Skip to main content

Maura Lawless

Executive Director

Lisa Duplessis

Director, Community Access and Engagement

Jaymie Sampa

Director, Strategic Partnership Initiatives

Curran Stikuts

Director, Public Interest and Community Relations

Maria Martinez

Director, Finance

Karlene Williams-Clarke

Director, Operations (Acting)

Director, Philanthropy

Recruitment opening soon!

Laura Gibbon

Manager, Strategic and Executive Planning

Sharn Peters, RSSW, RECE

Manager, Child and Family Programs

Carl Kannegiesser

Manager, Community Engaged Food Programs

Kay Mehrizi

Manager, Anti-Violence and Support Services

Martha Singh Jennings

Manager, Community Engagement

Jacq Hixson-Vulpe

Manager, Program and Partnership Development

Ash McGhee

Manager, Education and Training

Megan Poole

Manager, Community Relations and Communications

Sebastian Commock

Manager, Legal Initiatives

Andrew Greaves

Manager, Youth Advocacy Programs

Rebecca Hooton

Manager, Sector Capacity Building

Becky McFarlane

Special Advisor

Maura Lawless

Executive Director

Pronouns: She/Her

Bio

Maura Lawless joined The 519 as the Executive Director in 2007 and has since expanded the organization's programs and services, strengthened governance and financial systems, championed organizational development, productive enterprises, and sustainable strategic planning. Together with the leadership team at The 519 and Board, she has positioned the organization as a prominent leading 2SLGBTQ+ community centre advancing important advocacy initiatives and supporting communities and organizations across Canada to focus on equity and justice for 2GBTQ+ communities. Maura has more than 30 years of experience working with marginalized communities, including in frontline, management, and senior leadership positions.
Maura is a committed public servant, joining the City of Toronto in 2003 as the Manager of Hostel Operations where she initiated several important conversations about the systemic challenges facing 2SLGBTQ+ communities experiencing homelessness. Maura continues to be inspired by the creativity and resilience of 2 Spirit, queer, and trans communities in Toronto and around the world and is endlessly inspired by the hard work and dedication of The 519 team in advancing this critical work.

Contact Maura Lawless

MLawless@The519.org

Lisa Duplessis

Director, Community Access and Engagement

Pronouns: She/Her

Bio

As Director, Community Access and Engagement, Lisa manages daily operations and our community access & engagement initiatives. Lisa has worked with The 519 since 2009 when she joined our team in the role of Coordinator, Newcomer and Refugee Services. She was serving as the Director Programs and Community Services at The 519, before taking on her current position.
A resident of the Church-Wellesley Village, Lisa has been a calm and constant voice for equity, contributing immensely to the growth and establishment of key programs and partnerships.

Contact Lisa Duplessis

LDuplessis@The519.org

Jaymie Sampa

Director, Strategic Partnership Initiatives

Bio

Jaymie is a passionate community organizer with a background in Public Health and Physical and Health Education. Having had the privilege of working on Turtle Island and internationally, she walks with over 15 years of experience in learning with, advocating alongside, and building meaningful relationships with people experiencing compounding oppressions and marginalization.
Jaymie is a dancer, singer, actor, and playwright and knows firsthand the powerful medium art presents as a site of radical inclusion. Engaging in active resistance against the erasure of our diverse and complex stories has led her to experience both personal growth and community empowerment. Fun-loving, justice-seeking, and a firm believer in the transformational power of community, Jaymie is thrilled to continue these pursuits with The 519.

Contact Jaymie Sampa

JSampa@The519.org
Portrait of Curran Stikuts

Curran Stikuts

Director, Public Interest and Community Relations

Pronouns: He/Him

Bio

Curran initially joined The 519 in 2016 and has taken up a variety of frontline and management roles across the organization.
He is currently the Director of Public Interest & Community Relations, and leads The 519’s community and stakeholder relations, organizational communications, the Access to Justice Department, and direct legal service initiatives. He works collaboratively with all staff to coordinate The 519’s advocacy work. He is overseeing The 519’s Philanthropy department on an interim basis.
Curran draws on over a decade of experience in stakeholder relations, program development and management, community development, and advocacy work. He has previously worked in the cooperative housing, community health, and community development fields, and on a number of labour and political advocacy campaigns and research projects.
Curran has a BSW from Ryerson University and a Master’s in Labour Studies from McMaster University.

