Women recognized for helping immigrants integrate



Sue Wilkinson and Veena Dutta facilitated the smooth transition of thousands of immigrants in the Jane-Finch community over the last two decades.

Last week, they were recognized for their significant contributions in helping newcomers integrate into their new homeland.

Wilkinson was executive director of the Jane-Finch Community & Family Centre (JFCFC) for the past five years while Dutta established the Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women (EHCW) which, last month, won the Mayor’s Community Safety Award for its successful “Reduce Abuse” program. Toronto Police Services 31 Division nominated the non-profit organization for the prestigious award.

Seven months ago, Wilkinson was appointed director of the Ontario Non-profit Network (ONN) while Dutta has retired.

“These two women are visionaries and great leaders,” said former Northwood Neighbourhood Services executive director, Jamila Aman, who was last month appointed York University Community Engagement Centre’s community agency partner in residence. “I have worked closely with these ladies and have witnessed first-hand the impact they have made in the lives of so many.

“Veena has put in place so many programs and services that will last for many years while Sue is the most visionary executive director I have ever seen. Her contributions are immeasurable. I was disappointed when I learned that Sue was leaving, but when I heard her speak at an Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) conference a few months ago about systemic issues that are going to impact the province’s non-profit sector, I knew she was in the right place. In my new post, I will be working with Sue because there are some projects that York students are going to do at the ONN.”

Wilkinson, who holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from York University, a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Western Ontario and Executive Leadership Certificates from the Rotman and Schulich Schools of Management, spent 16 years with the JFCFC.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the organization,” said Wilkinson. “When I started, we were serving about 3,000 clients annually. That number has risen substantially and we now have approximately 430 volunteers doing almost 30,000 hours annually. The population has grown considerably in the last 20 years and almost 130 dialects are spoken in this community, which is one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in the world.”

The JFCFC was the first community-based organization in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood to establish an extended benefits plan that included a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).

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