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.
Director, Programs and Community Services
As Director, Programs and Community Services at The 519, Lisa manages the daily operations of multiple program teams.
Lisa has been working with The 519 since 2009, when she joined our team in the role of Coordinator, Newcomer and Refugee Services. She was serving as Director, Community Access and Engagement, before taking on her current position.
Lisa is also an active member of The 519 Black Collective, a staff-led group that informs the everyday work of the organization from a lens of confronting and advocating against anti-Black racism, promoting equity for all Black people, specifically Black 2SLGBTQ+ communities.
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. When not at work, she likes planning her next travel adventure, or being by the sea.
Director, Strategic Partnership Initiatives
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.
Director, Advocacy & Strategic Communications
Curran initially joined The 519 in 2016 and has taken up a variety of frontline and leadership roles across the organization.
He is currently the Director, Advocacy & Strategic Communications, leading The 519’s organizational communications, and community and stakeholder relations. He works collaboratively with all staff to coordinate The 519’s advocacy work.
Curran draws on over a decade of experience in community-driven organizations, 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 Toronto Metropolitan University and a Master’s in Labour Studies from McMaster University.
Director, Housing Advocacy and Support Services
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.
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.
Director, Operations (Acting)
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.
Director, Public Interest and Legal Initiatives
Johanna is a queer, lesbian, cisgender second generation white European settler. She lives and works in Toronto, the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples, covered by Treaty 13 with the Missassaugas of the Credit.
Johanna has over 12 years of experience working as a lawyer providing direct legal services and within community legal clinics leading programs aimed to address injustices and inequities. She has held positions including Clinic Director at Parkdale Community Legal Services, Health Justice Program Lawyer at ARCH Disability Law Centre, and Street Youth Legal Services Lawyer at Justice for Children and Youth. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Johanna gained experience in community legal advocacy internationally at the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Cambodia supporting victim participation at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, at student legal clinics, and in the non-profit service sector at the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Johanna received her B.A. Hons in Criminology at Carleton University (2003), LL.B. from the University of British Columbia (2006) and LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School (2014). Johanna is an “access to justice” nerd and is deeply committed to working with communities and the intersecting legal world to break down systemic barriers to equality. Working at The 519 with 2SLGBTQI+ communities is deeply meaningful to Johanna. She is thrilled be a part of the Access to Justice team and 519 staff and community.
Aniska is a social impact sector leader who has been lucky enough to spend the last 15 years supporting and leading fundraising initiatives in both national and local organizations. At The 519, Aniska grows giving partnerships that help power our vital services and programs. With an academic background in gender studies, she is inspired by and committed to the power of philanthropy to serve as a revolutionary force grounded in love, community care and equity.
Aniska is a social impact sector leader who has been lucky enough to spend the last 15 years supporting and leading fundraising initiatives in both national and local organizations. At The 519, Aniska grows giving partnerships that help power our vital services and programs. With an academic background in gender studies, she is inspired by and committed to the power of philanthropy to serve as a revolutionary force grounded in love, community care, and equity.
Manager, Strategic and Executive Planning
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.
Manager, Child and Family Programs
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.
Manager, Community Engaged Food Programs
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.
Manager, Education and Training
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.
Manager, Community Relations and Communications
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.
Manager, Legal Initiatives
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.
Manager, Newcomer Settlement (Acting)
Polina joined The 519’s Among Friends program for LGBTQ+ refugee claimants in 2010 as a volunteer. A multilingual settler from Ukraine, she has worked with The 519 in various positions, including Newcomer Services Program Assistant and LGBTQ+ Refugee Programs Coordinator. She comes from an International Relations educational background, which she combines with her passion for social work and immigration law. Polina brings over 10+ years’ experience working with LGBTQ+ newcomers and refugees and is very dedicated to supporting our communities.
Manager, Youth Advocacy Programs
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.
Manager, Sector Capacity Building
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.
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.