Contact Curran Stikuts

CStikuts@The519.org

Maria Martinez

Director, Finance

Pronouns: She/Her

Bio

Maria has more than 15 years of professional experience leading finance and administration/operations teams. Prior to joining The 519, she worked as Director of Finance at ClickInsight, as well as the Aphasia Institute. Before coming to Canada, she worked on international development projects in Peru.
Maria holds an MBA, a Master in Global Management, a post-graduate certificate in Global Business Management, and a Bachelor’s degree in Business. She volunteers at the Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples and serves on the board of the Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto (MNLCT).
Maria is fluent in three languages (soon to be four), is a lifelong learner, and an avid reader. She loves art and in her spare time, she does all kinds of crafts. She enjoys hiking with her dog Chola and spending time in nature with her family.

Contact Maria Martinez

MMartinez@The519.org

Karlene Williams-Clarke

Director, Operations (Acting)

Pronouns: She/Her

Bio

Karlene oversees the smooth function of our Community Access and Engagement team, ensuring that community members get the support and information they need about The 519 while interacting with our Front Desk staff. She also oversees facilities.
Karlene has been a part of The 519 since 2010, previously serving as Coordinator, LGBTQ+ Newcomer Community Services, and Manager of Direct Services overseeing the expansion of the centre’s refugee support program, and Supervisor of Operations and Community Relations, before taking on her current role.
A fierce advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ human rights, Karlene has rallied for our communities for more than 18 years both internationally as well as in Canada. She has several accolades to her name, including being the 2013 Pioneers for Change – LGBTQ+ Initiative honouree, recipient of The Bonham Centre Award - 2018, and recipient of the Inspiring Women's Award from Inspire Awards - 2019. She is also a board member of Rainbow Railroad.

Contact Karlene Williams-Clarke

KWilliamsClarke@The519.org
Photo of flag with text An Army of Lovers on the front facade of The 519 building

Director, Philanthropy

Recruitment opening soon!

For any philanthropic matters, get in contact with:

Curran Stikuts (he/him)
Director, Public Interest & Community Relations
CStikuts@The519.org

Laura Gibbon

Manager, Strategic and Executive Planning

Pronouns: She/Her

Bio

Laura joined The 519 in 2014 and has taken up a variety of roles across the organization since then, most significantly, overseeing the Education and Training department for 5 years.
Currently, she is the Manager, Strategic and Executive Planning where she is responsible for agency-wide planning and coordination in a range of areas including strategic planning, organizational policy and planning, information access and privacy, as well as providing leadership in secretariat services to The 519 Board of Management.

Contact Laura Gibbon

LGibbon@The519.org

Sharn Peters, RSSW, RECE

Manager, Child and Family Programs

Pronouns: She/Her

Bio

Sharn is a collaborative professional with 26+ years of experience in child and family services. As the Manager of Child and Family Programs, Sharn leads The 519's EarlyON and Glitterbug programs. As a Registered Early Childhood Educator and Registered Social Service Worker, Sharn is passionate about equity and systems change.
Sharn is always striving to create intellectual environments for families to grow and thrive, and she draws on her passion for inclusion to develop welcoming spaces that affirm the lived experiences of diverse 2SLGBTQ+ communities and families.
Sharn credits her commitment to building affirming spaces to her lived experience as a descendant of the African diaspora and knowledge gained from communities through positions she held at Native Child and Family Services, the Peel District School Board and Children Services - The City of Toronto, prior to working at The 519.
Sharn has been honoured to receive field education awards from Ryerson University and York University in recognition for her work as a committed mentor to new and emerging social services professionals.

