Reena Wins Accessibility Champion Award

National Access Awareness Week (NAAW) was first established in 1988 to better promote community access for people with disabilities. This initiative happened in response to a request from Rick Hansen following his “Man in Motion World Tour”.​  

In recognition of NAAW this year the Vaughan Accessibility Advisory Committee created the Accessibility Champion Awards in the categories of business, individual and community group/non-profit.

The Vaughan Accessibility Advisory Committee awarded Reena with the “Community Group/non-profit” award, alongside the following recipients:  Vaughan Mills Mall as the Business recipient, and Nickie Saladino as the Individual recipient.

(L-R) Joanna Samuels, Sandra Yeung Rocco, Vaughan City Councillor, Linda Jackson – Former Mayor and Current Vaughan Regional Councillor, Melissa Shlanger, Sandra Perlstein, Sandy Stemp, Maurizio Bevilacqua- Mayor, City of Vaughan

Sandy Stemp, Reena’s C.O.O., accepted the award on behalf of Reena and was joined by Melissa Shlanger and Sandra Perlstein, Reena Receptionists, and Joanna Samuels, Employment Resource Supervisor.

“I am here on behalf of Reena, so pleased to accept an Accessibility Champion Award as part of National Access Awareness Week. We work hard every day to raise awareness of the importance of inclusion and accessibility – through collaboration with our community partners, planning and action on housing, employment, and recreation” said Sandy Stemp.

Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua issued a statement following a ceremony at Vaughan City Hall to celebrate three winners of the inaugural Accessibility Champion Awards – “Tonight, we honoured three members of our community whose ongoing efforts exemplify what it means to be an accessibility champion. Through Vaughan’s Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC), we are working to ensure access for residents and visitors with disabilities.”

Awards recipients

 Many thanks to Mayor Bevilacqua, Regional Councillor Linda Jackson and the Vaughan Accessibility Advisory Committee for their commitment to inclusion.

A Dementia Strategy for Canada


Reena applauds the inclusion of the intellectually disabled in the national Dementia Strategy

The Strategy

Earlier this week, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health announced the release of A Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire. This first national Dementia Strategy focuses on preventing dementia, advancing therapies, and finding a cure, as well as improving the quality of life of people living with dementia and caregivers. Budget proposed for 2019 is $50 million to help advance the Strategy.


Reena Group of Charities would like to thank the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, (@CDNMinHealth) and Honourable Filomena Tassi (@MinofSeniors) Minister of Seniors and the Government of Canada for their contributions launching Canada’s first national Dementia Strategy.

We have been looking forward to a Canadian Dementia Strategy for some time and are so pleased that the time has come for Canada to develop a plan for this most important issue.  When we heard the announcement that this work was beginning, we became immediately engaged in the process to inform the strategy.

Reena and Dementia Research

For the last twenty years Reena has been an industry leader, creating the Ontario Partnership on Aging and Developmental Disabilities. This partnership promotes collaboration across sectors through education and sharing information – encouraging unique models of support and care.  A key area of this work has been on dementia and developmental disabilities.   

Recently, Reena has worked with experts, Dr. Nancy Jokinen, Associate Professor, UNBC and Leslie Udell from Winnipeg (Winnserve) to create the Canadian Consortium on Dementia and Developmental Disability.  One of the key actions of this group is to work with our U.S. partners, National Task Group on Dementia and Developmental Disabilities. They created a curriculum and our goal is to create a Canadian version, and deliver this across Canada. This year we piloted 3 sessions across Canada – Thornhill, Winnipeg and Victoria. 

As a result of these three sessions we now have a group of connected leaders, providing a growing network of support and learning.

Reena’s Contributions

Sandy Stemp from Reena and Dr. Nancy Jokinen took part in the National Dementia conference in 2018 and were able to help provide information to the participants and members of the Ministerial Advisory Board on Dementia on the unique issues and needs of those with dementia and developmental disabilities.  After the conference both were approached by the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences indicating they did not have knowledge on dementia and developmental disabilities. 

We provided a document with research citations and then Dr. Nancy Jokinen was commissioned to provide a report, Improving the Quality of Life and Care of Persons Living with Dementia and Their Caregivers, (see Appendix G of this report link – 

We believe that these actions and the advocacy of all those connected to the Canadian Consortium on Dementia and Developmental Disabilities provided the impetus to the inclusion of those with developmental disabilities in Canada’s National Dementia Strategy. 

Dementia – Background Information

More than 419,000 Canadians aged 65 years and older diagnosed with dementia in Canada. As population ages, more and more Canadians are affected, and two-thirds of those diagnosed are women. Dementia affects not only the person living with dementia, but also their families, caregivers, and communities.

