Guest Blog: Andrew Beckerman celebrates leadership

I am a 10-year immigrant to Canada. At the “swearing in” ceremony, 14 months ago, when I received my Canadian citizenship, the judge told us “Welcome to Canada!  As new citizens you can live the life you choose, if you apply yourselves.”

During the recent Donor Tea, hosted by the Victoria Foundation in honour of its 80th anniversary, I had the honour of joining the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, in presenting the First Annual Longevity of Leadership Awards. Standing on that stage, behind the podium at Government House, I felt as though I was experiencing the actualization of that judge’s promise.      

I have been inspired by the leaders, the executive directors, of some of the organizations that I have been privileged to work with over the past 10 years. Their longevity of leadership has provided blessed stability to key social service providers who are constantly buffeted by the winds of insufficient funding, staff burn out, clients dealing with a variety of hardships, and lack of understanding of their mission by the public at large.

Despite these challenges, this coterie of long-term leaders stay the course. That they do so at a certain financial cost is certainly to their credit. Their commitment inspires longevity of both staff and volunteers, and contributes to the well-being of clients. Each client I help as a volunteer benefits from the constancy of the staff members who help them solve problems and overcome issues. In turn, the staff are supported on an ongoing basis by longevity of leadership at the managerial level.

The following individuals have shown “Longevity of Leadership” and through their commitment have inspired me in the volunteer work I do in our community.

Katrina Jensen has been executive director/program manager at AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI) throughout my 10-year tenure as front desk volunteer and board member. Katrina is responsible for an island wide web of offices that provide comprehensive programs for those infected with, or at risk of infection from HIV/HCV. She inspires and receives the respect of dozens of employees and dozens of dozens of volunteers. Her tenure has established solid relationships with both funders and community partners. Katrina has been a long-term board member of the Pacific AIDS Network where she now serves as co-chair of their board. Despite her ever expanding workload she always makes time to encourage, educate and inspire me. 

Kathy Stinson, is the executive director of the Cool Aid Society which develops and manages supportive housing throughout the CRD, runs medical and dental clinics, trains volunteers, works to advance employment opportunities for clients, and has established a supportive running program among other services. Without Kathy and her board and staff, AVI would not have been able to become part of the Access Health Centre which is a model of collaborative programming applauded across the country. In the development of programs and projects Kathy has been well served by her diplomatic skills. She is an inspiration to anyone who feels that people who are homeless and/or dealing with a variety of life challenges deserve our respect and compassion. It has been a privilege to work with her. 

Throughout my Victorian life, the Reverend Allan Tysick, aka Reverend Al, has been a tireless distributor of care and compassion to what he refers to as his “family of the street.” While I have only had a brief opportunity to work personally with him on the United Way of Greater Victoria “mental health and addictions” impact council, he is ubiquitous. From his management at Open Door, Our Place, and now the Victoria Dandelion Society, he provides both leadership and direct services at the edge. There is hardly a more inspirational photograph to me than that of Reverend Al dispensing hot coffee, at the crack of dawn, to someone who has spent the night trying to sleep or shelter in a downtown doorway. The descriptor “walk the talk” could have been coined for him.

Each recipient of the award also received $5,000 in unrestricted funding for a project of their choosing. I know however they spend the funds, the community will be the ultimate beneficiary.

Andrew Beckerman has lived in Victoria for almost 11 years. He has been an active volunteer and board member with AIDS Vancouver Island, the Pacific AIDS Network and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. He and his dog Jessie are regular front–desk greeters for those served by AIDS Vancouver Island. As a fund holder with the Victoria Foundation, Andrew provides generous support to many organizations in the Capital Region.