Dear Joanna

The summer season as begun in Toronto.  I have been looking really hard and long for a position as a receptionist and it seems like all the employers are taking vacations this time of the year! I  am participating in Reena’s Channels Community Participation program and the job coach recommends that I take a “breather” – but still focus on my job search and balance this with resting, relaxing, having fun and even learning a new skill! Do you have any suggestions as to how I can enjoy the summer holiday season and continue my job search?  

Relaxing & Resting


Dear R&R

This summer season can be challenging for both job seekers and employees alike and can be filled with anxiety and stress. You are not alone in having a hard time relaxing and enjoying during this break when most companies are closed and employees are on vacation.


You can consider taking a break from your job search. However,  I have heard from people looking for work that this is actually the best time for your job search.  Since many employees are in a “summer fun vacation mood”,  this could be an opportunity for you to set up informational interviews, apply for jobs and network. I’ve also learned that recruiters or hiring managers could be more open to helping you with your job search as they are less busy.


Career advice expert journalist Leah Eichler in the “Globe & Mail” (Report on Business, 2013) recommends taking a break is critical for your health, well-being and work-life balance.


Below are some tips sourced from Eichler and from conversations with select employers that could help you have a stress-free, and much-deserved holiday.


  1. Give warning. If you are looking for work, and are taking a much-deserved break, set an “out of office” setting in your Gmail or other service provider account. Change your voicemail and email to let people know that you are away from your desk at this time.  If you doing this from your cell or home phone,  I wouldn’t be specific about the dates of your holiday.  I would have a professional voicemail indicating when you will be returning all messages. Mention that you “have limited access to emails and internet”. I would make an exception if you are expecting an important follow-up phone call or email from a potential employer or a person from your networking.
  2. Prioritize projects. If there is a job opening with a deadline date during your holiday, then I would apply for it. Focus on urgent deadlines first. But if it’s not due until two weeks after you return, it can wait. This is a priority over a break unless you are on vacation with no access to email or the internet. Mention this in your out-of-office setting.
  3. Make a list. Before you leave for vacation or a break, create a back-to-work to-do list or a back-to-job search to-do list.
  4. Clean up. There’s nothing more depressing than returning from your break or vacation to see a pile of papers on your desk. So leave your area neat and tidy before leaving. Important files should be clearly labelled—and accessible. A clean and organized desk can do wonders to alleviate anxiety.
  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself sufficient time when you return to sort through your emails, messages and other issues that have happened while you were away.

Enjoy your summer vacation or break!


Please send your questions and comments related to employment and careers IN CONFIDENCE to Joanna Samuels, jsamuels@reena.org


Joanna Samuels, M.Ed., CMF, CTDP, RRP  is the Employment Resource Supervisor at Reena with expertise in job development, job coaching, and workshop facilitation with people with disabilities and multi-barriers as well as staff training. Also, Joanna helps employers with building an inclusive workforce,  is a published author and columnist, as well as a certified Life Skills Coach, and certified Personality Dimensions Facilitator.

Reena is in Compliance

The Ministry conducts compliance inspections of all Ministry-funded service agencies under the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008 (SIPDDA). The specific standards of care and safety requirements that agencies are required to comply with are set out in Ontario Regulation 299/10 Quality Assurance Measures (QAM) and/or in policy directives.

The primary purpose of an inspection is to assess service agency compliance with legislation and policy directives and seek to ensure that service agencies are fully aware of their responsibilities. Agencies may be provided with support to come into compliance. Compliance inspections are intended to provide assurances to the Ministry, members of the public, stakeholders and individuals receiving services and support that adults with developmental disabilities are receiving quality standards of care, in a safe and secure environment. Inspections are designed to be both transparent and fair.

They are conducted systematically, using a consistent approach for all service agencies, for maximum thoroughness and equitableness. I am writing with respect to the compliance inspection of your agency that took place from May 16, 2022 through June 3, 2022. The Ministry is pleased to inform you that REENA was found to be IN COMPLIANCE with Ontario Regulation 299/10 of SIPDDA (Quality Assurance Measures) and/or policy directives applicable to MCCSS-funded services and supports for adults with developmental disabilities.

CompLtr_Reena_June 2022

Election debate on disability issues – Summary

Community Living Toronto, Reena, Holland-Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence partnered together to host the Provincial Election Disability Forum on 17 May 2022 at the Shaarei Shomayim synagogue.

