Our people are the heart of our organization. They make a huge difference in the community every day. To celebrate the efforts of those that make us the organization we are, and proud to be, we will be highlighting a few of our team members in this newsletter.

Nimo Abdulkadir, Director Employment Centre

For 29 years, Nimo has helped our clients find meaningful employment.

As the leader of the Tropicana Community Services Employment Centre (TEC) team, her days are spent working with funders, sponsors and TEC staff to create the best programs and services to meet our community’s needs.

Nimo has been part of our organization from its earliest days. As a mentor and role model, she shares insights and experiences that are deeply rooted in TEC’s own history, to help us innovate by building on our proven successes.

Nimo likes to recall the story of a gentleman who felt he was out of options. When he found his way to TEC, the man was struggling with substance abuse and living on the street, moving from shelter to shelter. TEC helped him join our scholar program, and he soon found employment and stable housing. Today, he is living a successful life, with his own place. The work Nimo and her team do may be hard at times, but success stories such as this one keeps them going.

Of course, COVID added a new level of complexity. No longer having face-to-face interactions with clients was difficult and made it challenging to provide TEC’s personal sense of support while helping clients find technology to access programs online. But Nimo says the team came through. “I’m amazed by the resilience of my coworkers. It helped us keep COVID from beating us, and it proved that our commitment to service is at the forefront of all we do. We will not be stopped,” she says.

If Nimo could change anything about her job, it would be to trade the uncertainties of year-to-year funding for the stability of a multiyear budget. With funding confidence for the longer term, Nimo believes budgets could be optimized, and TEC could make even more of an impact. As she notes, “We must apply every year for funds to cover operating costs, but the needs in our community do not wait and do not disappear.”

Nimo finds inspiration in her clients, her team and in this quote from Maya Angelou which truly relates to the work she does: “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.”

Karen Soltau, Human Resources Manager

For 4 years, Karen has worked supporting the wellbeing and productivity of Tropicana’s employees.

As our Human Resources Manager, she ensures we find and train the very best people to support our work in the community. But HR also plays a key role in other activities, including charity drives, community mentoring, clean-up campaigns, collections for disasters, and much more.

Karen brings to her role passion, creativity and a commitment to help others grow. She also has the ability to tackle challenges, obstacles and opportunities from a different perspective. Karen feels gratitude about her job: “every day I have the privilege to impact people in our organization, and when I can help them thrive and reach their potential, then I know I’ve done my job.”

The pandemic brought new headwinds to the HR team in 2020 with the sudden change in how we work, bringing stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. Karen quickly noted that some employees were struggling with isolation and the lack of “water cooler” contact with colleagues and managers.

She brought the issue to the attention of the organization and worked to support staff with external resources, a buddy system, and regular HR check-in calls as part of a long-term strategy for mental wellness in our workplace. “I am proud of the work we do in supporting and communicating with our employees, and of the ongoing investments we are making in the health of our staff,” she says.

Karen’s personal mantra is “never give up” and she takes inspiration from this quote by Barak Obama: “You can’t let your failures define you. You have to let your failures teach you.”

Olive McKenzie, Supervisor of Children of Tomorrow Daycare Centre – retiring June 4th

We are about to bid a fond farewell to Olive, the long-time supervisor in our Children of Tomorrow Daycare centre.

Through her work in the daycare, Olive helps parents in the community seek employment and education opportunities by providing a safe place for their children. The centre also supports youth employment through the Canada Summer Jobs Program, along with practical learning opportunities for community college Early Childhood Education placement students.

In the 27 years since Olive joined Tropicana, she has also supported us as a tutor in our Saturday tutoring program and as a volunteer on our Tropicana Gala committee. In our broader community, she has been a strong voice for quality childcare as our representative with Toronto Children’s Services and on our ward’s Childcare Advisory Committee.

A lifelong educator, Olive has dedicated her career to serving children, initially as a classroom teacher. After migrating to Canada, she spent 12 years as a front-line early childhood educator, after which she joined Tropicana to manage the day-to-day running of the Children of Tomorrow Daycare centre.

Her biggest test came last year, when she faced the enormous responsibilities of keeping herself, her family, and the staff and children in the centre safe during the COVID crisis.

“I really enjoyed working with new Canadians and their children as they navigated their new environment,” she says. “I never lost my enthusiasm for my work because I knew I was making a difference in the lives of so many children.”

Her advice to her successor? Embrace all that comes with the job and remember how great the rewards can be. She added, “The highlights for me were embracing the changes throughout the year and seeing how the children who came through the centre have become productive citizens, and now trust us to support their own children. I’m very proud of that.”

After retirement, she will first remove the clock from her wall and then savour life with a fresh zest as she embarks on a new path.

Thank you, Olive, and we wish you the best of luck in your new adventures!

We’re proud of the dedicated people who make up the Tropicana family, and we look forward to introducing you to more of our team members in future newsletters.