 900 volunteers worked on the South Edmonton project near the Meadows Community Recreation Centre in the Silver Berry community. The volunteers consisted of locals from different organizations such as the Alberta Seniors Community and Housing Association (ASCHA) and the Alberta Ministry of Seniors and Housing as well as international volunteers from all over the United States who are committed to former President Carter’s mission of building affordable housing for those who need it most.
The GEF Seniors Housing team worked on a block of three row houses that just had its first bit of concrete foundation floors built. The crew’s task for the day was to build up the Styrofoam walls where the concrete for the foundation walls are poured. The GEF Seniors Housing team worked with the ASCHA team, the Alberta Ministry of Seniors and Housing team, and two of the future homeowners. GEF Seniors Housing Public Relations Manager Christopher Schieman explains that having the homeowners as part of the volunteer team acted as a big motivator.
“There were times where it felt like the sun was cooking me alive and I was so out of breath I didn’t think I could keep going,” says Schieman. “But then I would look over to the homeowners, working like crazy, and I would remember that this isn’t about me. It’s about them, their families, and about how every Edmontonian deserves to have an affordable home.”
The homeowners won’t be taking possession of their new homes until July of 2019. Even with the move-in date seemingly so far away, the homeowners still see a positive in everything.
“The LRT will probably be done by the time we move in, so I won’t have to commute on bus for an hour and a half anymore,” one homeowner says with a laugh. “This will be a place I own, though. That is very important to me. I’m so grateful that all of these people are helping.”
For the past nine years, GEF Seniors Housing hosts a breakfast fundraiser to help support new capital building projects in Edmonton. Though the Building for Life Breakfast Fundraiser is held annually and has been hosted by CTV’s Daryl McIntyre, every event has a different flavour that’s kept GEF Seniors Housing’s business partners and community connections returning each year. As GEF Seniors Housing CEO Raymond Swonek explains, you can never predict who will attend any of these events.
“Last year, we saw tremendous support from the Province of Alberta with five MLAs attending the event, including Minister of Seniors and Housing Lori Sigurdson and MLA for Edmonton – Centre David Shepherd who both spoke as part of the event,” says Swonek. “This year, we had the honour of hosting Mayor Don Iveson, who has continued to be a partner in our mission to provide affordable housing options to Edmonton’s senior population.”
Also in attendance at this year’s breakfast was Ward 1 City Councillor Andrew Knack, MP for Edmonton – West Kelly McCauley, MLA for Edmonton – Decore Chris Nielsen, former City Councillor and Chariman of the University of Alberta Board of Governors Michael Phair, and staff members from the Minister of Seniors and Housing Lori Sigurdson’s office. For Swonek, seeing public dignitaries from so many different levels of government attend the breakfast fundraiser shows that the issues of providing affordable housing to seniors is a very important topic.
“We’re seeing more elected officials than ever being engaged with social programs like ours and recognizing that there will be more than one million seniors in Alberta alone in the next fifteen years,” says Swonek. “We’re seeing engagement from all levels of government and a recognition that we need to act now to ensure that no senior ever has to worry about where they’re going to call home.”
In all, GEF Seniors Housing raised over $80,000 at the event. The funds raised go directly to support Sakaw Terrace, GEF Seniors Housing’s newest capital building project in the Mill Woods area of Edmonton. Swonek points out that the breakfast fundraiser came up a little short of the $100,000 goal to raise the last $450,000 needed for the project, but he remains optimistic for what Sakaw Terrace holds and what the future support for affordable seniors housing will look like.
“Construction for Sakaw Terrace started back in November of 2016, and one way or another that building will be finished,” says Swonek. “We have other fundraising opportunities coming up before the building’s winter 2018 opening date. I know we have partners fully invested in this project, wanting to see it come to life as much as we do, and we’re more determined than ever to see Sakaw Terrace become a vital part of the Mill Woods community.”