Make A Wish…

Reflections from program participants.
This week was our first day back for the Channels North Day Program since we closed in mid-march. Everyone was very excited to reconnect with his or her peers and staff. The world has changed. Both in terms of how we interact (we get to wear cool masks) and in the seasons.
We are now in Autumn, and as part of our Drama program with instructor Mark, we wanted to celebrate the beauty of nature around us. It is easy to look at 2020 and be sombre, there were many things that give us reason to be, but there are also many more things to cause us to smile and feel gratitude for the year that has been and still remains.
So when you walk down a street, wear your mask and social distance, but also take the time to pick a fallen leaf and appreciate the beauty of the season and if you are really bold, stand in the circle, make a wish, and it might just come true.
Jonathan – ‘I had a phenomenal day, way better than expected and I am so happy to be back.”
Ryan – “I had a good day. My favourite part was Drama with Mark.’
Jordyn – ‘I feel rejuvenated”

New Chair of the Board

Reena is delighted to announce the appointment of Charles Chee as its new Chair of the Board.

Charles Chee – Incoming Chair
Replacing Jeff Bernstein as the Chair of our Board is Charles Chee who is a valued member of the Reena community. In 2015, Charles became a member of the Reena Board of Directors and shortly after served on the Continuous Quality Improvement committee.
Charles is a regulatory compliance executive with over 35 years of experience in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and life science industries. His portfolio includes drug development, manufacturing and business development.

In 2015, Charles and a small group of colleagues founded Qing Bile Therapeutics Inc., a research and development pharmaceutical company engaged in finding cures for liver diseases. Over the past 10 years, Charles has provided consulting services for several companies on issues relating to regulatory compliance, drug development and manufacturing operations.
Serving the community has been an integral part of Charles’s life. Within his professional sphere, Charles serves as a board member at the Pharmaceutical Science Group (PSG), a not-for-profit industry organization focused on the development and training of pharmaceutical professionals.
Charles holds a Bachelor’s degree in Honours Biology from the University of Waterloo; a certificate in Business Administration from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, and a Graduate Diploma in Christian Studies from Tyndale University College and Seminary.
We are confident that Charles’s professional experience and commitment to Reena will be an asset as he embarks on his new role as our Board Chair. One of Charles’s responsibilities will be overseeing the implementation of Beyond 20/20, Reena’s new 2020-2025 strategic plan.

We wish him much success in the coming years.

Jeff Bernstein – Outgoing Chair
Reena would like to thank its outgoing Chair of the Board of Directors, Jeff Bernstein, for his two-years of leadership and almost a decade of service to the Board.
Jeff will be stepping down as chair but will not be leaving the Reena family. He has agreed to continue his service and leadership as a director of the newly formed Reena Community Services Canada and as a member of our Finance committee.
Jeff is an extraordinarily humble, passionate and capable leader. As treasurer and executive board member, he supported Reena’s transition to the new CEO and saw the growth of Reena by over 30% during his years of involvement. He has been on the Reena Board since 2012; Chair of the Finance committee for 5 years and served on the Batay Reena Board for numerous years.
Jeff has worked tirelessly to achieve significant change and progress in the expansion of services and supports in employment, community engagement activities, Judaic programs, transportation, housing, mental health services and so much more.
We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude for his dedicated service and wish him all the best.

Bryan Keshen, CEO

Happy Sukkot

Today marks the first evening of Sukkot, known as the ‘Festival of Booths’. Sukkot is a happy and festive holiday in the Jewish calendar.

During Sukkot, we traditionally bundle together four plants mentioned in the Torah: The Etrog (citron fruit), Lulav (frond of date palm) Hadass (myrtle bough) and Aravah (willow branch) – and wave them in the Sukkah as symbolic allusions to a Jew’s service of G-d.

Some scholars note that the binding of the four species symbolizes our desire to unite the four “types” of humans in service of God.

The Sukkah itself reminds us of our fragility and invites us out of our homes, recognizing that there are forces beyond our control, and despite the challenges, we can still find ways to rejoice in what we have. 

These days, in our community, our sector, province and beyond we are asked to come together and act in unison to overcome the challenges ahead of us – for the betterment of all humankind.

