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2024 Cornerstone Mentor Award - Brenda Snider Belleville Chamber of Commerce - 160th President's Dinner Celebration

The MENTOR award will be presented to a Chamber member who, through their daily work, intentionally or not, helps develop others with their leadership and guidance.

To Brenda Snider, Executive Director of Volunteer + Information Centre of Hastings and Prince Edward for the past 15 years, mentoring others is a simple matter of paying it forward – giving to others exactly what she has been fortunate enough to received herself.

“Everyone has mentors,” she says. “I have had so many mentors in my life. And all I have done is given back to other people the same way my mentors gave to me.”

“I don’t look at myself as a mentor, I look at the fact it is important to me that people succeed,” she says. “So if that is mentorship I guess that is what I am doing.”

Born and raised in Prince Edward County, Brenda worked for Bata Footwear when she moved to Belleville after she married Jim in 1986. She gave birth to her daughter Taylor in 1990 and at that point decided to stay home to raise her daughter and just over four years later her son, Logen.

That eventually led her to the parent council at VP Carswell Public School where through a series of activities – notably raising money to send every student at the school to a show at the Stirling Theatre -- she discovered she had a knack for fundraising.

“We started with the theatre trips but then the teachers began coming to us because they needed new books and new TVs and new VCRs and new playground equipment,” Brenda recalls. “We ran all kinds of events: we sold cookie dough, we ran craft shows, we did everything we needed to do to raise that money.

“It became pretty evident pretty fast that I had the ability to raise money.”

One of the women Brenda raised money with at the time worked for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and her husband was being posted out west. She told Brenda there was an opening coming up with CNIB as an events co-ordinator.

“I put my resume in and lo and behold I got the job,” she says, starting in 2000 as events co-ordinator before moving up into the fund development role.

She worked for Louise McGilly, her district manager and first real mentor.

“She used to drag me out to every meeting known to man,” Brenda recalls. “Radio interviews and all kinds of things. And I’m thinking I’ve got all these jobs I’ve got to get done.

“Little did I know that she was mentoring me.”

In 2005 CNIB pulled its offices out of Belleville and moved them to Kingston. Since Brenda wasn’t about to add a two-hour-a-day commute to her schedule, she took the buyout and remained in Belleville.

The offers started the next day.

“I always talk about networking, and this is one of the reasons why,” she says. “I had multiple job offers because I had met so many people from having gone to so many events and they knew I had become available.”

One of the offers was from what was then known as Volunteer Information Quinte. She was hired as manager of volunteer services.

“Volunteer management was really where my heart was,” she says. “I wanted to make sure everyone had a place and just putting them somewhere for the reason of putting them somewhere didn’t work for me.

“So when I came (to VIQ) we changed everything around so that it became a volunteer centre for volunteers not for agencies. And as time went on the agencies realized that that works because the volunteers we are sending them want to be there.”

Brenda recalls one the people she worked with early in her time at VIQ was Patti MacDougall of Papa John’s Pizza. She said the fundamental goal was to get to know what Patti wanted and needed and then to help her get there.

Patti is this year’s Cornerstone Award winner for Citizenship, a path that she says started with her meeting with Brenda.

Another time, Brenda recalls, she interviewed a woman who wanted to volunteer but was convinced no one would want her. Her only work experience had been working in an office before computers, where her primary task was filing.

“VON (Victorian Order of Nurses) had an office full of files that needed to be sorted, organized and filed correctly. So I matched her,” Brenda recalls. “About two and a half months later she phones me and says ‘Oh Brenda, I’ve found my purpose.’

“The feeling knowing that I gave her something… she had a hole in her heart and we helped her fill it.  Making that difference in people’s lives, that is really the motivation behind doing what we are doing.”

In the process of making a difference in the lives of volunteers, though, Brenda has also made a significant difference in the lives of the people she works with and who work for her.

She tells stories of both employees and volunteers – especially young people – who have gone on to achieve significant levels of success only to come back to give her credit.

