The City of Mississauga has a population of nearly 713,500. Among them is Jamaican-born community worker, Elvenia Gray-Sandiford, who was named 2013 Mississauga Citizen of the Year last week.
For the past 23 years, the prestigious Gordon S. Shipp Memorial Award has been presented to a resident who has voluntarily dedicated time and energy to the betterment of the community.
The award is named for Shipp, a developer, visionary and community member who helped build the city.
It is presented by The Mississauga News and the Mississauga Real Estate Board.
Gray-Sandiford is the founder of TransformNation Inc. whose programs are designed to address hopelessness created by youth violence, poverty and other challenges young people face. In the past year, the organization has reached out to close to 3,000 pre-teens and young adults who are struggling with self-esteem issues, including obesity.
While acknowledging the honour, the mother of three said helping others brings her enormous joy and satisfaction.
“My passion for giving was ignited while growing up in Jamaica, she said. “My mother would tell her five children that if we had just a slice of bread, it should be cut up so that every one of us would have a piece. She also told us that if there is a neighbour across the street without bread, the slice should be cut into six pieces. In addition, I come from a generation of educators. My daughter, sister, brother and aunt are all teachers who are helping young people achieve their dreams.”
Gray-Sandiford, whose mother and husband passed away nine years ago, migrated from Jamaica to Vancouver, where she was a domestic before engaging in community work.
As a member of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter collective, she worked tirelessly to eradicate violence against women and children before re-locating to Ontario in 1999. The certified counsellor co-ordinated the special events and volunteer programs at the Dixie-Bloor Neighbourhood Centre and was on the Chemo Crisis Centre, Richmond Family Services and Rosemary Brown Family Service Society board of directors.