Meet the 2022 Invisible Champions

On Friday, April 29, fifteen people and five organizations were recognized with Invisible Champion Awards at the second annual Community Impact Sector Day of Recognition. Hosted by CBC Radio host Portia Clark, the event featured artists and performers from across Nova Scotia and stories of work happening across the sector. The Honourable Barbara Adams also joined, to deliver a proclamation from the Province of Nova Scotia, received by LOVE participant Dylan Young.

The Invisible Champion Awards are made possible by United Way and the Bhayana Family Foundation. They recognize the unsung heroes of the nonprofit sector who go above and beyond. As usual, this year’s winners were a really exceptional group of people and organizations, who don’t do it for the glory. They do it for their neighbours and community members. And in each case, they make life better for a whole lot of people in our province.

Here are the 2022 Invisible Champions:

Abigail Collins
Family Intensive Case Manager and Live-In Support at Phoenix Youth

Abigail is an incredible listener, advocate and problem solver. She always looks out for her clients first and foremost. Abigail is dedicated to diversity and inclusion and is an outstanding advocate and ally for her racialized and LGBTQIA+ colleagues. She is also a firm believer in positive change in the workplace and the sector.

Belinda LeBlanc
Launch Atlantic Team Lead at YWCA Halifax

In 2020, YWCA expanded their Halifax-based Launch employment program to a much larger Atlantic-wide initiative. Belinda led this expansion with her strong relationship-building skills, graciousness and adaptability. Most importantly, her leadership impacted 66 employees in one year, giving marginalized women and gender-diverse access to employment opportunities and new skills.

Colter Simmonds
Founder & CEO at We Will Win Youth

For over 20 years, African Nova Scotian youth have had the opportunity to succeed in school, life and sports, thanks to the dedication of Colter Simmonds. Colter is a consistent advocate for all African Nova Scotian communities. He inspires his staff, his athletes and their parents to make their voice heard and promote positivity.

Debra Paris Perry
Peer Outreach Worker at YWCA Halifax

Debra takes her role as Peer Outreach Worker very seriously. She makes herself available 24 hours a day, acknowledging that you can’t schedule when someone might need help. She considers it her job to be family for the victims and survivors, helping them through some of the most difficult times in their lives.  In addition, as a proud Black and Indigenous woman, Debra courageously speaks up when something is not right, and challenges YWCA to do better every day.

Donna Poirier
Senior Trustee at Shelter Nova Scotia

Donna has worked for Shelter Nova Scotia and its predecessor for 39 years, serving hundreds of clients in that time. She contributed to the development and growth of the Community Trustee program over the past 15 years, and currently serves 150 clients. Donna is a compassionate and empathetic listener and has built long-standing relationships with many clients over the years.

Elizabeth Chute
Rider and Volunteer Care Coordinator/Primary Dispatcher at Sou’West Nova Transit

Elizabeth is diligent about making sure the essential trips her low-income clients need happen and are a positive experience for both clients and drivers. But it’s her flexibility and attention to detail that makes her efforts truly amazing. Elizabeth understands that Sou’West Nova Transit is about more than getting people to their destination – it’s about building relationships and keeping people connected to their community and supports.

Greg Martell
Chief Thankfulness Officer at Soul’s Harbour Rescue Mission

Greg’s positive attitude and cheerful demeanor have a huge impact on everyone at Soul’s Harbour. For much of the pandemic, Soul’s Harbour regular meals moved to takeout, and Greg was the familiar face that served hundreds of meals each day. Greg is very well loved and typically would not be the kind of person to seek out recognition – truly an invisible champion.

Kaleigh Smith
Abundance Program Coordinator at Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia

Kaleigh runs The Abundance Program, which gives marginalized individuals opportunities to build confidence to continue their employment and educational journeys. She uses creativity to improve the programming for the women she serves, despite limited funds. She is also an incredible champion for systemic change. Kaleigh has advocated on behalf of her clients to ensure other healthcare professionals to treat them with dignity and respect, and she always provides productive, non-judgmental support.

Krista Watts
Supervisor at Metro Community Housing Association

 In 2021, Krista built and opened a small-options care home for people with complex healthcare needs. Krista has already made huge improvements in the quality of life of the clients she serves, improving access to medical care and advocating for their needs.  In addition, Krista has gone to great lengths to ensure the service her team provides is inclusive and welcoming to gender diverse and queer clients, creating a culture of openness and acceptance.

Laurel Taylor
Team Lead – Project Hope at Canadian Mental Health Association

Laurel’s dedication to addressing homelessness in rural Western Zone is nothing short of amazing. Without her advocacy, many people might have had to sleep rough, without adequate access to resources during the pandemic. In addition to the supportive housing programs Laurel developed, she pursued additional funding for a shelter and hotel rooms when shelter spaces were full. Laurel is also a persistent advocate for accessibility, including mental health and stigma with accessing services.

