A Message From

CEO Dr. Claudine Cousins

Last year, was about moving forward.  2022-2023 has been a year of planning for transition and transformation to move forward. 

In April 2022, alongside a team of independent consultants, we began the process of consulting with our employees, people supported and families, two Boards, stakeholders and community partners, through a series of listening sessions and surveys, to gather input and advice on what the strategic priorities for Empower Simcoe should be for the next three years. In October 2022, our Board of Directors approved three new Strategic Directions for 2022 – 2025: Service Excellence, People & Culture and A Strong Partner.

Alongside the work on our new strategic plan, an organizational review was simultaneously undertaken.  The consultants who partnered with us on the Strategic Plan, provided recommendations that were folded into the strategic plan, and from this process, emerged key themes and the creation of committees formed to undertake this work.

Claudine Cousins
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Another transformation that will impact the developmental services sector is the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services’ Journey to Belonging: Choice and Inclusion plan to reform how supports and services are provided.  I have been sharing information on this transformation directly with our employees by attending their team meetings and hosted virtual meetings with families and the community to help everyone understand what these upcoming changes could mean to us as an organization and to the sector as a whole. 

Transformation is happening all around us; within the sector and the broader environment we work in.  We want to be aligned with, and ahead of that change.  We will leverage our reputation and expertise as we grow our organization by taking the good we are doing and making changes to what we could be doing better. 

We will continue to rely on the support of our strong Empower Simcoe and Foundation Boards of Directors, valued community partners, and stakeholders. However, it is the support, hard work, and dedication of our valued and loyal employees that will allow us to forge ahead in this time of transformation.  The exceptional work they do will ensure we continue to provide supports and services to people of all abilities to Be, Belong, and Thrive.

Dr. Claudine Cousins

Chief Executive Officer

Empower Simcoe



Protecting stakeholders’ interests, establishing policies for management, oversight of the organization, and making decisions about important issues Empower Simcoe faces.

  • Strategic Planning
  • Governance
  • Legal Compliance
  • Financial Oversight
  • Resource Management
  • Special Projects

Empower Simcoe Board of Directors

Valerie Scott, President
Carla Kostiak, Vice-President
Deborah Wall-Armstrong, Past-President
Tim Berry, Treasurer
Allison Bobette
Roma Czech
Craig Lilley
Jacob McNamara
Miriam Villamil-Pallister
Brian Young

I’m Valerie Scott, President of the Empower Simcoe Board of Directors.

2022-23 saw us put the pandemic behind us and return, for the most part, back to normalcy.  I commend CEO, Dr. Claudine Cousins and her exceptional leadership team for bringing Empower Simcoe back to regular operations.  Of course, none of this could have occurred without the notable dedication and support of all Empower Simcoe employees.

The development and creation of our new three-year strategic plan was one of the most significant events in 2022-23. The Board was very involved in this important work and in full approval of the three strategic directions that emerged: Service Excellence, Our People and Culture and A Strong Partner.

These strategic directions will drive the work that will be accomplished over the next three years.

Annual Message From Board of Directors President

Valerie Scott

Another highlight of the past year was the completion of Lakeshore Ridge, Empower Simcoe’s new state of the art supported living home located in Oro-Medonte.  On behalf of the Empower Simcoe Board of Directors, my heartfelt gratitude to all our valued donors for their commitment to making this new home a reality for people with developmental disabilities and other multiple complex needs.

In 2023, Empower Simcoe celebrates 70 years of providing supports and services to our communities in Simcoe County.  I know a lot of exciting events are being planned.  70 years speaks to the strength and commitment of this ever-evolving organization and the people, including our dedicated Empower Simcoe volunteers, who work tirelessly to ensure the people we provide services to, live a self-fulfilling life as part of their community.

Keep up the great work Empower Simcoe!

Valerie Scott

President, Empower Simcoe Board of Directors

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Core Values

Core Values represent our highest priorities and core, fundamental driving forces.

They are the heart of what our organization and employees stand for in the world.


We strive to constantly move forward, while celebrating successes.


We are accepting of all people and give each a voice.


We work mindfully to empower every individuals goals.


We treat everyone with dignity, deserving of our full attention and commitment.

Strategic Plan

Where We're At 2022-2023

Empower Simcoe’s 3-year Strategic plan for 2022-2025 was developed through engagement and consultation with the people and families we support, our employees, and the community, resulting in three key strategic directions: Service Excellence, Our People and Culture, and a Strong Partner. Our dedicated and hard-working Empower Simcoe employees are working on goals for each strategic priority to meet the needs of people receiving supports and services. This ongoing work is essential to change how we do business to meet the transformation agenda envisioned by the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services through Journey to Belonging: Choice and Inclusion.

