CORNWALL, Ontario – The Agapè Centre‘s board of directors is excited to announce they have hired Diane Plourde, who defines herself as a collaborator, to lead the organization, beginning Oct. 3.
“I’m very team oriented and I think that with many people you can accomplish great things,” said Plourde. “I’m a believer in building networks.”
Plourde’s vision: to see the Agapè Centre as an agency that collaborates with everyone and is truly meeting the needs of anyone that has food insecurities.
“And maybe that’s in different ways than how it’s being done right now,” she said.
The Cornwallite is the founding Executive Director of Victim Services of SDG&A, and has worked there for the past 11 years. She sites setting up the agency from scratch as one of her biggest challenges and accomplishments to date.
“I started the program from a box of binders and went from two staff members and one program to seven staff members and several programs,” she said.
Plourde says her first undertaking as Executive Director for the local food bank and soup kitchen will be to look to the community for their input.
“I have a vision for the Agapè Centre, but want to make sure it’s aligned with our community’s needs and plan on doing stakeholder consultations and an environmental scan to set an appropriate strategic direction for the agency” said Plourde. “I plan on consulting with all staff members, donors, clients and partner agencies, to see what is being done well, what may be improved, and what are some opportunities for growth.”
Jim Healey, chair of the Agapè Centre’s board of directors, stated that three key factors attracted the interview committee to select Plourde for the position: her proven leadership and experience to lead the next phase of development; she is fluently bilingual; and she has successfully worked collaboratively with other agencies.
“We believe Diane will use her collaborative skills to build relationships in the community as well as with staff and volunteers at the Agapè Centre,” said Healey. “We are excited to begin this new relationship and continue the much needed work in the community.”
Plourde is currently finishing a Master in Philanthropy and Non-Profit Leadership at Carleton University, to complement her undergraduate degree in Psychology.
“At the base of many philanthropic actions is the issue of poverty, so that has opened up my eyes to this area of need.” she said.
Plourde says she was drawn to the position because she has seen the growing needs of people who are food insecure through her work with Victim Services.
“We see it first hand. Sometimes our responders visit the homes. We know that it’s there. Poverty is something that is real and touches upon so many things,” said Plourde. “I think that the Agapè Centre is a vital community service and would like to continue my professional journey by helping the agency reach its full potential.
The centre’s new director wants to look at facilitating connections between clients and partnering agencies to help better meet people’s needs.
“Meeting their needs for food is one thing. Maslow’s hierarchy shows that if you don’t tend to basic needs, if people are worried about eating tomorrow, they’re not going to get help for something they really need help with right now. But if they know that they have access to healthy food, then maybe they’ll feel strong enough, healthy enough to seek additional supports. Can we connect them and help them with that? Make services more accessible? I don’t know but it is worth exploring through consultations with our many stakeholders,” she said.
While the organization’s new leader is not planning on turning the Agapè Centre into an agency that ‘does everything’, she says she does want to explore enhanced collaborations.
Recognizing some of the criticism the charity has incurred over the years, Plourde wants to shed some insight and help change the public’s perspective by hosting an open house in the spring, inviting community members and agencies to see the great work that happens within the centre’s walls.
“I think people would appreciate being able to come in and see the work that goes into maintaining an operation like this. People hear a lot of things, some positive, some negative, some truthful, some less truthful, so I think the community needs the opportunity to come and see the great work that takes place and the demands of maintaining such essential services,” said Plourde. “I think that there’s a whole side of things that needs to be shown or that people don’t see.”
Previously, Diane Plourde spent 13 years at Job Zone d’emploi, and has worked in the field of addictions, probation services and has taught at St. Lawrence College.