Reena’s staff, individuals and families are working in unison, day and night, to protect each other’s health – and with great success.

My heartfelt gratitude to all of you.

I want to wish you a safe and peaceful weekend and a happy Sukkot.

Bryan Keshen, CEO


Striking 4 Reena October 18th

9th Annual Striking for Reena  – Virtual Event

October 18th, Sunday, 12;00 pm

Striking for Reena is going VIRTUAL

We can’t bowl together, but we can still team up to have another successful event.

Striking has raised over $1.3 million to date and has funded many of Reena’s vital programs and initiatives. With increased expenses due to COVID-19, we need your support this year more than ever.

Click HERE to Support, Join or Sponsor 

Reena Members – Important AGM Notice

On September 16, 2020 at 6:30 pm Reena will hold its Annual General meeting.

Save the date and mark your calendars so you can join us.

Please send your email address to in order to receive details on how to join the meeting. 

To keep everyone safe in the current environment, this year’s AGM will be hosted solely online. You do not need to attend in person.

Following the AGM, at 7:30 pm, we will hold the community general meeting. This meeting will also be held virtually.

For more information, please contact

Province Announces Ontario Health Team in Western York Region

July 23rd, 2020

On behalf of the individuals supported by Reena and their families, the Boards and staff of Reena, Reena Foundation, Batay Reena and Chai Tikvah (Reena group of charities) we want to congratulate Bryan Keshen, our President and CEO, as well as the other members of the Western York Region Ontario Health Team Collaborative for being recognized and certified by the province.

The Western York Region Ontario Health Team is one of five new Ontario Health Teams being established across the province at this time. Ontario Health Teams bring together health care providers to work as one team to improve patient outcomes.

“The announcement and endorsements today of the Western York Region Ontario Health Team (OHT) represents a promise to the residents in western York region to deliver an integrated approach to wellness and health”, says Bryan Keshen.  “It is a promise to enhance wellness through a collaborative support model. The challenges and experiences resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the integrative nature of community health. Today the founding collaborative members look forward to not only continuing to work together, but to work with other providers in health, social services and other sectors to enhance the health and well-being of our community.”

L-R front row:
Altaf Stationwala, President and CEO, Mackenzie Health, Gila Martow, MPP for Thornhill, Hon. Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and MPP for Vaughan-Woodbridge, Bryan Keshen, Co-Chair, WYROHT and President and CEO of Reena, Daisy Wai, MPP for Richmond Hill

“This is the first Ontario Health Team co-chaired by a Director of a Developmental Services Agency, and the opportunity to improve the Health and well-being outcomes in a multisector approach is tremendous,” stated Jeff Bernstein, Chair of Reena Board. Joining Jeff on this comment were Harold Seidel, Batay Reena, and Steve Justein, Chair of Reena Foundation. All are founding members of Reena Community Services Canada, encompassing the Reena group of charities.

“More than ever we need leadership in health that reaches out further with a person-centred approach. The Western York Region OHT including Reena as a lead partner will improve the lives of some of the most at risk and vulnerable populations” explained Charles Chee, Chair Reena strategic planning committee.

Today’s announcement from the Ministry of Health stated:

“In support of the ongoing fight against COVID-19 and as part of the province’s plan to end hallway health care, the Ontario government is announcing a new Ontario Health Team serving Vaughan, King, Thornhill, Richmond Hill and surrounding communities and is providing additional funding to better connect care.

“Over the past several months, Ontario Health Teams have demonstrated remarkable responsiveness to the COVID-19 outbreak by simplifying the purchase of personal protective equipment, supporting the staffing of long-term care homes and assessment centers and expanding virtual care options,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “They’ve done so by breaking down long-standing barriers to better connect care, both in support of patients and our brave frontline heroes. Today’s announcement of a new Ontario Health Team in western York Region will build on this success as we continue to implement our plan to defeat COVID-19.”

The Western York Region OHT will serve Vaughan, Richmond Hill, King and the surrounding areas. Patients will continue to have a choice in their health care provider, while benefitting from greater access to care and support from a broader network of health and social support organizations.

