This post is part of our Behind the Scenes @PCYI_Org series. This series gives us an opportunity to share news about the various projects we’re working on, but it’s also a chance for you to learn more about us and to ask questions and make suggestions to help improve the quality of our work. Today our post is courtesy of our Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator, Antoinette.

Joining Peel Children and Youth Initiative back in February 2012 was the best career move I could have ever made, but little did I know it was truly just the beginning of a new chapter for me. My name is Antoinette Ellis and I am the Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator for PCYI.  Before joining this organization I operated my own Event Management Firm for 9 years.  It was a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but something was missing. I was not fully content. In the meantime I was committed to volunteering for a women’s shelter called Interim Place, which is dear to my heart, and volunteering for United Way Speakers Bureau.

Volunteering for a non-profit organization provided some balance to my life.  It was a way of giving back to the community while I was growing my business.  Growing a business can take up a lot of your time, but when you are single and have no kids you have all the time in the world to dedicate to a business as well as volunteering.  The stress level can sometimes be high especially when you are focusing on making sure your bills are covered at the end of the month, but at that time the rewards were worth it.

Working more than 16 hours a day and coming home for just a few hours’ sleep was okay with me.  After all, I had to do what I had to do and I also had the company of an amazing team and business partner that was just as dedicated as I was.  Then one day my passion for the hustle and bustle started to dwindle.  I was in a relationship that was growing into more than I expected and changing my views at the same time.  For the first time, I didn’t mind not working past midnight.  The next thing I knew I was getting married and my desires for a more stable life were becoming stronger and stronger.

Ideas of having a family were taking over the ideas of the next big contract I could land. I knew I needed a change, and the change meant stability.  The daunting question became louder and louder, “Do I dare go back into the work force? Do I dare trade in my lovely freedom hat for something more stable like a straight jacket?”  Then it dawned on me, if I am to make this change I want it to be for a good cause.  I want to work for a non-profit organization where I felt as though I am making a difference and I wanted to continue my volunteer work as well.

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Antoinette was the 2013 recipient of the United Way Speakers Bureau Award.

PCYI had all the answers for me and a lot more.  At PCYI, part of the mission statement is that “In Peel all children and youth will thrive.” A statement I strongly believe in and the main reason why I volunteer.  As a child growing up I had many struggles and United Way and Interim Place helped my mother and I overcome a lot of those struggles.  Now, I have the opportunity to help build a better future for so many children who grew up in Peel just as I did.

As an outreach and volunteer coordinator my duty is to ensure that the community is aware of the free funding available from the Government called the Canada Learning Bond for RESPs.  This is especially for low income families, giving them a chance to be able save for their children’s education. My mother was a single mother of three who wished this opportunity was available for us back when we were little.  Now through community engagement, I can let single parents like my mom as well as low income families know that they can contribute for their children’s post secondary education by taking advantage of this free funding.

The best part of my position is that it allows me to connect directly with the community. I do this through presentations and facilitating workshops and assisting with enrollment events.  My event management skills were easily transferred to this position and my love of presenting was only enhanced.  I was developing more and more skills which continue to feed my passion, which is helping others.  While making a difference for PCYI, I continued to volunteer for Interim Place and the United Way Speakers bureau. I continued to deliver speeches of the importance of volunteering and sharing my past experiences growing up as a child in the Peel Region.  My mother is my biggest hero and she has taught me so much, which is why I do what I do.  Now that I am expecting a child of my own, the work that I continue to do for PCYI and the volunteering that I do has become ten times more important than it was originally.  With every kick I feel, I am overwhelmed with emotion and reminded of the sacrifices my mother made for me.  I am even more determined to help and inspire others through the work that I do.  I am not only honoured but I feel as though it’s my duty.  My duty to my child and to my community.

I am so grateful to my PCYI family for encouraging my growth and for the amazing support.  I am so honoured to be a part of family whose daily mission is to ensure that all children and youth in Peel thrive. Being a part of this organization has given me what I have been missing and that is a fulfilling purpose in life.  My huge milestones in life started here at PCYI and I will never forget it.  Imagine all in one year, I started a new career, got married and I’m expecting a baby.  I am so excited to continue the next chapter of my life and I look forward to sharing it with my community.

photo (2)Antoinette Ellis is a dynamic motivational speaker, and currently the Outreach and Volunteer coordinator for Peel Children and Youth Initiative.  She is also the CEO of Élan Cachet Event Management firm.  Antoinette strongly believes in giving back to the community anyway she can, whether it’s through financial contributions or volunteering her time and providing advice to those in need. In the past, Antoinette has been a volunteer board member of Interim Place, a shelter for women and children. She also served as the Board President. Antoinette chose to volunteer at Interim Place because as a child she stayed at this shelter with her family and it was her way of giving back to an organization that helped her become who she is today. She wants to give other women and children hope and encouragement to show them that there is life after abuse and that it can be stopped. She looks forward to offering her skills and expertise while addressing new challenges – her way of returning the encouragement and support she has been shown. Throughout her career Antoinette has had the opportunity to have two of her events featured on television on the Food networks program I Do, Let’s Eat. She is currently teaching Wedding Planning at George Brown College.  She looks forward to creating a name for herself not just in the event industry but most importantly for what she stands for. Antoinette has a passion for the cause and for making change for women and children around the world. You can learn more about her by visiting http://www.aellisspeaks.com. 

Reaching Out to Give Back: Antoinette’s Story