Priority #1: Service Excellence 

As a responsive and forward-thinking organization, Empower Simcoe finished construction on Lakeshore Ridge; a state-of-the-art treatment home in Oro Medonte to support complex individuals with multiple challenges. Construction is also underway for a specialized transition home in Orillia to support individuals interested in acquiring living and social skills to enhance their independence. This new home is on target for completion, with an anticipated opening date of November 2023. 

Empower Simcoe continues to invest in technology solutions to streamline its operations. In 2022, Empower Simcoe launched an Electronic Medication Administration Record system (EMAR) piloted by five supported living locations.

Priority #2: Our People and Culture

Empower Simcoe transitioned its Human Resource Department to People and Culture, focusing on transforming not only our work but our culture to meet the needs of the future. Much work has been done in this strategic direction resulting in robust recruitment strategies featuring a new, engaging recruitment video, revamped job postings, an employee referral program, and a partnership with the York/Simcoe Collective to promote a career in the developmental sector. 

Also, in 2022, People and Culture continued to implement the equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) strategy as outlined in the Equity Diversity Inclusion Advisory Council’s work plan in creating an organization where everyone belongs,  People and Culture provided Safer Spaces training to all staff and volunteers within the agency. 

Priority #3: A Strong Partner

As an organization that responds to emerging community needs through strategic partnerships, Empower Simcoe continues to prioritize collaborative opportunities with key stakeholders throughout Simcoe County and beyond. RVH, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, Simcoe Muskoka Family Connexions, the Simcoe County Local Immigration Partnership, both the Barrie and Orillia Chamber of Commerce and Georgian College, in addition to area mayors and local MPs and MPPS, are just a few of the community partner meetings that have taken place to date.  

Although much has been done in this first year of the three-year strategic plan, I have only touched on but a few. I want to thank the Empower Simcoe Leadership team and all our employees for their dedication and commitment to always continuing to move our agency forward to meet the needs of people in our community and embracing the work that’s started on our agency’s Journey to Belonging transformation. There is much that lies ahead of us, yet I know, we’re up to the challenge.

Dr. Claudine Cousins
Chief Executive Officer
Empower Simcoe

Strategic Plan

2022 - 2023 Update

Organizational Review by Consultants

3 all-employee info meetings, surveys, 4 frontline and 1 admin. employee meeting, individual meetings with Senior Leadership teams

Strategic Planning Focus Groups

16 Supervisors, EDIAC, Board of Directors, Believe In Yourself Committee, 2 Family meetings, external stakeholders and community partners

Community Partner Meetings with CEO

6 meetings in March 2023 to discuss new Empower Simcoe Strategic Plan and ways to partner and collaborate

Transformation to People and Culture

Human Resources department renamed to People and Culture. 81 employees hired since the beginning of January 2023.

Launch of EMAR System

Launched Electronic Medication Administration Record System (EMAR) at 5 supported living locations to pilot the system

Online Registration for Fee for Service

Empower Simcoe’s Information Technology department launched online payment platform

Resilience and Mental Health Training

Building Resiliency Training completed for 336 Empower Simcoe employees.

Safer Spaces Training for Staff

417 Empower Simcoe employees have completed Safer Spaces training

Completion of Lakeshore Ridge

We welcomed our first person supported/client in March 2023 to Empower Simcoe’s newest supported living home for individuals with complex needs

Celebrating Black History Month

7 featured videos of Empower Simcoe employees sharing their culture and heritage

2022 - 2023

Financial Highlights

Financial Highlights

Budget to Actual Analysis

Total Revenue was $6.8M more than budgeted. Additional $3.2M from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services’ (MCCSS) for the Permanent Compensation Enhancement was received. The new Ontario Autism Program contributed an additional $1.5M in funding. Total Expenses exceeded the budget by $6.8M. This was due to the spending of the Permanent Compensation funding and the Ontario Autism program funds.

