October 13, 2020
AGM and 11th Annual Lighthouse Awards Recap
After months of social distancing and isolation, last week’s Annual General Meeting (2019-2020) and 11th Annual OPDI Lighthouse Awards ceremony was truly a testament to the strength of our peer community.
Over 68 guests attended the online event (even some from a tropical island, it seemed) and helped us move our 2020 agenda forward and honour some truly inspiring peer workers.
Together, we helped make some big changes possible for our organization. Most significantly, we passed our revised by-laws that included two new membership levels (affiliate and individual) and enabled proxy voting.
We also elected our board for the 2020-2021 year: Tina Behdinan, Percy D’Souza, Marina Mikhail, Andrea Schaefer alongside returning board members Alise De Bie, Brooke Chambers, Tyrone Gamble, Calvin Prowse and Kari Sterling. Each of our members brings incredible experience and skill to their role and we look forward to working closely with them through the coming year!
The most moving part of the evening was the OPDI Lighthouse Awards Ceremony. Our Unsung Hero for the year was Monica Aguilar, a dedicated volunteer and aspiring mental health worker at Mental Health Support Network in Toronto. Our Pay It Forward Award, inspired by the example of influential mental health champion Linda Chamberlain, went to Julia Read, a team lead at Self Help & Peer Support at CMHA using her experience with addiction, incarceration and homelessness to inspire change in others walking a similar path. Our Innovator’s Award went to “The Breathing Space” – a physical wellness and student peer support space at Conestoga College made possible by Kayleigh Hilborn, Patty McColl and Bonnie Lipton-Bos.
Perhaps a record, we were pleased to present our Peer of the Year Award to three astonishing peer workers. For her ability to empower and motivate members at the Northern Star Consumer Survivor Initiative in New Liskeard – and connect them digitally during COVID-19 – we honoured Coordinator Carol Boehringer. For bringing her own experience into her work, transforming the volunteer program at Self Help & Peer Support Services at CMHA and taking initiative to create new support groups in rural Southern Ontario communities, our second Peer of the Year award went to Meghan Shuebrook.
Finally, our third Peer of the Year Award went to an inspiring peer leader we lost tragically to illness this February: Aubrey Andrus. An “original” member of the Peer Team at DMHS and former board chair at OPDI, Aubrey had enormous influence on the field of peer support and all those she worked with. We thank her husband, Alise de Bie and Tanya Conlin for the incredible speeches they shared that night honouring her work and life.
The evening ended with a screening of a video (see below) featuring peer leaders from across our membership who spoke about resilience and how their organizations adapted amidst COVID-19. Thanks to Allan Strong (Clinical Lead Peer Support, Choices for Change), Emelyn Rozas (formerly Open Services Coordinator, Friends and Advocates Peel/currently Peer Support Navigator for the Centre for Innovation in Peer Support ), Andrea Schaefer (Peer Support Worker, Mental Health Support Project), Betty-Lou Kristy (Director, Centre for Innovation in Peer Support) and Sonja Chronkhite (Executive Director, Psychiatric Survivors of Ottawa) for sharing your stories of strength during these uncertain times.
2020 has been an emotional rollercoaster full of operational changes for everyone working in mental health and addictions support. But we have seen nothing but resilience from our members. In the months to come, we look forward to continuing to support each other as we amplify peer voices – together but 6 feet apart – and work to maintain our community’s wellness.
Thanks again for your support.
The Team at OPDI