After 36 years, Brian Smith, WoodGreen (WG) Community Services’ longtime president and CEO, is retiring.
Smith said like all things in life, everything must eventually come to an end.
“I’ve really enjoyed what I do at WoodGreen,” he said late Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a passion for me to work in the community.”
He will be wrapping up his duties at the east end social service agency on Dec. 31, 2014.
The news was officially announced in a June 10 memo prepared by Jasmine Tehara, chair of WoodGreen Community Services, on behalf of the organzation’s board of directors.
The note highlighted Smith’s many contributions to Woodgreen as well as those who have benefitted from his tireless commitment to their wellbeing.
“Brian has been active in creating a better Toronto through his work at the helm of WoodGreen over the past 36 years,” she wrote.
“When Brian arrived at WoodGreen in 1978, there were 40 staff members. During the course of the next three decades, Brian grew WoodGreen to a $40 million organization employing more than 650 staff and 1000 volunteers who serve 37,000 individuals and families each year.”
Tehara pointed to Smith’s remarkable passion, commitment, and innovation for solving the critical social issues that affect our city.
“WoodGreen’s clients are often people who are easily overlooked in a big city like Toronto. They are the working poor, people with mental illness, those who are hard to house and those who simply need to be given their first opportunity to go on to do great things,” she wrote.
“Brian has made sure that WoodGreen’s work is informed by the emerging and complex needs of the communities we serve.”
A native of the Beach community who has lived in the city’s north end for a number of years, Smith said after so many years of working to better the lives of those with lower incomes he can’t help but continue to do his part, even after retiring from WoodGreen.
“I still have a passion for trying to create opportunities around the issue of (affordable) housing. I’ll continue finding ways for people with modest incomes to continue living in the city,” he said, adding he’s eager to continue supporting WoodGreen any way he can.
“I’ve been working with such a great team of volunteers at WoodGreen. Now I can join in their efforts.”
In his free time, Smith said he’d spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren and would do some travelling.
Tehara said he leaves behind a legacy of “innovative, wrap-around, client-centric programs that reduce or eliminate barriers” such as Rites of Passage, First Step to Home, Homeward Bound and The Bruce/WoodGreen Early Learning Centre, among others.
“Brian has worked tirelessly to build a Toronto where everybody – no matter the barriers they may face - has the opportunity to thrive,” she said.
“Thank you, Brian, for your outstanding contribution to the people of this great city and for building such a passionate and capable team of staff and volunteers who will continue WoodGreen’s important work.”
The not-for-profit organization’s board of directors underlined its commitment to the WoodGreen’s vision and mission and indicated that it has retained an executive search firm to conduct a comprehensive search for its new chief executive officer.
“The Board is committed to a transparent process and we will continue to update staff and stakeholders on developments whenever appropriate,” Tehara wrote.
A farewell celebration for Smith is currently in the works.