Members of the Western York Region Ontario Health Team include:


  • CHATS-Community & Home Assistance to Seniors
  • Health 1st Medical Centre
  • Hill House Hospice
  • Hospice Vaughan
  • Mackenzie Health
  • Reena
  • SE Health
  • Thornhill Village Family Health Organization
  • UniversalCare
  • Vaughan Community Health Centre
  • Woodbridge Medical Centre Family Health Team



About Reena – Reena promotes dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth and community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities within a framework of Jewish culture and values. Reena was established in 1973 by parents of children with developmental disabilities as a practical alternative to institutions.

Since that time, Reena has grown to provide support for 1,000 individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.



Media Contact:

  • Bryan Keshen, President and CEO, Reena

  • Sharon Magor, Manager Marketing and Communications, Reena



Employment Advice Column: Looking for work during COVID-19

Dear Joanna,

I will be graduating high school this year from the special education stream. Because of COVID-19, all of my courses are online right now, and last year,  I completed a co-op placement in a local grocery store last year. This where I would like to work and start making some money. But with this pandemic, how can I look for work and also be safe and healthy during these difficult times?

Signed: Safe&Healthy Job Seeker

Dear S&H

The economic impact of the Corona virus pandemic has been devastating. Many people have lost their jobs and face financial challenges while companies are cutting back; some are closing down (Erica Alini in  The good news is that  supermarkets as well as many other companies considered “essential services” are hiring as they are a key part of the economy.

Below are some suggestions of how you can look for work, and follow the Public Health guidelines in order to keep safe and healthy during this pandemic:

  1. Online applications. Make a list of all the grocery stores you want to work at and try to pick those closest to your home as possible so you can walk there.  And pick the early morning or evening or even overnight shifts that have the least amount of people so you can keep the social distancing (and all the other requirements like hand washing). Use Google to search out all the grocery stores that are hiring by entering a “key word” search. For example, if you want to work at Walmart, type in “jobs at Walmart Canada”. There should be a link to apply for jobs online. For a bigger picture of the job openings from this sector and beyond, check out online job boards such as Indeed Canada,, and LinkedIN as well as from the company’s website.  Even on the radio this morning, there is a call for candidates by Walmart!
  2. Follow up. Prior to the virus, you might have applied online and then dropped in to follow up with the store manager. However during this virus, it’s a bit trickier. I would arrange to drop in to the grocery store where you applied when you or your family member need to go shopping for food and supplies. Pick times when the store is less busy to avoid line-ups and crowds. Then,  I’d ask to speak to the store manager or the assistant manager. Mention that you are following up as you have applied online to see what the next steps are. You can also try to call the customer service department and see when the manager is in the store before you show up. During these time of crisis and shortages of staff, showing initiative while keeping the social distancing of a two-metre distance (physical distancing) from others at all times. Remember, employers are overwhelmed with handling this crisis, and applying new ways of doing business while complying with the Public Health requirements to keep a safe environment for staff and customers and prevent outbreaks. So even though they need staff, we are all in this together to learn how to deal with this pandemic crisis. Be patient.
  3. Potential employers. I’ve listed a select few of employers who are currently hiring in the GTA that appear in the website above. Once a week, I would check out all the websites of the  stores where you want to work to see the job postings.
  1. Healthy Work Environment during Covid-19. Many employers are having online job interviews using apps such as Skype and Zoom; others are using the good old fashioned phone). One of the questions in your interview is to find out how the employer is protecting their staff and practicing the safe and healthy workplace environment that complies with the guidelines mandated by the Ministry of Health. You can also visit the store prior to applying for work as a customer to see what they are actually implementing in practice to keep their employees safe. For example, grocery stores have installed plexiglass protectors around the cashiers as well as 6 feet markers on the floor, and employees wear gloves. You can check this site out to see what is required Needless to say, if the employer is not protecting its staff, you probably do not want to work there.
  2. Keep busy. Many of the employment centres (for example offer online job search skills training workshops ncluding Using LinkedIn, career exploration, resume writing, interview skills and related. They are also offering employer information sessions online. Plus there are a lot of online resources to learn new skills and keep engaged in learning. The Toronto Public Library may be closed but they offer plenty of online job search trainings and career cruising to name a few. Online learning, blogs and podcasts Another helpful resource is

In the meantime, please keep safe, healthy and well during this pandemic.