This was an opportunity for the disability community to hear from local provincial candidates on their approaches to disability matters and how their platform commitments focus on people with disabilities.

Below is a summary of the parties’ Election Commitments for Developmental Services gathered from the Forum as well as their platforms and other correspondence from Reena, Community Living Toronto and OASIS.


Provincial Election Disability Forum

Ontarians living with a disability need a plan of action to address the gaps in services and supports.

Join us for this live forum to hear how each of the provincial parties respond to your questions, and how they intend to work with members of our community to support the needs of people with disabilities to build a province that is inclusive of everyone.

Panellists will be joining us from Shaarei Shomayim Synagogue, located at 470 Glencairn Ave in Toronto. Guests and other attendees will have the option to join virtually or in-person (limited attendance, masks required). The Zoom link to join virtually will be shared with attendees soon.

Moderated by David Lepofsky, Disability Advocate.

Hosted by Community Living Toronto, Holland Bloorview, and Reena

Register by clicking the image below.



Dear Joanna,

I just graduated high school and attended Reena’s Summer Employment Transitions (SET) program. One of the virtual job search skills workshops was on “active listening”.  I learned that I have to improve this skill for my job search, as an employee and in every area of my life. Please can you help me become a better communicator by improving my listening skills?

Signed: Listener on Alert


Dear LA,

I am impressed with your self-awareness and interest to learn!. Listening is one of the most important SOFT skills that you can have. Remember, soft skills include your personality traits, how you interact with others, how you communicate, and many more. You can’t measure this skill. Yet soft skills are among the top skills that employers look for when hiring candidates. Your listening skills is another important soft skills that is one of the key communication skills.

Active listening skills that we use can include observing non-verbal behavior, focusing so you don’t do anything else while listening, acknowledging the message even if you don’t agree with it; and respect – don’t interrupt and let the speaker finish! Active listening show others that you are ready to help out, that you think of others, and helps you understand what the other person is saying to you.  

Here are six techniques to help you improve your listening skills as recommended by the SET job coaches as well as from  https://www.4better4ever.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Good-Listener-Quiz-Final-1.pdf.

Technique #1 – Open-ended questions. This technique helps to build trust and rapport with the other person including the interviewer or co-worker. Here are some examples:

  • “Please tell me what I can do to help.”
  • “I was really impressed to read on your website how you donate 5% of each sale to charity.”
  • “When would be a good time for me to follow up after the interview”?
  • “What are important skills for this job”?

Technique #2 – Paraphrasing. This technique shows that you understand the person who is speaking. Some examples:

  • Is this what you mean….(repeat what the speaker just said)
  • “So,  you’re saying that it’s important that all employees come on time to work?”

Technique #3 – Affirmation. This technique shows the speaker that you are listening and care about what he or she is saying:

  • “Thank you. “ “I see,” “I know,” “Sure,” or “I understand”
  • “I appreciate your time in speaking with me about the kitchen helper job to me.”

Technique #4 – Asking specific (closed-ended) questions:

  • “When will you make a decision to hire? “
  • “What time do employees start work?”

Technique #5 – Non-verbal communication cues. These show the speaker that you understand and that what he or she is saying is important. For example, nodding, eye contact, learning forward and smiling.

If you want to assess the level your listening skills, here’s a quiz that can give you an idea of what you do well and what you would like to learn. https://www.4better4ever.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Good-Listener-Quiz-Final-1.pdf

Now the ball is in your court to start practicing good listening skills. Choose one technique at a time and practice it with friends and family. Be open to constructive feedback so you can apply these skills in all areas of your job search. 


Note: You are invited to email any questions and concerns regarding your job search, employment and career in confidence to jsamuels@reena.org 

Cultural Districts Program Discussion – Invitation to attend

The City of Toronto is moving forward with the creation of a Cultural Districts Program and Jay Pitter has been retained to lead this initiative in collaboration with City staff and Toronto residents.
A Cultural Districts Program in Toronto will allow for more flexibility and opportunity for the City to engage in economic and cultural initiatives to help communities thrive and be of benefit to neighbourhoods such as Church-Wellesley, Downtown Chinatown, Geary Avenue, and Little Jamaica, and at least one community and neighbourhood in the former cities of Etobicoke, North York or Scarborough.
Bryan Keshen , Reena’s CEO, will moderate a discussion and serve as an organizational champion for this initiative by hosting a panel conversation on April 28th from 7:30-8:30 pm.
The purpose of the panel is to bring awareness to the needs of individuals with disabilities and how they can enhance their own inclusion within the Toronto Cultural Districts Program
We would like to invite you to attend the event where we will bring several perspectives to shape the development of the Cultural Districts Program.
Panellists will speak about the life experiences of individuals in the Developmental Services space, and their own perspectives as to how the cultural district program could be enhanced.
If you are interested, please register by clicking below:

EMPLOYMENT ADVICE COLUMN: Handling Rejection in your Job Search

Dear Joanna,

Has this ever happened to you? I am so frustrated. I am eager to find a job in a safe workplace as this pandemic is not over yet! I have applied to over 100 job postings for a an work-from-home office clerk position. I have attended a few telephone interviews and in person. But never have I ever received a job offer!!! How much more can I take of this? Any suggestions on how to move on?

Signed: Ready to Give Up


Dear Ready,

Don’t give up just yet. Welcome to the club! Doyle in https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-handle-job-search-rejection-2062999

acknowledges that even in the job search, it stings to find out that you’ve been turned down. Doyle adds that itt can be especially hard to cope with job search rejection when it happens over and over again—but that’s not an uncommon experience for job seekers. “To succeed in your long-term goal of finding that dream opportunity and getting hired, you need to learn to cope with being turned down. Otherwise, it’s easy to let a momentary setback turn into a major career roadblock.” Adds the blogger.

Remember – even with the impact of Covid, the job market is competitive and often rejection is due to this factor. And sometimes, if you aren’t hired because the hiring manager doesn’t think you are a good fit, you are better off.

Doyle presents some of the following eight (8) ways to handle that “job search rejection”:

  1. Talk to a friend or family member and share your feelings in a confidential setting. The best person to share this with is someone whom you trust and will not be your future boss or co-worker. Venting can help sometimes to get over the anger and frustration of not getting the job offer. But then it’s important to move on.
  1. Self-care. Don’t forget to look after Make sure you have timeyou’re your hobbies, healthy eating, exercise and any activities that help you relax and have fun!
  1. Don’t burn your bridges. Don’t share anything negative at the job interview. You never know whether you might want to apply to the organization again in the future. More often than not, you will never know the truth why you were rejected. And I’ve known cases when the hiring manager came back to the candidate at a later date with a job offer!!!
  1. Follow up the rejection with an email. This is a pro-active way that might open the doors with the hiring manager to consider you for other positions with the organization. Perhaps Ask the hiring manager for “constructive criticism” on your application. Although this rarely happens, sometimes an employer will offer valuable feedback on your candidacy including your resume and cover letter as well as the job interview. It doesn’t hurt to ask – but remember, this is their choice.
  2. Improve your job search skills and applications. Take the time to analyze your approach to your job search and see if your resume, cover letter, job interview presentation, networking and other strategies need work. Connect with a job coach at Reena or in the community. Learn more about your targeted career goal and the job descriptions and companies that you are applying to. Aask yourself if you could have done something differently to present yourself in a better light and one that made you seem like a better fit for the job. Consider approaching the recruiter for feedback on your interview or resume.
  3. Keep motivated.  Keep applying and networking to maintain momentum in your job search. Set goals for a number of applications and networking contacts per week, rather than waiting to hear back from one company at a time.
  1. Learn new skills. This can give you something other than the job search to think about, and it might help you in your search. You have free access to LinkedIn Learning, the online public library, youtube, company videos, and training from other employment services.
  1. Volunteering is another good way to stay motivated. It’s an opportunity to support a cause you’re passionate about, and can remind you of your strengths. You can also include volunteer work on your resume.


Most of all – Don’t give up.  Keep the momentum of your job search going even if you are waiting to hear if you got the job! Always continue looking until you have a serious job offer in writing that you have accepted!



Changing your job during the pandemic: EMPLOYMENT ADVICE COLUMN

Dear Joanna

I would like to start looking for another job. I’m afraid to do this during Covid. But, I would like to make more money and grow my career to the next level with more responsibilities. At my current company, there is no opportunity for this. How do I switch to another job during the pandemic without risking my current employment?

