2023 Annual Report
Celebrating 50 Years of Inclusion: 1973-2023
Reena is a non-profit organization that promotes dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth, and community inclusion for people with diverse abilities within a framework of Jewish culture and values.
As a community-based organization, our values are rooted in a framework of Judaic principles. Within this framework, Reena recognizes the importance of providing support to individuals of all faiths to enable them to remain connected to their roots, culture and heritage.
Our values are CLEAR:
Care – Chesed VeTzedek – Compassion and Justice
Leadership – Tikun Olam – Repair the World
Empowerment – V’ahavta L’reacha Kamocha – Value Others as You Value Yourself
Accessibility – Lifnei Iver Lo Teeten Michshol – Remove Barriers
Respect – Kvod Habriyot – Honour Our Humanity
Reena at a Glance
Reena Community Services Canada
Supports alignment and efficient operation across the Reena group of charities.
Provides inclusion and personal support services.
Raises and distributes funds to support Reena and Batay Reena.
Develops and manages properties for Reena.
Letter From Executives
Dear Reena Friends and Family,
As we enter the next chapter in Reena’s journey, we are honoured to be celebrating a remarkable milestone: 50 years of inclusion, compassion, joy and family. It is an occasion that fills our hearts with gratitude for the ongoing support that has shaped Reena into the organization it is today.
As we reflect on the past 50 years, we are reminded of the many challenges we have overcome and the triumphs we have achieved. Throughout our journey, we have remained committed to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities and mental health challenges, addressing the ongoing struggles they face, and fostering a more inclusive society. We extend our deepest appreciation to our direct support staff, supervisors and managers for their commitment, professionalism and resilience. This year, we honoured the 130 staff who served for 18 (Chai) or more years. We also extend our heartfelt gratitude to our many stakeholders and generous donors who have stood by us, enabling us to forge ahead and make a difference in the lives of those we serve. Your support has been the driving force behind our achievements, and we are grateful for your partnership.
This year was monumental for Reena. We expanded housing options, strengthened mental health services, added innovative programs and advocated for improved access to healthcare and employment opportunities. At the same time, we are acutely aware that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done. The challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and mental health challenges are great. Issues such as lack of affordable housing and limited access to healthcare, employment training and social engagement continue to demand our attention and action. As we embark on the next phase of Reena’s journey, we invite you to join us. We encourage you to share your stories, memories and experiences that have shaped Reena’s growth over the past five decades. We invite you to initiate an act of inclusion or to write to your member of government with your concerns regarding the shortage of affordable housing.
We extend our deepest gratitude to the families for their trust, patience and understanding throughout this remarkable journey. Your partnership has been instrumental in shaping Reena’s success, and we are honoured to have you as part of our extended family.
In June, we renamed the Reena Community Residence as the Sandy Keshen Reena Residence. We were reminded that Sandy often quoted Hillel’s inspirational words, making them Reena’s unofficial motto:
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
Through our collaborative efforts, we will continue to strengthen the bonds within our community and work towards our shared vision of a more inclusive and compassionate world. Here’s to 50 incredible years and an even brighter future ahead.
Wendy Bellack Viner – Reena
Marnie Silver Nelson – Reena Foundation
Harold Seidel – Batay Reena
Bryan Keshen – CEO | Sandy Stemp – COO | Viji Hariharan – CFO | Sheila Lampert – Executive Director, Reena Foundation
We Are Reena
Serving individuals with autism, mental health challenges and other developmental disabilities for 50 years
- The 4th largest service provider in Ontario
- The 2nd largest provider of care beds in the Jewish community after Baycrest
- Provides housing, programs and respite services to over 1,000 individuals
- An operating budget in excess of $67 million
- Over 800 employees
- Volunteers contributed 730 service hours in the last year, supporting Reena programs and individuals
- Helping individuals secure employment in the community through job placement and coaching
Reena By the Numbers
Providing specialized care in over 32 homes and over 135 Supported Independent Living beds.
Exciting Developments are in Store
Current Intentional Communities:
What is an Intentional Community?
Intentional Communities are person-centred settings offering a safe, inclusive, diverse and welcoming space, with respectful collaborations for people who share life together in a supportive environment. Reena and/or partner agencies are dedicated to creating a stigma-free community and inclusion among tenants, staff and volunteers.
Sandy Keshen Reena Residence
The Reena Community Residence, recently renamed Sandy Keshen Reena Residence after Reena’s first and long-serving President and CEO, is a leading model of integrated housing and support services for adults with disabilities in North America – an environment where people come together to live a meaningful life, connected to their families, friends and neighbours. Located on the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus in Vaughan, this residence personifies inclusion, not only as one of Reena’s core values but also as a core practice.