Signed: Joanna

To submit your questions and comments to this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email me at

Employment Advice Column: A new workforce reality: Working from Home

Dear Joanna

Due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, our team has been working from home. Although we have online meetings, and chat on the phone with colleagues,  it’s isolating and I miss the informal and fun conversations with co-workers, especially during lunch hour.  Sometimes I find it hard to motivate myself to focus on the job at hand. Do you have any tips for home-based employees?

Signed : Home Alone

drawing of a person thinking about their career

Dear Home Alone,

There are pros and cons of working from home. However, you are far from being alone. Modern technology has changed the way we work. Home-based businesses and work are booming in our economy. In fact, Statistics Canada 2011 survey states that more than one million Canadians work from home. And there are sites like this one with a list of the best jobs to work remotely.

Here are some suggestions of best practices from blogger Smith that could maximize your success when working from home in addition to my past experience as a self-employed sales and marketing professional with a home-based office.

  • Keeping professional. Being stylish, up-to-date in your wardrobe. Caring about your looks, how you dress and presentation can make a huge difference in your motivation and impact your efficiency and productivity. When you dress professional, even if you are at home, you feel professional and in charge. . Avoid work-out clothes. If you work five days a week, have outfits ready for each day, just like you did when you working at an office. Your work from home is not a retirement home for all your faded, ill-fitting and ripped clothes, Plus, you always want to be ready for a last minute meeting or a Skype meeting. It is part of your branding, marketing and selling of yourself. Always be comfortable yet professional.
  • The Remote Home Office Setup. Wilcox stresses that a functioning office will make you more productive and professional. Having the latest technology can do wonders for this. A desk that is large enough for a computer desktop or laptop and equipment is key. A good phone and connection with a headset can help you to avoid echoing during online or landline phone calls or Skype meetings. For example, the wired headset helps to avoid echo during online calls, or skype meeting. Situate your office in a quiet place where you can think and with a door that shuts, especially if you live with other people or if you have a family.  A stable internet connection with a good back-up system goes a long way.
  • Take breaks. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look after yourself.  Schedule breaks  and lunchtime as you did when you were working in a traditional office.  Make sure you have an “out of office” automatic email reply or “I’ll be back in a hour” message on your voicemail.  Don’t disappear especially if you are part of a team of which some employees are also remote. A simple “Good morning, everyone” to let people know that you’re at your desk ready to start work on the project, and no longer at home or in bed.
  • Keep connected. Reena’s Human Resources Director Sonia K. suggests that when you are working from home, set a schedule and ensure constant contact with your team, co-workers and/or partners. Making a phone call first thing in the morning is a great way to start the day and keep connected.  Using Skype or other online meeting tools ( to conduct work related meetings or simple conversations goes a long way to keeping in touch and feeling motivated. Also, go into the office as much as possible, even if it’s only for one meeting a week, or drop by for a lunch outing with your co-workers, as being re-connected with your team and business world goes a long way in feeling involved.
  • Continue networking. In addition to joining groups in your sector through online websites and social media forums, I would recommend that when you are able, try to get out of your home at least once a week. I’d join as many networking groups in your field that offer in face events and meetings. And if your company offers any types of activities or volunteering opportunities, I’d sign up as these are other ways to meet people, and keep current in your field

To submit your questions and comments to this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email

Outreach Spring Session – Reschedule

Dear Outreach Participants and Families,

Due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, our Sunday Spring Session that was scheduled for March 22, 2020 has been postponed till Sunday, April 19, 2020, at the usual time from 12:00 noon – 5:00 pm, at the Battle Centre, 927 Clark Avenue West, Thornhill L4J 8G6. Any questions and concerns, please contact me at 905 889 6484 ext 2101 or or Devon Mahadeo, or 905 889 6484 ex 2224.

 Keep safe, healthy and well.

 Thank you for your support.