The new strategy places emphasis on those groups who are at a higher risk of dementia as well as those who face barriers to equitable care. These groups include but are not limited to Indigenous peoples, individuals with intellectual disabilities, individuals with existing health issues such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes, older adults, women, ethnic and cultural minority communities, LGBTQ2 individuals, official language minority communities, rural and remote communities, and those with young onset dementia.

Want to learn more about how this new strategy will affect people with dementia?

Want to have access to Reena’s 20-year professional research and help your community?

Contact – Sandy Stemp, Reena’s C.O.O.

Employment Advice Column: When your job changes


I arrived to my retail customer service job this morning and learned that the store chain where I work has been bought out by another big company. My boss said I can continue to work at the store but would now have to add more tasks to my role including cashier. I mentioned this to my Reena job coach as this change is very upsetting and I’m scared to lose my job. What do I do?

Signed: Big Change

Dear Change,

The realities of the current labour market and workplace is that it’s tough, it’s competitive and it’s complex. Change is here to stay. And it’s FAST!

As a result, many employees are experiencing an upheaval in their jobs. I know some employees who have arrived to work in the morning with a completely different job description, for better or for worse, or their company could be bought out or decide to outsource your role. Or there could be a total change in management including your boss! This could have happened overnight by the board, the management or new owners.

Smith (2013) in 10 Things To Do When They Radically Change Your Job explains that if an employee is given less responsibilities, the employer might be trying to get rid of him or her. It could be time to look for a new job! However, it could also mean that they could be “testing you for bigger things”. Smith adds that companies are not static; they need to constantly be involved in new initiatives to bring in more customers. Perhaps your company is growing and they want their workers to grow with them, by giving them more responsibilities and sending them for professional development and training.

Whatever the case may be, the question is how to prepare yourself to meet these challenges in your current job and workplace. Smith suggests rather than complaining, maintain a positive attitude and talk to your supervisor to find out what’s going on.

She recommends the following five strategies to do when your job changes:

1. Talk to your supervisor and be as direct as possible. Find out how you can help to continue to add value to the company. Find out if the change is based on your performance or a change in the organization’s strategies. Always be cordial and professional.

2. Use the opportunity to learn and improve. Think about this change as a positive experience. If the change is performance-based, then this is a perfect time to improve on your deficiencies and learn more new skills. This is your chance to help the company grow, and build your resume, so to continue your efforts to remain marketable and competitive in your company and in the working world.

3. Ask your supervisor for rewards other than a new title or money. With additional responsibilities without promotion or raise, ask your supervisor for perks (for example: a lieu day, a day off paid, longer lunch hours or the ability to work from home once a week). Brooks advises to keep track of your additional working hours, and when the time is right, talk to your supervisor about fair compensation or perks.

4. Talk to your co-workers whom you trust. Brainstorm with your colleagues, to think through the experience and make plans for success. Continue to cultivate your team as your support group. You are all going through the same process, and you might find it helpful to speak to other people in your situation.

5. Get the necessary training. It is important that you learn the skills to help you succeed with your new responsibilities. Jacquelyn Smith cautions that if the employer doesn’t give you the training and the job role is changing, they could unfairly set you up to fail. If that training is not available from your organization, then get it on your own. Consult with your supervisor first. Find out if the classes or courses that you are interested in taking will help you with your job. Learning the new technical skills for the new position will only help the company and therefore your supervisor.

If the job change has any negative impacts on you (your mental, physical,or emotional health, because of the stress), then you might consider looking for another job. Just make sure not to burn your bridges on your way out.




The Board of Directors of Reena, Reena Foundation & Batay Reena invite you to attend the 2019 Annual General Meeting.

When: Wednesday, July 24th, 2019, 7:00 PM

Toby and Henry Battle
Developmental Centre
927 Clark Ave West
Thornhill ON, L4J 8G6

Election of Directors
Approval of Financial Statements
Presentation of Awards
Light refreshments will be served

RSVP by Friday July 12th, 2019 to
Sandra Albione
(905) 889.4548

Employment Advice Column: The Information Interview


Dear Joanna,

I’m a new graduate from the special education program at high school. I’m looking for a career – not just a job – in early childhood education as an assistant (ECA). I had a two month co-op placement in a child care centre which helped me chose this career path. I would like to learn as much as possible about this type of work. My Reena coach suggested that we arrange information interviews with professionals in this field as this is an excellent strategy for my career search. Please can you help me understand how to do this?