Contact Sharn Peters, RSSW, RECE

SPeters@The519.org

Carl Kannegiesser

Manager, Community Engaged Food Programs

Bio

Carl has been with The 519 for over 5 years. He joined the team as a part-time server, and has held many roles within FABARNAK during his time here. Carl has 19 years of experience in customer service and a lifelong desire for social justice. Working at The 519 allows him to utilize his skills and fulfill his passion.
He loves the busy pace and dynamic schedule that his role requires and has a definite skill for organization and event planning. However, he finds the most pride and enjoyment in being able to support the numerous essential programs and services offered by The 519.

Contact Carl Kannegiesser

CKannegiesser@The519.org

Kay Mehrizi

Manager, Anti-Violence and Support Services

Bio

Kay is an intersectional feminist and social justice advocate with a background in psychology and over a decade of experience in trauma-informed counselling.
Prior to joining The 519 in 2018, Kay worked as a gender-based violence counsellor, supporting underserved and diverse populations with experiences of trauma, sexual assault, abuse, mental health, addictions, and access to justice.
Over the span of her career, Kay has worked to create equitable access to justice by collaborating and building community partnerships with numerous legal clinics and working closely to navigate barriers with individuals at every point in their legal process. She has supported services users across many intersections by developing and providing community legal workshops and completing various legal documents, applications, and affidavits. In addition, Kay created and led a court support program based on a trauma-informed model that spoke directly to the needs of clients, as well as support staff by recognizing and addressing the complexities of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma.
Kay is responsible for the general daily oversight and administration of the organization's access to justice work and legal-based anti-violence supports.

Contact Kay Mehrizi

KMehrizi@The519.org

Martha Singh Jennings

Manager, Community Engagement

Bio

Martha has been working in solidarity with marginalized communities for over a decade in Canada, the UK, and internationally, with a particular focus on women, trans, and non-binary persons, and those experiencing displacement and racialization.
Martha was Interim Director of LGBTQ+ Refugee Programs at The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCC Toronto). She also worked as Program Manager at Rainbow Railroad, and was one of the team members that collaborated with The 519 on a Government Assisted Refugee partnership.
As Manager of Community Engagement, Martha supports the work of the Newcomer Settlement and Older Adults teams, and other staff providing direct services to our community members.

Contact Martha Singh Jennings

MSinghJennings@the519.org

Jacq Hixson-Vulpe

Manager, Program and Partnership Development

Pronouns: They/Them

Bio

Jacq's work has focused on queer and trans communities, and they have authored a number of resources, including “Creating Authentic Spaces: A gender identity and expression toolkit to support the implementation of institutional and social change.”
Jacq has been involved with community organizing for 20 years, starting in the world of the anti-war and labour movements. In their free time, Jacq works on their Ph.D., which explores the representation of queer and trans children in education.

Contact Jacq Hixson-Vulpe

JVulpe@The519.org

Ash McGhee

Manager, Education and Training

Pronouns: She/Her

Bio

Ash is she is responsible for department-wide planning and coordination which includes business development, content and curriculum development, and client relationship management. She also provides leadership alongside the facilitation team.
Ash joined The 519’s former Sport and Recreation team in 2014 to help plan and implement PrideHouseTO, Toronto’s largest engagement strategy and event activation advocating for greater queer and trans inclusion at a multi-sport, international event, the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.
After moving to Education and Training in 2016, Ash joined the facilitation team in its rapid growth and expansion delivering 2SLGBTQ-inclusion-based workshops to external workplaces across all sectors.
Ash is a queer wife and Mumda to a 5-year-old Cheetah and a 1-year-old Bean, and enjoys riding her bicycle through the neighbourhoods of Toronto.