Best regards,

 Nicole Lipsey

COVID 19 Coronavirus Update – Day Programs and Visitors

Reena is committed to doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of our individuals, their families, our staff and volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to monitor all directives and implemented our emergency health procedures over 3 weeks ago in order to be ready. The information and direction are based on the data we have now and may change as new information is provided.

At this time, Reena does not have any presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19. Our staff are continuing to be screened each day and are monitoring individuals for any signs of influenza-like symptoms.

Starting tomorrow, the majority of Reena’s residential individuals will be supported in their homes and will not be attending day programs. We are committed to ensuring life within the homes carries on as close to normal as possible by keeping groceries and supplies in stock and offering creative programming to bring meaningful activities into the home, as well as safe activities outdoors, applying the principles of social distancing. This excludes our typical activities, like movies.

We recognize many of the day programs in the Developmental Services Sector have closed. For a very small minority of our residential individuals, it is important they are provided with their day program, as it is considered an essential need. It would be challenging for these individuals to be managed successfully without these programs, and for the health and wellbeing of themselves and others, we must continue providing their day program routine and structure. Reena also remains open to families with children living at home who are reliant on us for our support during this challenging time. While maintaining this small day program for these few individuals, we are taking the necessary precautions, including enhanced cleaning measures and social distancing within small group activities.

Many families have chosen not to send their son or daughter to day program or March break. We respect that choice and are offering full refunds for any programs that are cancelled.

Further, there has been an update to our visitor policy. In order to ensure a safe and secure environment for our individuals, Reena staff will only allow visitors into any of our locations who are providing an essential service that cannot be left uninterrupted. These essential visitors will be screened accordingly before entering the home.

We encourage families to continue interacting with their loved ones, either in-person or virtually. When families visit the home, they will be required to self-screen before entering. If they answer ‘no’ to all the screening questions, they will be asked to check-in with a staff member before entering. These families may also choose to take their loved ones out for a walk or other safe activities. However, if the family answers ‘yes’ to any of the screening questions, they will not be allowed to enter the location and if they choose to take their loved one out, then they must remain with them for 14 days.

We regret the inconvenience this may cause but, we must do everything we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to our individuals and the people who provide care to them. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

We will continue to monitor the situation and are fully prepared to act on advice and direction from Public Health and the Ministry.

We encourage everyone to visit trusted public health websites to ensure you get the most accurate and up-to-date information.

For more information, please visit:

Please contact the Supervisor of your family member’s home for further questions or to talk about specifics around programming and technology for virtual engagement.

Bryan Keshen
President and CEO

Ontario Ministry of Health

Public Health Ontario

Federal Government Corona Virus Update

Contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or your local public health unit if you’re experiencing symptoms of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

COVID 19 (Novel Coronavirus) Update- Reena Community Participation Day Programs

Reena is continuing to closely monitor the concerns around the coronavirus (COVID-19) and has taken several precautionary measures for the health and safety of our individuals, staff and community. 

At this time, the community participation day programs at the Battle Centre, Reena Community Residence, Hillel/Wolfond Centre and the Schwartz-Reisman Centre (Older Adult Program) have been modified and will remain open. We are increasing the amount and type of cleaning at these locations – including products with a high degree of disinfection.  Our programs will be modified to ensure we are keeping with social distancing principles.  This includes small groups (no large group programs), outings that include walks in the community and outside activities (not going to crowded areas) and staff prompting around handwashing and hygiene practices.  Even in small groups, we will be emphasizing “every other seat” so participants are not too close to each other.

As we reported in our last update, every individual that we support is being monitored twice a day for symptoms which includes taking their temperature.  The first check occurs in the morning and if anyone has any symptoms, they will not be sent to their day program. Any external participants to the day programs will be screened before they come into the program, including their temperature.  If they have any symptoms, then they cannot participate in the program and are sent home.

We will continue to monitor the situation and are fully prepared to act on advice and direction from Public Health and the Ministry.

We encourage everyone to visit trusted public health websites to ensure you get the most accurate and up-to-date information.

For more information please visit:

For further questions, please contact the Supervisor of your family member’s home.


Bryan Keshen
President and CEO

Ontario Ministry of Health

Public Health Ontario

Federal Government Corona Virus Update

Contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or your local public health unit if you’re experiencing symptoms of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).