Signed: Career Explorer

drawing of a person thinking about their career

Dear Explorer,

Information interviews are excellent ways for you to collect information about a job, a career field, an industry and its trends, and/or a company. Also, it can also help you to build your professional network in your desired field. It’s not a job interview; and it’s not about asking for a job. This type of interview is about talking with someone who is working in your dream job and who can give you a better idea of what to expect when you enter this field. Here are seven steps to conducting an information interview as presented by different Employment and Career Centres that I’ve met over the years as a job developer.

1. Contact. Using social media, the internet, the library and any other resource, identify about 10 to 15 child care centres and find out the names of their ECA / ECE professionals – anyone who is already established in this career. Through research, I usually contact the manager or head of the company and start from there. Obtain the correct spelling of the name, the job title, phone number and email by calling the company directly. Sometimes, and only if it’s possible to access the profile, I message the professional through LinkedIn.

2. Prepare. Having a script in point form of what you want to say to this professional is important. When you call, explain who you are, and the program you are in and that you will require only about 15 – 20 minutes for the interview. Be specific as to why you are calling and make sure they understand that YOU ARE NOT LOOKING FOR A JOB – YOU ARE LOOKING FOR ADVICE on your career plan, your resume, the shortages, and skill requirements. Practice, practice and practice with your job coach, mentor, family and/or friends. Here’s an example of an introductory script (I’d start with a phone call and then follow up with an email if you can find it): Dear Mr. _______, My name is ______ . I’m a new graduate from high school. I am interested in building my career as an ECA and I am reaching out to you because you are the head of a successful child care centre. I would love to learn more about the child care field. I know you are busy, but would it be possible to meet with you? Even 20 minutes of your time would be appreciated. Please let me know. Thank you so much. Your name, and telephone and email.

3. Schedule. Arrange the meeting. Obtain specific details of where to meet and when. Confirm your meeting the day before by email. If you know how to use Outlook, I’d send an invite to the person you are meeting.

4. Research. It’s important to learn about the company before you go to the meeting. And you want to prepare a list of questions to ask. Some job coaches recommend emailing the questions in advance. There are a ton of sites on the internet that offer the best questions to ask on the information interview. For example,

5. Attire. Dress professionally. It’s like an interview. And you never know what can happen as a result of this meeting. It’s a strategy to the hidden job market. I’ve known job seekers who have been referred to job opportunities through the information interview contact. So first impressions are key.

6. Materials for the meeting. Have your questions and resume, pad of paper and a pen in a folder. If you have a portfolio and business cards, include this as well. Be ready to take notes of the conversation.

7. Follow up. After the interview, ask for a business card and if you can connect with the professional on LinkedIn. Within 24 hours of your meeting, write an email thank you note. Maintain contact. Ask for referrals and information. If you received feedback on your resume, send an updated version of it. This contact could lead you to your new boss. You never know.

8. Support. As I suggest with the entire job / career search process, I recommend connecting with a local supported employment program with job coaches to help you with arranging the information interview as well as other strategies to help you find meaningful and sustainable employment.

To submit your concerns, questions, issues on your job, career and/or employment related issues to Joanna Samuels, Reena’s Employment Resource Supervisor, IN CONFIDENCE, please email

$150,000 OTF Grant was the Right Ingredient for Meals on Wheels Program


Thornhill, ON – On Friday, April 5th, there was a celebration for the opening of Bernard Betel and Reena’s joint culinary initiative. Local MPP Gila Martow was joined by York Centre MPP Roman Baber and Joanne Gray from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to see the results of a $150,000 Capital grant that was awarded in 2018. In partnership with Bernard Betel Centre, Reena used its grant to modernize the kitchen space at the Toby and Henry Battle Centre. Now that renovations are done, the Bernard Betel Centre Meals on Wheels Program will relocate to Reena where 20 to 25 people with developmental disabilities, supported by Reena, will assistant in providing 75,000 meals to seniors each year.

“It’s wonderful to see different community organizations working together to find efficiencies and better serve our community,” said Thornhill MPP Gila Martow.

(L-R) – Harold Seidel, Board Chair Batay Reena, Gail Gould, Executive Director Bernard Betel Centre, Gary Gladstone, Stakeholders Relations Reena, Joanna Gray, Volunteer, York Simcoe Grant Review Team, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Bonnie Baker, Board Chair, Bernard Betel Centre, Thornhill MPP Gila Martow and Bryan Keshen, President and CEO Reena

This collaboration builds inclusion and engage communities, by providing people who are isolated connections to their community. Together Reena and the Bernard Betel Centre will be able to serve more seniors in need and help individuals with developmental disabilities gain employment skills.