Serving adults and seniors with a range of special needs such as developmental, physical and/or mental health, the residence is an Intentional Community; a creative response to community needs. Tenants are asked to commit to a social vision that emphasizes the importance of living and sharing life together.
LOU FRUITMAN REENA RESIDENCE
Opened in 2021 and modelled on the success of the Keshen Residence, the Lou Fruitman Reena Residence is a housing project in Thornhill. The residence’s tenants and support agencies are committed to creating an intentional and inclusive environment – while elements and units may be led or dedicated to servicing a subset of tenants, all are part of one community. This approach is intended to reduce stigma and separation among tenants and the staff and volunteers who share in their lives.
The Fruitman Residence has 79 units and 138 beds over six floors, including the Azrieli Hub – a floor dedicated to programming spaces. The facility provides accessibility with 24/7 resources and increased supports for mental health.
What’s Next: Projects in Development
Frankfort Family Reena Residence (In Development)
Like the Sandy Keshen and Lou Fruitman Reena Residences, the Frankfort Family Reena Residence will be an intentional community. This housing model enhances the quality of life while saving Ontario millions of dollars. The building will include specialized units, such as those designed for complex healthcare, independent or shared living arrangements, and spaces designed to serve people with mental health challenges. It will also include many amenities such as programming spaces, overnight respite, a gymnasium, garden and underground parking.
Tansley Group Home
Plans are in place to build a group home on Tansley Road, directly behind the Fruitman Residence in Thornhill. The home will serve individuals with challenging behaviours, and will be modelled on our Kerrybrook group home in Richmond Hill, which opened in 2016. It reflects Reena’s commitment to supporting individuals who require specialized physical environments that are not found in typical housing. Several of our older group homes were also extensively renovated in 2023 to better serve individuals with complex needs. Through our projects in development, we aim to improve the quality of life and accessibility opportunities for the individuals we support – and help address what Bryan Keshen, the CEO of Reena, describes as the “Moses Syndrome,” a metaphor for the housing crisis and the challenging situation in which parents endure an approximate 40-year wait to secure an affordable, accessible, and supportive home for their adult children.
Housing: Additional Construction And Maintenance
The home renovations undertaken by Reena in 2023 exhibit a significant milestone for the organization. Through the completion of various projects and those currently underway, we are improving the quality of life and accessibility opportunities of the individuals we support and the community at large).
Our future projects, such as the Tansley Dr. Behavioural Group Home and the Frankfort Family Reena Residence Redevelopment, reflect our commitment to expanding our services and meeting the growing affordable housing needs of our community. We express our gratitude to all stakeholders for their continued support, which enables us to realize these important initiatives.
Renovation of Three Existing Group Homes: Reena successfully completed the comprehensive renovation of three group homes. These renovations involved significant upgrades, including electrical systems, roofing, plumbing, insulation, kitchens, bathrooms, and landscaping. The Barksdale and Clifton homes were transformed into specialized behavioural homes, featuring individual bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, program spaces, commercial-grade flooring, specialty wall coverings, window covering protection with integral remotely operated blinds, and energy-efficient LED lighting.
Additionally, the Lowesmoor home was converted into a fully accessible bungalow, complete with a new stone façade, a covered wheelchair ramp, and improved accessibility features.
Projects Under Construction:
Reena’s Crestwood residence is currently undergoing significant upgrades, scheduled for completion before 2024. These upgrades aim to enhance the residence’s facilities and align them with Reena’s high standards.
Renovation of Reena’s Fraserwood Dr. a six-plex Unit: is undergoing major renovations. The three-bedroom apartments within the unit have been fully renovated, with two of them expanded to include four bedrooms, increasing the building’s capacity. Additionally, a new roof has been installed, and the electrical systems are being upgraded to ensure optimal functionality.
Reena’s property department remains dedicated to the ongoing maintenance of all 40 locations under our purview. By prioritizing maintenance activities, we ensure that our facilities are well-maintained, providing a safe and comfortable environment for the individuals we support.
Over the course of our journey at Reena, we have earned a reputation within our sector and community for delivering exceptional, meaningful creative programs to the individuals under our support, both in their residences and throughout the community. Our approach to Community Participation Support represents a departure from traditional day programs that have been prevalent for many decades.
The prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in nearly three years of isolation and confinement for those we support, taking a toll on their mental well-being.