Lori Edgar
Director of Operations at Affirmative Ventures

Affirmative Ventures were able to weather the most difficult parts of the pandemic thanks to Lori’s longer-term vision and planning. Adapting their business model and taking care of housing tenants with safety in mind ensured that everyone who needed it was well-supported. Lori puts her heart into her work, often using personal time to make sure clients have a clean, welcoming home where they can heal.

Marg MacIntosh
Office Coordinator at CHAD Transit

Her title may say Office Coordinator, but really, Marg does a whole lot more for CHAD Transit. She was instrumental in launching Pictou County Transit, even obtaining her Class 4 license so she can pitch in as needed. She helped launch the Inclusion Bus and runs the Sunday Drives program, which takes isolated seniors on sightseeing tours. On top of all this, Marg is a compassionate person who does everything she can to make sure clients have access to transportation.

Preston Simmonds
YMCA of Halifax/Dartmouth

Preston is a valued staff member of the Community Y who is known for going above and beyond. He develops and delivers a program four times per year that brings together youth to learn life skills they will use in the future. The youth have an excellent rapport with Preston, and he has excelled in recruiting more youth to his programs. In addition, Preston played an important role in developing a temporary women’s shelter, and he ensured $25,000 in grocery store gift cards were distributed to low-income community members during summer 2020.

Rob Casey
Program Coordinator, Career Link at TEAM Work Cooperative

Rob supports people with barriers to employment to help match them with an employer. He spends time getting to know clients, understanding their skills and abilities and what area they would like to work in. He’s also constantly networking with employers, helping them understand the benefits of hiring inclusively and supporting the client to be successful in their new role. Rob is cheerful and enthusiastic about his work and does everything he can to make sure barriers don’t stand in the way of employment.

Shaleen Jones
Executive Director at Eating Disorders Nova Scotia

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shaleen has worked tirelessly to address the additional need for support for those impacted by eating disorders. Her goal is to ensure that no one faces an eating disorder alone. By adapting and growing her team, she’s been able to ensure that care is accessible regardless of income, location, insurance coverage, or background. Recently she worked with researchers at MSVU to develop the “Safe, Seen, Supported” project, which shed light on eating disorder experiences in communities of sexual and gender diversity.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pictou County

When COVID-19 hit their community, Big Brothers Big Sisters knew they had to pivot to meet the critical needs like food support and connectivity. The organization used their own funds to provide tablets and internet access for clients, so they could continue building their mentor relationships. The mentorship that a Big Sister or Brother provides to a Little Brother or Sister is often life-changing, and BBBS of Pictou County did everything they could to ensure that important connection continued.

DASC – Dartmouth Adult Services Centre

The COVID-19 pandemic was extra hard on DASC program participants, who have intellectual disabilities. The DASC staff team reached out to all clients, to understand what resources they had available and sourced devices and internet connections. They then redesigned programs to meet individual needs – even going so far as to learn sign language and build sensory cards for clients. They delivered activity kits and customized instructions to homes, hosted parties, dances, yoga and more online, and virtual tours of places from around the world.

New Dawn Meals on Wheels/A Better Bite Community Kitchen

When the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Dawn was quick to change to ensure clients had access to healthy, nutritious meals. They adapted their Good Food Bus program to a Good Food Packs program. In addition, they opened A Better Bite Café. The social enterprise has a focus on providing healthy, nutritious food to Meals on Wheels clients, catering to community and business events, and providing educational food workshops and programming for members of the community.

Our Health Centre

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Our Health Centre has worked to adapt and ensure that they’re meeting the specific needs of their community. Through programs like Community Check-In, THRIVE mental health walk-in clinic and Community Vaccination Promotion, they are able to connect with patients and community members and empower them. Their outreach has ensured vulnerable seniors are able to access important resources. In addition, the mental health clinic is a much-needed resource in an area where mental health services are typically difficult to access.

Shelter Movers

Women and children escaping gender based or intimate partner violence are facing some of the most difficult times in their life. With the support of Shelter Movers, they can have peace of mind knowing that their belongings can be packed and moved safely, so they can quickly escape their abuser. Shelter Movers partner with community organizations and shelters, police and security, to ensure every move is done safely. They also adapted during the height of the COVID-19 shutdown to ensure every person referred to them received support.


We’re so proud of all of our Invisible Champion Winners, for everything they do for our community. The work they do is a demonstration of the talent, dedication and compassion of the community impact sector in Nova Scotia.