Where are they Now?

Nov 11, 2020 | Featured, Foundation News/Updates

In our final ‘where are they now’ piece, undertaken in recognition of our 25th anniversary year, we reconnect with Vikram Varma. Vikram served as the Foundation’s Executive Director (ED) from 2009 to 2013, before passing the reigns over to Tina in May 2013.

In early 2009, after working in business development for a few years, I found myself “between assignments”.  Peter Tobias took me out for lunch one day and suggested I spend some time volunteering with a local organization.  I was surprised, delighted and intrigued to hear about the Foundation – an organization that raised sustainable funds for local community organizations and initiatives. 

Peter introduced me to Florence Campbell, who was leading a new Foundation initiative called Vital Signs, and I assisted Dan Norman, Past President and Chair of Vital Signs Committee with getting the first Vital Signs under way.  Around the same time, Glenn Stresman, the Foundation Executive Director resigned to take on the helm of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation.  I was encouraged by others to apply for the position. 

I met with the hiring committee and a few weeks later, when I had not heard back, called Lynn Harding, the board member who was the HR committee chair.  Lynn said they were hesitant to make me an offer due to budgetary restrictions.  I told her that the opportunity to work in the community was something I could not pass up, and I was willing to work within their constraints.  They made me an offer the next day.  

I was rapidly absorbed into the Foundation family.  The Board members were extremely welcoming and spent many hours bringing me up to speed on the many funds and community initiatives of the Foundation.  Many of the previous Executive Directors stopped in to give me the benefit of their collective wisdom and experience. I remember Katherine Manley coming in to see me frequently to see how I was doing, and to provide support and encouragement.  I inherited a fantastic staff, comprised of Janna Stanistreet, Andrea Coward and Gail Young.  After Andrea resigned that year, Vera Kettnaker joined us as the Grants coordinator and soon brought her efficiency and organizational skills to the grants process. We had a bit of a speed bump transitioning to FIMS, the accounting and fund tracking software, but under the able guidance of Gerry Brake and Greg Fisher, we had everything in order by the end of the year.

The Foundation website had just undergone an overhaul complete with new logo (courtesy of BmDodo Strategic design). It was the early days of social media and we created a presence on Facebook and Twitter.   We also launched Waves to help update our donors on Foundation news each month.  The seeds that had been sown in the earlier years of the Foundation began to bear fruit; as the Foundation’s endowments grew, our increased ability to grant gave us greater visibility and reach into the community.  Vera ensured the grants ceremonies were well attended and she ran them like clockwork.  We had a lot of fun organizing events such as the speaker series, led by Diane Kelly and the Big Top, organized by Gini Rosen.  The events raised significant funds for the community and helped get the Foundation name recognized.

In 2013 I made the difficult decision to leave the Foundation. I worked with local company PrintFleet as Chief Officer until July this year.  I now work for BOJAK Manufacturing in Kingston as their CFO. 

I remain indebted to Dan Norman, Bob Pritchard, Judith Mackenzie, Lynn Harding and Florence Campbell for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime, and the late Gini Rosen, who was a source of great inspiration and support during my tenure at the Foundation. I remain in touch with many of the board members to this day, a testament to the bond I had with the Board members. 

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