In 2021, our Community Participation department responded to this pressing need by conceptualizing and implementing a fresh, person-centred model for program service delivery. This innovative approach not only aligns with Reena’s Strategic Plan Goals for 2020-2025 but also resonates with the broader framework outlined by the Ministry of Community Children and Social Services (MCCSS) in their “Journey to Belonging” plan.
At its core, this evolved model aims to enhance the quality of life for our individuals while prioritizing their personal preferences when seeking support services.
Reena offers Community Participation programs for different abilities and interests, including excursions, volunteer opportunities, and horticulture, music and physical fitness activities.
Programs at Reena: The New Model
At its core, this evolved model aims to enhance the quality of life for our individuals while prioritizing their personal preferences when seeking support services. This endeavour led to the establishment of a new role: Full-Time Program Facilitator. We subsequently recruited six Program Facilitators who, over the past nine months, have diligently designed and implemented customized programming tailored to the unique needs of each individual, both within their residences and in in-person.
Our Drop-In programs are held at prominent venues such as the Toby and Henry Battle Developmental Centre, Lou Fruitman Reena Residence, Schwartz Reisman Centre, Sandy Keshen Reena Residence, and Beth Sholom Synagogue.
Additionally, we’ve introduced a Fee for Service job coaching support program that currently assists seven individuals in securing paid positions through Channels North and residential placements, with an additional four intakes in progress. Concurrently, we maintain our commitment to initiatives like the “Summer Employment Transition,” Channels North and South referrals, and our residential programs.
The 2023 edition of the Summer Employment Transition program attracted 70 applicants from esteemed educational institutions such as the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) and the York Catholics District School Board (YCDSB), ultimately accepting 56 candidates. As of July 2023, 31 students have successfully transitioned into competitive job placements. Among them, four had pre-existing employment experience prior to the program, receiving supplementary support for job interviews and problem-solving. For the remaining 26 students, comprehensive placement and coaching were administered by a team comprising a supervisor, a coordinator/job coach, and five job coaches. This approach includes a hybrid model to ensure flexibility.
Our Greena – Reena Community Farm initiative continues to flourish, spanning 28 residential locations, a central mega farm, partnerships with seven community neighbourhoods, and the creation of twelve supported individual living balcony sites. This growth has facilitated the summer hiring of nine SET students. Notably, a former SET alumnus maintains his engagement with the farm, while a Channels North program participant and a Sandy Keshen Reena Residence resident have also found roles within the farm. The hydroponic infrastructure yields five revenue-generating kosher crops, predominantly leafy greens. A strategic partnership with La Bruit has been solidified, encompassing produce procurement, employment opportunities, promotional support, and the sustained operation of the Battle Centre. This collaboration welcomes two additional tenants in September under the same framework.
In our steadfast commitment to progress, Reena remains dedicated to accommodating the evolving needs of our individuals ensuring that their life experiences are enriched with diverse opportunities encompassing enrichment activities, volunteer engagement, employment prospects, and innovative combinations tailored to individual preferences. Our journey continues as we endeavour to provide meaningful and transformative experiences for those who entrust Reena with their well-being and development.
Over 1,300 containers at Reena locations and in community organizations grow 2,700+ lbs. of vegetables: eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes. Our Hydroponic Container is capable of producing 432 herbs and 216 leafy greens a week per runway. Two Reena buildings have been generating solar energy for over 10 years, resulting in over $172,500 in revenue. Rainwater from the Lou Fruitman Reena Residence keeps a 40,000-litre reservoir and provides water for 210 containers for the growing season. In 2024, Reena will be benchmarking its garbage, blue bin and green bin collections from Lou Fruitman Reena Residence against at least 10 other multi-residential locations in Vaughan.
Health & Mental Health
Reena recognizes the importance of health and mental well-being in enhancing overall quality of life. On this front, we shed light on the unique needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and highlight Reena’s comprehensive services that prioritize both physical and mental health.
Health and Aging Individuals with Dementia
Over the years, Reena has been proactive in addressing the unique needs of individuals with developmental disabilities who are aging and have dementia. By offering a range of services specifically tailored to individuals with developmental disabilities who are aging and have dementia, Reena demonstrates its commitment to addressing their unique needs and providing a supportive and inclusive environment for them to thrive.
Mental Health Symposium
This year’s Supportive Housing: An Alternative to Institutional Care symposium, moderated by Dr. Marla Shapiro, C.M., was held at Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto. Esteemed speakers included the Hon. Carolyn Bennett; Hon. Michael Tibollo; and Dr. Yona Lunsky.