Assets, Liabilities & Fund Balances

in 000s

No Data Found

Sources of Revenue (in 000s)

Total $51,352

No Data Found

Expenditures (in 000s)

Total $49,553

No Data Found



Impactful Housing Support

Empower Simcoe's Respitality Services Program

Exceptional Leadership

Empower Simcoe's CEO Dr. Caudine Cousins

Strengthening Caregiver Resiliency

Empower Simcoe's Community Support Services

  • Accommodations
  • Community Supports
  • Respitality
  • Family
  • Housing
  • Youth

Changing Lives Through Impactful Housing Support

Empower Simcoe Housing Access Worker Kathleen Aikins shares this inspiring story about the power of community support.

I first met Gordon at The Lighthouse in Orillia.  With health challenges, a hearing impairment, and on the verge of homelessness, Gordon was alone, scared and incredibly sad.  His wife recently passed away and he was facing eviction.  After completing an intake form, Gordon indicated his goal was to move to Orillia.  Together, we made some calls to area retirement homes, and independent senior housing.  We also completed a subsidized housing application; however, all options were beyond Gordon’s budget.  Having exhausted these options, we both felt defeated. 

Gordon and Empower Simcoe Housing Access Worker Kathleen Aikins

After returning from lunch I noticed Gordon was sitting in his car.   I walked over to make sure he was okay and noticed he was crying.  Gordon thanked me for my help.  I reassured him that it would be okay and that I was still going to try and support him.

As I sat in my office, I wished there was something I could immediately offer Gordon.   I then received an email from Hillcrest Lodge; one of our earlier inquiries.  Hillcrest Lodge is a charitable organization offering affordable housing for seniors in need.  The Hillcrest manager confirmed they had an opening.  With the help of shelter staff, Gordon was called to return to The Lighthouse to complete a thorough application that included income statements, landlord references and emergency contact information.

After receiving the news that his application was approved, I was reunited with Gordon at The Lighthouse.  This time the tears in his eyes were happy ones.  “Thank you, thank you.  You changed my life,” he exclaimed.  “I thought it was hopeless, but because of you, I have somewhere to live.  I know my wife is looking down on me and that you and I met for a reason.” 

I’m pleased to update that Gordon moved into his own, affordable bachelor apartment with homemade meals every day, and his own sense of community.

It is not every day, especially in the Regional Housing Support Services program, that we are able to successfully navigate the current housing climate for some of our most vulnerable clients.  This story is a special one for me, and I’m happy to share it for my Housing team, for Empower Simcoe, and for Gordon.

Incoming Calls for Empower Simcoe Regional Housing Supports
Unique Housing Plans Created in 2022 - 2023
People Served by Regional Housing Support Services Program

Exceptional Leadership

November 23, 2022, was a night to celebrate Empower Simcoe and its Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Claudine Cousins. With family, friends, and colleagues in attendance at the elegant Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Dr. Cousins was named the Social Change Award: Regional Impact recipient at the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards.

Presented by the Women of Influence, now in their 30th year, the prestigious awards recognize the country’s leading female entrepreneurs who have made impressive and substantial contributions to the local, Canadian, or global economy.

Dr. Claudine Cousins, CEO Empower Simcoe

“This distinguished honour is one I’m privileged to share with all Empower Simcoe employees, volunteers, donors, and our community partners,” says Dr. Cousins. “This is a validation of the commitment of the work being done every day at Empower Simcoe that ensures people of all abilities lead meaningful and inclusive lives.”  

Dr. Cousins was one of seven recipients celebrated at this year’s awards gala, following a robust nomination drive that saw over 9,000 nominations come in from across the country. The Social Change Award: Regional Impact is dedicated to a female entrepreneur making a profound and positive impact in society as a leader of a registered charity, social enterprise, or not-for-profit dedicated to their unique brand of social change.

“Claudine has constantly demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to social change as Empower Simcoe’s CEO. We are proud to have Claudine leading our organization,” says Empower Simcoe President Valerie Scott.  

As the recipient of the Social Change Award: Regional Impact in 2022, Dr. Cousins is a herald for change, an advocate for marginalized communities, and a force for community impact.   

Congratulations Claudine! We can’t wait to see what lies ahead for Empower Simcoe, the people and families we support, and our community.

Find more information here on the 2022 RBC Canadian Entrepreneur Award recipients. 


Strengthening Caregiver Resiliency

In 2022, Empower Simcoe launched Respitality, a progressive pilot Program, implemented across Simcoe County, to further assist parents and caregivers who provide live-in/full-time care for their loved ones diagnosed with an Intellectual Disability.

As part of a Global Respitality Network with members from Scotland, the UK, USA, and other areas of Canada, Empower Simcoe’s Respitality Program is an innovative partnership with the hospitality industry whereby hotels and other businesses donate overnight stays, dinners out, memberships, and attractions in the community; experiences that allow for added quality of life and provide families a much-needed break. 