Signed: Job Switcher

Dear JS, According to blogger Towey in https://www.businessinsider.com/people-share-how-they-career-pivot-changed-jobs-during-pandemic-2021-11?amp, at least one in four people have quit their job in 2021 [USA statistic], fueling “The Great Resignation”. But people aren’t just quitting, Linkedin CEO Ryan Roslansky explained in a recent interview with TIME. “They’re transitioning jobs and switching industries entirely, otherwise known as “The Great Reshuffle.” So you are not alone in your job search during Covid!

Towey interviewed six professionals who successfully “pivoted” into another job this year and they recommend the following six tips to do this in your own job search:

1. Highlight your transferable skills and network. Leverage your skills and talents are aren’t industry-specific. For example, in your current job, you had to meet many deadlines. As a result, you had to create your own scheduling and organizing of your time to make sure you finished your work on time! Time management is a critical “transferrable skills”. That’s the sort of thing that I would leverage in my interview experience. Also, doing your due diligence and speaking to people in the industry will be really beneficial. It doesn’t have to be on LinkedIn, it could be someone that you played soccer with in college or an old friend.”

2. Assess your risk tolerance. Never be in a rush or desperate. Slow and steady wins the race. It’s important to take your time, be strategic, and prepare a plan of action – step by step. Be careful. You can always ask the potential employer (HR or department head) for an information interview or perhaps to job shadow for a day. And it’s always much easier to look for work when you are working. You have to really sit down and ask yourself if you are comfortable with that kind of risk … explore your identity and how you want to spend your day. Really think about the pros and the cons.”

3. Take advantage of free resources online. There are free courses on YouTube, Linkedin Learning, TedTalks, and other online job boards as well as the public libraries. Also there are softwares that you can download a free month trial to start learning the new software if it’s a computer skill required for the next job you are looking for. Identify and analyze the job postings of positions that you dream to have and find out what skills, requirements, qualifications and experience is required. Which ones do you need to learn? Before you pay for a course, you have to try and check if it is really for you. Trying some projects by yourself and studying for free gives you a little bit of an insight into what the correct career is and if you can go through with it.”

4. Create a budget and fallback plan. Figure out your budget — how much money you need to spend on your mortgage, your utilities, food, debt, and all your expenses. How much can you comfortably live with while you transition to your new role? Make sure you have at least six months of savings. If it’s possible, having a part-time position you can lean on is super helpful so that anxiety can be kept at bay. Then with the worst-case scenario, figure out at the beginning what to do if you run out of money. Will you sell your car? Will you default to your 401k? Will you sell your stocks? What type of skills can you lean on to make money in a part-time capacity?”

5. Keep a positive mindset. Having a good attitude goes a long way! Live by it, try to smile and keep positive. You need to know that it’s okay to fail or make a mistake. The key is to knowing that you can keep on applying for work, researching and learning. No one can take that away from you! Just try to learn and know that you’re going to stumble, but then you just get yourself back up.

6. Balance creative freedom with financial security. Keep your full-time job until you have some confidence that you get a job offer from the new position. In the meantime, consider doing some freelancing jobs or part time contracts on the side. You can also develop your portfolio, expand your network, and build your skills with volunteering in the community.


Please send your questions and comments on employment and career issues in confidence to Joanna Samuels, Employment Supervisor, REENA at jsamuels@reena.org

Exciting NEW positions with Reena

Senior Project Coordinator – 2 Year Contract – Click HERE  for full details

As a Senior Project Coordinator, this role is integral in the development, planning, execution, timely and smooth running of Reena’s 50-year celebration. Coordinating a “Whole of Reena” approach, the main responsibilities will include chairing the Steering Committee for Reena @ 50 Celebrations, working with team members and stakeholders to build and develop relationships, create key deliverables and execute where required and ensure that the project is running smoothly, on time and on budget.

Marketing and Communications Specialist – 2 Year Contract – Click HERE for full details

As we hopefully exit the worst of COVID, we have an incredible story to tell, not only highlighting Reena’s growth and excellence over the past 50 years, but an opportunity to support a fundraising campaign to ensure we have significant resources to propel us forward for the next 50 and beyond.

Sandy Stemp to receive The Marg Campbell Integrity in Leadership Award

We are delighted to announce that Sandy Stemp, Reena’s COO is one of the recipients of the 2021 Marg Campbell Integrity in Leadership Award.

The Marg Campbell Integrity in Leadership Award was established in 2018 upon the retirement of its inspiration Marg Campbell.