But it’s not credit she takes particularly easily. Even this award – along with previous awards she has received – don’t sit easily on her shoulders.

“Egos are not something I am big on,” she says. “I have been incredibly blessed in my career and I have been recognized in my career. Not something I am particularly comfortable with.  But I appreciate it greatly.”

In previous years, Brenda has been recognized as The Intelligencer Remarkable Woman of the Year, the Connie Carson Community Champion and the Mike Letwin Award for Board Leadership.

She recalls that when she heard she was receiving the Cornerstone Award, she said to Tracy Legault-Davis, who was at that time Manager of Community Programs & Communications, that  “’I don’t understand this.’ And she said ‘You have mentored us all.’

“It may go back to the people I worked with. I have had excellent people I have worked with. And the people who made the biggest difference in my life are the people that supported me and I learned from.

“I think you learn something every day. And if you aren’t willing to teach others and stand up for others… then what are you doing?”

Brenda stresses that mentoring can be many different things to many different people from showing them how to do things to being there for them, advocating for them, and giving them a sense of purpose.

She says when it comes to working with staff, it’s about building and strengthening, it’s about making a difference and it’s about supporting.

“It’s about having your staffs’ backs,” she says. “Louise McGilly said to me years ago, ‘You are going to make mistakes. All I want to know is when you do. That way I know what is coming at me and I can have your back.’

“So that is how I worked with these guys.”

Brenda says it doesn’t hurt that her job working with volunteers has neatly combined with her passion from volunteering.

She notes that working in this industry has given her a better understanding of the bigger picture and given her greater empathy for people who sometimes struggle, who may be different that others, who may need a little more understanding or just a little more effort.

“Being involved in this world and working in the volunteer sector has shaped who I am and how I approach people and the importance of working together to get things done,” she says.

“It’s the respect and giving and caring and wanting to make a difference. Not turning a blind eye to things that are going on. People want to do well. They want to make a difference and I think it is our job to help them make that difference.

“My path in life has led me to a passion.”

One of the greatest places her path took her, she says, was to the Change the World Youth Challenge which VIQ ran from 2008-1016.

The program encouraged young people to volunteer in a wide range of areas and introduced them to the concept that they could have a meaningful difference on their community and ultimately the world.

“Change the World Youth Challenge was one of the greatest things ever out there” she says. “We watched a lot of kids really soar.  We had thousands of youth and they were collecting food, baby food, cleanups in the community, they were making a difference. It was an amazing program for sure.

“I watch all these youth and I listen to people talk about our youth and it really bothers me because I can tell you that in my career of 20 plus years we have some incredible individuals.”

Some of those kids have since reached out to Brenda to tell her how she inspired them, motivated them… even mentored them.

“I was working with kids some of whom have reached out to tell me about the impact that I had on their lives,” she says. “And I had no idea.

“The students I’ve worked with, the staff I’ve worked with…they say the same thing, ‘Oh I’ve learned so much from you.’ I am just trying to help them do the best they can, be the best they can be. I am just grateful I get to be a part of it.”


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Esso Chamber
Papa Johns Pizza Member Offer- 25% off
Be Prepared First Aid Traning - 15% off
Dinkle,s Restaurant - 10% OFF
Body Systems Nutrition - 15% OFF purchases.
Cloud Bookkeeping Services - 10% OFF
Superior Propane - Save 5% on fixed price propane
Allen Insurance - Exclusive Chamber Member Rates
Jesan Property Maintenance - SAVE 10%
Papa Johns Pizza Member Offer- 25% off
Esso Chamber
Body Systems Nutrition - 15% OFF purchases.
Jesan Property Maintenance - SAVE 10%
Dinkle,s Restaurant - 10% OFF
Parsons Cleaners Member offer - 10% OFF
Allen Insurance - Exclusive Chamber Member Rates
Superior Propane - Save 5% on fixed price propane
Be Prepared First Aid Traning - 15% off
Cloud Bookkeeping Services - 10% OFF
NRG Alternatives - 10% Discount