Supporting Aging Individuals with Dementia and Developmental Disabilities
For the past two decades, Reena has been at the forefront of innovation, leading the way with initiatives such as the Ontario Partnership on Aging and Developmental Disabilities. This partnership has fostered collaboration between the Developmental and Seniors/Long Term Care sectors, enabling us to provide tailored support for individuals with developmental disabilities as they journey through the aging process. By sharing knowledge, encouraging unique models of care, and prioritizing education, we have established ourselves as sector leaders in this crucial area. One specific focus of our work has been on addressing the intersection of dementia and developmental disabilities.
Mental Health Services Provided by Chai-Tikvah
Reena’s mental health arm, Chai-Tikvah, offers self-help groups (Club Simcha) that provide a supportive and uplifting environment for individuals with mental health issues. These groups foster a sense of belonging and understanding, helping individuals gain self-confidence and combat social isolation. Consistent interaction within the safe and close-knit community, this support group helps to combat social isolation and stigma while empowering participants with a sense of possibility and achievement.
Mental Health Residential Service
Reena’s semi-independent residential facility consists of three units that can accommodate up to 8 adults each, at any one time. Staff is on-site three times a week, with backup support from our 24-hour group home. Its goal is to provide the residents with the ability to thrive independently within their community while receiving the necessary staff support (24/ 7). This facility works to support the residents by addressing their recovery and well-being goals.
Reena’s Inaugural Mental Health Symposium – May 18, 2023
Reena, successfully hosted its inaugural mental health symposium, “Supportive Housing: An Alternative to Institutional Care.” The event, held at Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto, featured esteemed speakers including the Hon. Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Mental Health, Hon. Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Dr. Yona Lunsky, Director of the Azrieli Adult Neurodevelopmental Centre at CAMH. Dr. Marla Shapiro C.M. moderated the symposium.
Before the symposium, Reena conducted a press conference at Queen’s Park to provide a preview and context for this significant event. The symposium aimed to address the prevalence of mental health challenges and highlight Reena’s commitment to supporting individuals facing mental health issues through programs, housing, and support services. The organization actively advocates for policy changes and conducts research to improve mental health outcomes.
Reena’s CEO, Bryan Keshen, emphasized the critical role of supportive housing in enhancing the lives of individuals with chronic mental illness during the press conference. He stressed that supportive housing, combined with wrap-around supports, promotes stability, quality of life, and social integration. Reena has been providing exceptional housing and support services for individuals with developmental disabilities, as well as those with physical and mental health challenges, for the past 50 years.
As a recognized leader in the Developmental and Mental Health Sector, Reena takes pride in spearheading conversations and solution-focused actions that promote integration and dignity for individuals with developmental disabilities and mental challenges within their communities.
Reena’s Supported Employment Programs and Services for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities 2023
Reena’s Job Coaching Support Services (fee for service). Our new job coaching support service is geared for those individuals with a developmental disability and/or dual diagnosis who are job ready and looking for paid employment in the competitive job market.
The service offers job seekers 1:1 job coaching support services that include: identifying a suitable career/job path, career exploration, applying for jobs, securing job interviews as well as paid employment in the workforce and 1:1 on site job coaching supports for retention.
Channels Community Participation Program
Channels is a full-service community participation program for independent adults ages 18+ with a developmental disability and/or dual diagnosis. The program offers a variety of social, vocational skills training, recreational, and life skills programs. This is a fee for service program.
Program highlights include volunteering in the community, community outings, special guests and creative programming. There are two locations:
Channels North at the Reena Community Residence
Channels South at the Wolfond Centre
For more information, please contact contact:
Intake Social Worker
(905) 889.2690 x2201 // firstname.lastname@example.org
Reena’s Summer Employment Transition Program (SET)
A partnership with the York District School Board and York Catholic District School Board.
SET is a supported employment program during the summer for high school students identified with a developmental/intellectual disability including Autism. It is designed for students who wish to build their job search/workplace skills and gain paid summer employment in the competitive labour market. Participants are supported by the SET job coaches to secure the job as well as keep it through on-site coaching at the workplace to navigate the challenges of being employed.
SET operates as a hybrid program (in-person and virtual) in the York region including Thornhill, Richmond Hill, Markham and Maple. Participants must be referred by their teacher and be currently enrolled in the YRDSB or the YCDSB.