Marg was the Executive Director of Delisle Youth Services for 12 years and then, after merging with Oolagen Youth Mental Health in 2016, was co-CEO at Skylark Children Youth and Families until her retirement in 2018.

The purpose of this award is to celebrate those who embody these values in their own practice to the benefit of their agency and the sector in which they work.

From the judge’s comments:
“Throughout her 30 years with Reena and during the pandemic, Sandy has demonstrated integrity, leadership and a passion for supporting individuals with developmental disabilities. She has embodied Reena’s mission to promote dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth and community inclusion for people with diverse abilities.”


Dear Joanna,

My job is changing. Over three years ago, I was hired as an Accounting Clerk with the help of my Reena job coach. Now, with a sudden shrinking of staff in my company due to the pandemic, my job description has expanded to include reception and general office duties. My workload has increased. Plus, I need to learn new computer programs and skills to keep my job and keep up. I am stretched thinner more than ever in my workplace. Thank goodness that I have a supportive manager and team. What should I do? Why is this happening?

Signed: Job Transformation (JT)


Dear JT,

Covid19 may have changed the world of work forever. The bloggers from https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20201023-coronavirus-how-will-the-pandemic-change-the-way-we-work report on a number of disruptions in our working life due to the pandemic. For example,  remote work is now “normal” and the way we communicate and get our job done is different too as the virtual platforms are used for meetings, and other work activities. Many offices have returned to both virtual and in person – i.e. the hybrid or blended model.

I’m unclear if you are working remotely or at the office. Either way, the bloggers explain that with less employees at the office at one given time, you have been called on to help out in areas that aren’t in your job description, but ones that the employer needs you to perform. This is referred to as “pivoting”.  You are not alone in this situation. Many employees – including myself – help out our organizations in many different ways – wherever this is a need as we want our organization and team to be as successful. It’s also a way to showcase stellar team work. I can see how this upheaval is stressful for you. However, you  can view this situation as an opportunity to meet these challenges, build your skills and employability and make a difference in your team and company amidst a pandemic.

Steven-Huffman’s article from https://insights.dice.com/2019/04/22/boss-radically-changed-job/ suggests the following steps to take when your boss changes your “role” at the company:

  1. Talk to your supervisor and be as direct as possible. Offer to “pivot”. 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. Offer to be available for any work or tasks that need to be done in the office, especially when the department is short-staffed!
  2. Use the opportunity to learn and improve. Think about this change as a positive experience. Never be attached to your “job description”. Being adaptable, and flexible are key soft skills that all employers cherish. However it the change is performance-based, then this is a perfect time to improve on your deficiencies and learn more new skills. Expanding your knowledge and expertise can only help you with your position in the company and if you decide to look for another position. . 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 boss 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). 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. Book at time to meet either on a virtual platform like zoom or perhaps at the office or in a coffee shop that are safe spaces given the Covid outbreaks.
  5. Get the necessary training. It is important that you learn the skills to help you succeed with your new responsibilities. 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.


Note: Please feel free to email your questions, comments and concerns regarding employment and career issues in confidence to: jsamuels@reena.org.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

The Max and Ruth Leroy Holocaust Remembrance Garden (at the Reena Community Residence) has been created to honour the memory of the 200,000 people with disabilities who were among the earliest victims targeted by the Nazi regime.
People with mental and developmental disabilities were seen as “life unworthy of living” in society because they consumed valuable resources for their perpetual care.
In 1939, Hitler authorized the murder of people with disabilities under the guise of the T4 Euthanasia Program.
People with developmental disabilities and the vulnerable in our communities have been marginalized throughout history. We must all advocate for the well-being of those who cannot advocate for themselves.

The Youth Mental Health and Addictions Transition Program committee recruitment








Through our partnership with the (Eastern York Region North Durham (EYRND) Ontario Health Team (OHT), Western York Region OHT, which Reena is a member of, and the Southlake Community OHT), we are recruiting peers to join the Youth Mental Health and Addictions Transition Program committees.

The committees are looking for individuals 16-28 years of age with lived experience who are interested in helping expand navigation and transition services in York Region for children and adolescents accessing mental health and addiction supports.

For more information about the program, or to complete and an expression of interest form please visit (or to book an appointment visit www.eyrnd.ca/youth-mental-health-and-addictions-transition-program