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Tonya Verburg - Ray of Hope

Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your organization?

Tonya Verburg, CEO of Ray of Hope, leads a diverse organization with four main program areas: Youth Justice Service, Employment services, Youth Support services, and Community Center services, all focusing on specific populations in Waterloo region. The youth justice program offers secure custody for male youth who are sentenced to reside in their facility, while the integration program supports youth in custodial settings or on probation, reintegrating back into the community. The employment program offers six weeks of education and 20 weeks of paid placement for youth experiencing barriers. The Youth Support program has three branches, including a day treatment program, a community support program, and a residential program. The community center program has shown the most growth, providing three meals a day to up to 300 people every day. Ray of Hope also has a unique marketplace program where they give people points to shop for their own food, encouraging them to make their own choices. The agency's vision and mission are to empower people and provide them with resources to help them achieve their goals.

What drew you to Ray of hope originally? And how has Ray of hope changed since?

Tonya was drawn to the organization because of her desire for new challenges, opportunities, and to merge her faith with her leadership experience. The organization's diverse work and unpredictability appealed to her. Since joining Ray of Hope, the organization has undergone significant changes, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization added programs to provide access to food and safe places for people. Ray of Hope is currently in the process of being accredited through the Canadian Center for Accreditation. The organization's focus has also shifted towards identifying areas where they can be experts and provide quality services to the community.

What do you like most about Ray of Hope?

Tonya has a deep appreciation for the people involved in the organization. This includes not only the individuals and families that Ray of Hope supports, but also the staff, volunteers, donors, and supporters who make the organization possible. With over 150 staff members and more than 2,000 volunteers, Tonya enjoys the diversity of people she gets to interact with on a daily basis. She finds it rewarding to provide support for hundreds of people every year and to work alongside such a dedicated group of individuals. Tonya is also passionate about Ray of Hope's mission to demonstrate the love of Christ and feels fulfilled when the organization is able to fulfill its values and action statements. Overall, Tonya credits the people involved with Ray of Hope for keeping her motivated and inspired.

Can you tell us what your role is with the OHT?

Tonya is a member of the Ontario Health Team and has been involved with the Homelessness and PH committee since the team's inception. Her role in the committee involves advocating for the needs of youth who face addictions and mental health challenges, which aligns with the community center's Youth Support program. Tonya recognizes the importance of being a strong advocate and voice for the people they support.

How does your organization align with the values and goals of the OHT?

Tonya stated that Ray of Hope has a unique position with their faith component but serves everyone regardless of their faith. The organization aligns with the values and goals of the Ontario Health Team in providing inclusive and empowering services that focus on the whole person, not just their symptoms or illness. Both the OHT and Ray of Hope share the same mission of supporting people in the best way possible to empower them to be healthy, with the understanding that "healthy" means different things to different people. Tonya believes that working together is the only way to achieve this goal due to the broad spectrum of wellness and health and the various ways people offer services.

What do you hope to see in the near future with your continued partnership with the OHT?

Tonya hopes to see a greater focus on youth. Although there are other partners that also focus on youth, she believes it is important to ensure all voices are heard and to do the best for the people they support in KW4. Overall, she hopes to see collaboration and advocacy for those in need in the community.


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