BROCKVILLE & KINGSTON: Each year, the YMCA of Eastern Ontario, together with YMCAs across Canada, will celebrate peace in our communities and reflect on the peace-building work that happens all year both inside and outside the YMCA.
There are many individuals whose work goes often without notice – people who are actively engaged in building the Canada we want. This year’s recipients are Krista Casnig of Kingston, and Jane Hess of Brockville.
“My team and I have been very moved at the dedication demonstrated by Krista and Jane to making our communities the kind of place where people want to live,” said Rob Adams, CEO, YMCA of Eastern Ontario. “All of the nominees have touched the lives of so many, and we are delighted to be able to recognize two recipients this year. It is an honour for me to be able to present Krista and Jane with this year’s YMCA Peace Medal. They have inspired us.”
Kingston’s Peace Medal Recipient: Krista Casnig
Krista as been a very active member of the Kingston community for over 20 years. Her own activities, volunteering and events, make up the greater amount of time in her life. For 20 years, she has given out toys to kids at Halloween; for 18 years she has hosted large, free, private gatherings with home-cooked food and general life supports at her home for international students and locals called the Sunday Dinner Crew, again: for 15 years, she has hosted large, free, semi-public gatherings at parks called the Emergency Meeting of the Barbecue Committee, integrating students with locals, visitors to the city and even hospital patients.
For about ten years, she volunteered at Operation Red Nose and the Salvation Army Christmas kettles. When COVID-19 arrived, she dedicated her time to making masks, supplying food and helping ease the isolation, loneliness, depression and anxieties of everyone, including complete strangers, even delivering badly-needed toys and distractions to kids for Easter, while the kids were in lockdown. She hosted regular safe tobogganing and pickup volleyball events complete with snacks, water and hot chocolate for the public to safely socialize outdoors when gathering limits were small and isolation was doing socio-psychological harm. She helps newcomers and refugees adapt to life here, even offering support in the various needs, processes and bureaucracies. During all this time, she counselled the lonely, the sick, the heartbroken, the desperate, and those suffering from cancer and addiction, night and day, as was needed even more often after covid began.
Krista said,” The peace award stands for everything my husband and I have spent the last 20 years trying to build: peace, inclusion, fairness and cooperation among people from all walks of life. These values are even more important now than ever before, because we are all suffering due to the Covid pandemic and the distinct political division that anxiety, depression and a loss of control tend to bring… It is so important that we keep reminding each other and ourselves that we belong together… and the more we interact positively with a common goal, the less we will be disparate individuals, and the more we can belong, all of us, to something good.”
Brockville’s Peace Medal Recipient: Jane Hess
Jane has worked at the Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark District Health Unit for 30 years, becoming director of the senior leadership team in 2001, and adding the Chief Nursing Officer designation in 2012.
She played a key role, as chief nursing officer, in the designation of the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit as a “Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Best Practice Spotlight Organization” – one of the first health units in Ontario to achieve this designation.
Jane represented the health unit provincially through the Ontario Association of Public Health Nursing Leaders and the Chief Nursing Officers of Ontario. She formed the nursing practice council and guided it to improve nursing practice. As a lifelong learner and educator, Jane worked with nursing educational institutions to provide public health placements, and served as the chair of the Health Science Advisory Committee at St. Lawrence College, Brockville Campus.
Developing partnerships was central to Jane’s success in moving public health initiatives forward. She is articulate about, and respectful of, the role other organizations play in many initiatives. Jane served in the liaison role on the Health Unit Incident Management Committee and as such played many roles with partners throughout the Covid-19 pandemic from supporting the assessment centers, case and contact management and the Covid-19 Vaccination Program. The excellent rates for the Brockville area are evidence of this partnership success.
Jane collaborated with three other agency leaders to found the Every Kid in our Communities coalition. The coalition helps build resiliency and promote the safe and healthy development of children and youth in Leeds-Grenville. Every Kid has grown in membership to over 35 agencies, organizations, and individuals.
Every Kid has led a number of collaborative initiatives that include: a common approach to parenting support for agencies in Leeds-Grenville (Triple P); providing community agency support at all Leeds-Grenville schools for parents of children entering kindergarten; engaging in planning to ensure that families have easier access to the services they need; working to increase access to leisure and recreation; finding resources and providing coordinated youth mental health and wellness services in North Grenville; developing a community youth engagement strategy, advocating for initiatives such as full day Kindergarten among other initiatives.
Jane is also past board member of Brockville General Hospital, and Developmental Services of Leeds and Grenville, and is a member of the Lanark Planning Council for Children and Youth.
“The five components of peace represent my leadership philosophy as a servant leader and my philosophy of teaching and learning,” said Jane Hess. “My receipt of this medal has only been made possible by the support and work of so many that I have had the pleasure and privilege of knowing and working with over my lifetime. In reflection, I have always been mentored by peacemakers who encouraged me to participate in my community, who always listened to my wild and crazy ideas…, who I saw making positive changes…, who help me see the benefits and rewards of building positive relationships… regardless of status or income, who fostered peace in me and allowed me to gain the tools and skills to succeed. If not for this mentoring, I wouldn’t be standing here today honoured to receive the Peace Medal from the YMCA of Eastern Ontario.”
About the YMCA of Eastern Ontario
The YMCA of Eastern Ontario is a charity that provides programs and services to improve health and health outcomes, develops leaders, helps build social connections and provide safe, inclusive spaces for people of all ages. The Y is Canada’s largest provider of childcare with trademarked curricula and offers youth recreation, fitness classes, personal training, swim lessons and many other programs including Karate and Total Life Care – specialized programming for individuals with chronic conditions.
For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Director, Marketing and Communications
YMCA of Eastern Ontario