For more information, contact SET Supervisor, Joanna Samuels, email@example.com
Pathways Community Participation Program
Pathways is a community-based program for adults over 18+ with developmental disabilities and dual diagnosis. The program focuses on fostering independence and building friendships through social and recreational programming, life skills training including volunteering opportunities in the community to build participants’ vocational and job readiness skills. This is a fee-for-service program.
There are two locations:
Pathways North at the Reena Community Residence
Pathways South at the University of Toronto Campus
For more information about our programs contact:
Intake Social Worker
(905) 889.2690 x2201
NEW!!! Reena’s Job Coaching Support Services (fee for service).
Our new job coaching support service is geared toward those individuals with a developmental disability and/or dual diagnosis who are job ready and looking for paid employment in the competitive job market.
The service offers job seekers 1:1 job coaching support services that include: identifying a suitable career/job path, career exploration, applying for jobs, securing job interviews as well as paid employment in the workforce and 1:1 on-site job coaching supports for retention.
After the individual is hired, the job coaching supports continue until the individual is self-sufficient and the job coach can fade out. Further, the job coach will continue to check in to follow up with the individual and employer, problem-solve as required and will be instrumental in helping the individual with career advancement on the job.
For more information, please contact Joanna Samuels, Employment / SET supervisor at firstname.lastname@example.org // (905) 889.6484 ext 2112
If you’re like most individuals, there are moments when you may feel inclined to abandon your job search in pursuit of the next step in your career development. However, it’s crucial to bear in mind that even some of the most renowned and accomplished individuals encountered numerous obstacles and struggled to achieve their professional aspirations. Take Steven Spielberg, for instance, who faced rejection from film school three times. Nevertheless, he refused to let those setbacks deter him and persisted in his applications until he finally gained acceptance.
Allow me to share with you a true account of Sandra Perlstein and her journey to establish her career at Reena, starting as a participant at Channels North. Sandra possessed prior work experience in security companies and various office clerical positions, in addition to obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in Business and Society from York University. Maintaining employment presented challenges for Sandra, but she never lost hope. She enrolled in Channels North, engaging in vocational skills training and programs aimed at fostering social and life skills.
With the guidance and assistance of Channels’ DSP/Job coach, Sandra secured a part-time contract as a Reception Assistant at Reena’s Battle Centre. That was approximately six years ago, back in 2017. Benefiting from invaluable hands-on training, as well as the continuous support from her peers Sandra smoothly transitioned into the workplace. Eventually, she reached a point where she no longer required coaching and became self-sufficient.
Sandra continued to refine her administrative and reception skills, exhibiting a self-directed approach to
learning. She mastered various Reena software applications, such as Avanti, Sharevision, Sharepoint, and Teams, to name a few. In fact, she even contributed her skills to the Reena Community Farm whenever the need arose. Sandra harboured a dream of working as a full-time permanent Administrative Assistant/A receptionist at Reena. Undeterred, she persistently applied for job opportunities both within Reena and externally. She sought assistance from her supervisor in preparing applications and honing her interview skills. Sandra eagerly took on the responsibility of managing the reception area at the Battle Centre on her own, seizing every chance to acquire new office skills. In fact, Sandra was the recipient of the Reena Employee of the Year Award in 2018!
As she honed her administration and reception abilities, gaining confidence in her own capabilities, Sandra applied for the coveted role of a Full-Time Permanent Administrative Assistant/Receptionist at one of Reena’s busiest residences—the LFRR. She bravely entered the competition for this position.
In April 2023, Sandra underwent an interview with James, the LFRR manager, and was ecstatic to receive a job offer starting on April 24, 2023. Congratulations, Sandra! Reflecting on her accomplishment, Sandra remarked:
So, the next time you contemplate giving up or quitting, remember Sandra’s story—a tale of resilience and determination that led her to achieve remarkable success in her life.
“I felt I achieved my goal, and that felt wonderful — a true sense of accomplishment. During my initial meeting with my manager this week, I received positive feedback on my interactions with the residents, which made me even happier. I am extremely proud to be a permanent employee at Reena. I now possess a deeper understanding of the organization on a daily basis, and I genuinely feel like I belong in the workplace and within Reena’s workforce.”
Stay In Touch
Toby & Henry Battle Developmental Centre
927 Clark Avenue West, Thornhill, ON L4J 8G6
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f. (905) 889.3827
315 – 1 Promenade Circle, Thornhill, ON L4J 4P8
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f. (905) 763.8272
To make a gift please contact:
313C – 1 Promenade Circle, Thornhill, ON L4J 4P8
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Social Media – @ReenaFoundation