Joanne Chong-Kettle, our EarlyON Child and Family Centre Assistant, has been serving our EarlyON parents, caregivers, and their little ones for 20 years. Her infectious energy, love for her work, and her relentless commitment to the communities we serve is an inspiration to so many.
“Twenty years? I can’t imagine how the years have gone by!” says Joanne reminiscing about how it all began in the year 2000.
“I met the coordinator of The 519 Family Resource Centre (FRC) at the time, through a breastfeeding support group. That’s where I found out about a job opening at The 519.”
Joanne cares deeply about creating inclusive and affirming spaces. She remembers talking about it during her job interview.
“We spoke about homophobia and the importance of creating safe spaces. For me, my own experiences of discrimination as a person of colour shaped why it mattered to me so much. Joining The 519 where I could support others was extra special.”
When asked about her earliest memories at The 519, she had many to share.
“I remember coming to work and hearing very happy Spanish music. There are far too many marvellous people I have met and worked with over the years, people I have good memories of.” Joanne fondly remembers Kyle Scanlon who facilitated the Trans 101 staff training for her. “He was such a gentle person.”
The 519’s EarlyON Child and Family program has grown, and the space has evolved over the last two decades. Joanne has been a witness to all those changes.
“The walls used to be a soothing blue and the floor was linoleum before it was given the wooden makeover. They told us we could write anything on the floors before they covered it. I put my initials there.”
Joanne’s favourite part of her day is when the kids come in through those doors.
“The children so happy, and so are their parents and caregivers.”
Joanne admits that every time she holds a baby, her heart melts. Meeting parents and caregivers who used to visit the EarlyON program as kids is a very special experience for her.
“It feels so nice to see how they have grown to have families of their own.”
Looking back at the past 20 years at The 519, Joanne feels content.
“Families often write-in telling us how our work has helped them. Some even say that it helped save their lives. It really makes a difference when folks can find community and not be isolated. It saved my life when I needed support.”
The 519 staff – their lived experiences and their commitment to the communities we serve – is what makes this place so special. Thank you, Joanne, for being such an important part of The 519’s story.