Contact Ash McGhee

AMcGhee@The519.org or 647-888-7225

Megan Poole

Manager, Community Relations and Communications

Pronouns: She/Her

Bio

Megan oversees community and stakeholder relations as well as communications. Working collaboratively, with compassion and empathy, is at the centre of her work.
A member of the leadership team for Women Win Toronto, an organization designed to train and prepare women, women-identifying, and non-binary folks to run for municipal office, she led a workshop on media relations, confidence-building and camera techniques.
In 2019, Megan joined the office of City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and most recently took on the role of Manager of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives for the Councillor, integrating communication and community building through a series of panel events and campaigns fostering a deeper understanding of government and its systems.
Spending over a decade as a professional actor, Megan holds a deep passion for the arts and theatrical performance as well as a flair for musicals. Making connections, building bridges, and fostering deeper relationships in our communities only serve to make our neighbourhood brighter.

Contact Megan Poole

MPoole@The519.org

Sebastian Commock

Manager, Legal Initiatives

Pronouns: He/Him

Bio

Sebastian is a passionate community leader who wholeheartedly believes in advocating and creating opportunities for equity-seeking communities. Having the lived experience as a racialized queer newcomer, Sebastian strives to empower communities that are at the intersection of race, gender identities, gender expression, immigration status, and sexual orientation.
In his role as Manager, Legal Initiatives, Sebastian’s portfolio includes managing a growing and dynamic Access to Justice department. He is responsible for overseeing the administration of The 519’s existing legal clinics and services, our legal education work, and other Access to Justice initiatives. This includes the expansion and development of legal services, advocacy, and public legal education focused on the needs of Toronto's Downtown East communities.
Sebastian has over 12 years of experience in the service industry, 7 of which include frontline service in the legal, immigration, and settlement sectors, and the remaining 5+ years in the hospitality and tourism industry.
Sebastian has been with The 519 for a number of years in various capacities ranging from positions in community access and engagement to Manager, Programs and Operations. During this time, he formed an advocacy group which successfully advocated at the federal level for LGBTQ+ legacy refugee claimants. He is also a licensed paralegal who approaches his work with empathy and believes his heart should lead when he supports community.

Contact Sebastian Commock

SCommock@The519.org
Portrait of Andrew Greaves

Andrew Greaves

Manager, Youth Advocacy Programs

Pronouns: He/Him, They/Them

Bio

Andrew oversees the development and implementation of a project that focuses on building the leadership and advocacy skills of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) 2SLGBTQ+ young people. In his role as manager, Andrew connects young people to opportunities that will reduce their vulnerability, experiences of violence, and increase their connections to community, social, and legal supports. Andrew supports youth in exploring their experiences of racism, discrimination, violence, strength, and resilience through arts-based community engagement activities.
In his spare time, Andrew volunteers as a mentor to newcomers, refugees, and asylum seekers; empowering them in self-advocacy. His mentorship earned him the prestigious Volunteer Toronto Legacy Award 2018 for outstanding contribution and commitment to volunteering.

Contact Andrew Greaves

AGreaves@The519.org
Portrait of Rebecca Hooton

Rebecca Hooton

Manager, Sector Capacity Building

Pronouns: She/Her

Bio

Rebecca is a cis white queer settler from Montreal. Her approach to community work is informed by her years of community organizing and activism, as well as her training in theatrical collective creation. She started at The 519 as a student in 2018 and has worked with many of the organization's teams since then.
Rebecca is committed to ever-deepening understandings of intersectional feminism, anti-racist praxis, and loving/transformative justice.

Contact Rebecca Hooton

RHooton@The519.org

Becky McFarlane

Special Advisor

Bio

Becky McFarlane is a community organizer with over 17 years of experience working in the community sector.
Becky joined The 519 as the Director, Programs and Community Services, and is responsible for overseeing the Centre’s programs and services, and education and training initiatives. Prior to her work at The 519, she worked with UNITE HERE Local 75 on the development of the Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC) and its social enterprise restaurant, Hawthorne Food and Drink. For several years she was the Director of Working for Change, an organization that develops employment and leadership opportunities for individuals with mental health and addictions issues and others who have been marginalized by poverty.

Contact Becky McFarlane

BMcFarlane@The519.org