“I am proud of Reena and Bernard Betel Centre for their immense contribution to our community,” said Roman Baber, MPP for York Centre. “I hope that this grant helps them with the meaningful work they do for so many who rely on them.”

Joining the MPPs at the event were Bonnie Baker, Board Chair of Bernard Betel Centre and Gail Gould, Executive Director of Bernard Betel Centre, Bryan Keshen, President and CEO Reena and Sheila Lampert, Executive Director, Renna Foundation.

“We are grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for investing in Reena. This grant provided us with the funds necessary to strengthen our community connections and program delivery, so that more people in need can be properly supported.
We thank Reena Foundation for directing contributions from the Joel Schwartz Memorial Hockey Tournaments, to assist with the renovations and training costs for this inclusive initiative” – Bryan Keshen, President and CEO of Reena

“Thanks to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for their financial support and in recognizing the needs of the most vulnerable members of our community. The partnership between Reena and the Bernard Betel Centre will allow people with developmental disabilities to learn all aspects of the Food Services industry, while at the same time respond to the growing food security needs of seniors.” – Gail Gould, Executive Director, Bernard Betel Centre.

Join us for Striking for Reena 2019

We’re bowled over with excitement for Striking for Reena 2019! Please join us on Sunday, May 5th at World Bowl in Richmond Hill.

The venue has 40 lanes, is fully accessible and EVERYONE IS WELCOME! Although admission is free, we request that each bowler raise a minimum of $300 ($1,800 per lane).

Striking for Reena is overwhelmingly popular because it’s so inclusive. Families, friends and supporters bowl alongside individuals supported by Reena. With family fun at the heart of the event, there’s truly something for everyone. In addition to bowling, we offer a fantastic Kids Zone, lots of food and a fabulous silent auction.

Striking for Reena supports many important programs and initiatives. Examples include summer camps, sports teams and capital items like vans to transport the individuals we support. In addition to these programs, proceeds from last year’s event funded the Sunday Kadima Program at Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue. It also allowed us to purchase specialized electronic glasses for an individual supported by Reena, giving her the gift of sight.

Join us for an incredi-bowl event! Click here for more information.

Canada-Israel Inclusion Mission

A physically challenged man sitting on a wheel chair being helped to board a van


February 11, 2019


TORONTO, Ontario, Canada – Today, leaders and supporters from disability-serving organizations from across Canada begin a nine-day Canada-Israel Inclusion Mission to learn about ground-breaking Israeli models of accessibility and service provision. This is the first Canadian mission to Israel focused on disability and inclusion.

Israel is a world leader in technology and services supporting people with various disabilities. While there, delegates will experience a wide range of disability-focused innovations, including:

  • ReWalk Robotics in Yokneam, an innovative medical devices company that is designing, developing, and commercializing exoskeletons allowing individuals using wheelchairs to stand and walk.
  • Lotem, Paratrek, and Nachal HaShofet, which work to make the beauty of nature accessible for people with disabilities.
  • Beit Issie Shapiro, Israel’s leading developer and provider of innovative therapies and state-of-the-art services for children and adults across the entire range of disabilities impacting on over half a million people annually.

Delegates represent a wide variety of organizations serving many communities, including The Safehaven Project for Community Living, Christian Horizons, and Community Living Toronto. A complete list of participating organizations can be found below. Sector leaders will also be joined by Pam Damoff, MP (L, Oakville North – Burlington, ON), Bryan May, MP (L, Cambridge, ON), John Barlow, MP (C, Foothills, AB).

The mission is co-hosted by Reena, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, and March of Dimes Canada and in Israel by Israel Elwyn, Joint Distribution Committee, Beit Issie Shapiro and Israel4All. A brief description of each organization is included below. 

The opening program will be a panel discussion hosted by the Canadian Ambassador to Israel, Her Excellency Deborah Lyons, at her official residence.  

We wish to acknowledge the sponsorship of Reena Foundation and Azrieli Foundation who helped made this trip accessible. 

A special thank you to CIJA (Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs), the Canadian Ambassador to Israel and the Israeli Consulate in Toronto for all of their assistance.

Follow the Inclusion Mission and updates from the field at #IsraelInclusion2019. 

For additional information and media inquiries contact:

James Janeiro, Director, Community Engagement and Policy, Community Living Toronto,                                                                                                           

Gary Gladstone, Stakeholder Relations, Reena,

Reena is a non-profit organization which promotes dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth and community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities within a framework of Jewish culture and values. Since its inception in 1973, Reena has been a pioneer in the field, implementing new and creative ways of fostering inclusiveness and ensuring the rights of people with developmental disabilities. Its responsiveness to both the community and government has enabled the agency to grow to serve 1000 individuals and their families, each according to their needs, through a variety of programs – residential services, day programs, family respite and social programs, counselling and advocacy as well as training and professional development for staff and volunteers. Reena today manages an annual budget of $47 million, $50 million in capital assets reflecting over 30 locations across the Greater Toronto Area and is a transfer payment agency of the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Ontario. 

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital creates a world of possibility by supporting children and youth living with disability, medical complexity, illness and injury. Established in 1899, Holland Bloorview is located in Toronto and serves children and youth from across Ontario and Canada. The hospital sees over 2,000 unique diagnoses annually, including brain injury, cerebral palsy and developmental delay. A holistic approach is taken to assist young people in achieving their goals. This includes physical and cognitive development as well as life skills such as employment readiness, transitioning to adult services and friendship. Children and youth also have access to programming in music, arts, fitness, science and technology. Holland Bloorview is guided by a goal to lead and model social change by eliminating stigma aimed at kids and youth living with disability. The vision of Holland Bloorview is to create the most meaningful and healthy futures for all children, youth and families. 

March of Dimes Canada – March of Dimes is a community-based rehabilitation and advocacy charity for people with physical disabilities. Our goal is to enhance the independence and community participation of people with physical disabilities every day through a wide range of programs and services across the country.

March of Dimes Canada believes that everyone, regardless of physical or financial challenges deserves to be independent, able to work, learn and participate fully in their community.

Israel Elwyn

Israel Elwyn believes in the principle of inclusion and that everyone has the right to be a full part of the community. Founded in 1984, Israel Elwyn today serves more than 4,500 children and adults with disabilities throughout Israel. Israel Elwyn’s ultimate goal is to provide individuals with tools enabling them to make decisions about their own lives and to gain more independence for living and working in the community.

Joint Distribution Committee

Active today in some 70 countries, JDC works to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and help Israel overcome the social challenges of its most vulnerable citizens, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Our reach extends beyond the global Jewish community by providing high-impact disaster relief and long-term development assistance worldwide.

Beit Issie Shapiro

Beit Issie Shapiro is Israel’s leading developer and provider of innovative therapies and state-of-the-art services for children and adults across the entire range of disabilities impacting on over half a million people annually. Beit Issie Shapiro promotes social change though a three-pronged approach: development and provision of cutting edge services, changing attitudes in society and advocating for better legislation, and sharing knowledge throughout Israel, as well as internationally, through research, consultation and training.


Israel4All is the premier tourism company in Israel for people with disabilities and special needs since 1998. Our mission is to be of service to special needs travelers with all kinds of disabilities including physical and mobility challenges, wheelchair/scooter users, slow walkers, the elderly, the hearing impaired, the visually impaired, developmental disabilities and people on the autistic spectrum as well as others. We are proud to provide a service that help people make their dream of visiting Israel come true.

Participating Organizations

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Autism Ontario, Calgary Jewish Federation, Christian Horizons, Community Living Toronto, Downtown Jewish Community School, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, March of Dimes Canada, Norfolk Association for Community Living, OCAPDD, Reena, Rosni Canada, The Safehaven Project for Community Living, SHS Consulting

We stand with Pittsburgh

The Reena group of charities extends our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, the congregation and the entire Jewish community who were sadly impacted by the anti-Semitic violence at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday, October 27, 2018. 

We have reached out to our sister agency ACHEIVA who lost two members to a murderer of 11 innocent people, brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal. May the memories of all the martyrs be a blessing and may those who knew them be comforted amongst the Mourners of Zion.

Tonight, Monday October 29th at 7:00 pm, numerous Toronto organizations have joined together and will be holding a community vigil in memory of the victims in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. We invite those who cannot attend tonight’s event to take a minute, light a candle and resist the desire to hate, but seek out ways to be more inclusive of those who are different than you.

UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, its advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), and many other Jewish organizations – including B’nai Brith, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC), the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Toronto Board of Rabbis – will host a community-wide vigil in memory of the victims of the horrific attack that took place in Pittsburgh.
Community Vigil at 7:00 pm

Mel Lastman Square

5100 Yonge Street, North York Centre Subway Station


Reena Foundation’s Exceptional Abilities Gala

Join us on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 at the Fontana Primavera Event Centre in Vaughan. Honouring Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario. Gala proceeds will be directed toward Reena’s vital programming and our newest housing development to be located on Clark Avenue in Thornhill. The new development will be modeled after the Reena Community Residence (RCR) located on the Joseph & Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus in Vaughan.

To purchase Tickets:


By Phone: 905.763.8254 x3631