This investment in the Caregiver means strengthened family relationships and a greater connection to community that bolsters caregiver resilience and allows the entire family to thrive.

Here’s what a few Caregivers and community partners have shared about receiving support from the Empower Simcoe Respitality Program:

“Respitality is such an incredible and thoughtful way to help draw Caregivers into the community, and the community in Caregivers’ lives in a way that benefits both. It gives some added hope and encouragement on the harder days when it can feel isolating and lonely.”


“Caregiver burnout is something many experience. Even the smallest gesture is appreciated immensely, especially when it is from a small local business. As someone who doesn't have extended family to lean on locally, knowing that there are people within the community who care about family units who they don't know personally is inspiring and heartwarming.” 

“The JOY and APPRECIATION of our family to the businesses that donate to this worthwhile program is never ending.  It is such a caring gesture to be able to share some of your services with families like ours.” 

“Getting involved with Empower Simcoe’s Respitality Program has been such a rewarding experience.  To be able to give back in the form of a vacation, a stay, an overnight, just something to get away from the stresses of everyday life, is something everyone should look to do in our industry.” 

Scott Collens, GM

Fern Resort

received in financial donations to date
$ 0
in vouchers/in-kind service donations
$ 0
Caregiver experiences delivered

(exceeding pilot target of 10)

Caregiver packages already secured for 2023

 (exceeding the target of 50)

reported that Respitality made this break possible
0 %


Raising funds to improve the quality of life for people of all abilities and foster an inclusive society.

  • Specialized Housing Needs
  • Accessibility Equipment
  • Recreational & Leisure Activities
  • Provide Skill Development
  • Assist Families with Respite
  • Special Projects

Empower Simcoe Foundation Board of Directors

Victoria Ptasiuk – President
Randy Craig – Treasurer
Karl Cadera
Valerie Scott
Roch Langevin
Mike Taylor
Miriam Villamil-Pallister
Mitch Whyne

Annual Message From

Foundation President Victoria Ptasiuk

Hello, I’m Victoria Ptasiuk, President of the Empower Simcoe Foundation.

What an extraordinary year it’s been for the Empower Simcoe Foundation and its commitment to generate funds and resources beyond government and other funding sources for people and families supported by Empower Simcoe.

This year, with the assistance of the Empower Simcoe Foundation’s Lakeshore Ridge Capital campaign, a new 6,000-square-foot, six-bedroom state-of-the-art group living home in Oro-Medonte became a reality. Our heartfelt gratitude to all our donors for helping to make this vision come to life. Everyone deserves a place to call home, and your unwavering support allowed the Empower Simcoe Foundation to make a difference in people’s lives.

Victoria Ptasiuk
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We were also delighted to see the return of our Annual Empower Simcoe Community Champions Fashion Show as a live event this past year, a celebration of friends, fashion, and philanthropy that raised over $30,000 for the Empower Simcoe Foundation. Thank you to our generous sponsors, donors, community partners, and volunteers who have supported this signature event for twenty-seven years.  

On behalf of the Empower Simcoe Foundation Board of Directors, we sincerely thank all our donors, volunteers, community partners, and employees. Your incredible generosity and tireless efforts to assist the Empower Simcoe Foundation in responding to community needs through collaborative fundraising are to be applauded.

Victoria Ptasiuk

President, Foundation Board of Directors


A Donor's Story

The Power of Paying It Forward

Growing up in Welland, Ontario, Margaret Good learned early the importance of philanthropy, the welfare of others, and giving back to those in need. “I grew up in a family where it was all about community,” shared Margaret. “You knew everybody and helped everyone out because that’s just how it was.

These tight-knit family and community values have served her well in life and as an entrepreneur and CEO of Good Girls Marketing and Consulting Services Inc., a company that provides strategic planning and consulting for businesses, maximizing people’s earning potential through tax strategies. “My Dad always said working for yourself was the way to go.  I took that advice to heart.”  

As she built her thriving consultation business, Margaret also expanded her impact to include causes close to her heart – including Empower Simcoe. Through collaboration with Mary Kay Cosmetics, Margaret first became involved with Empower Simcoe in 2015 at the Celebrating Community Champions Fashion Show by purchasing a table and providing gifts for all the models and those in attendance. 

Now, the Mary Kay team is an Empower Simcoe Fashion Show fixture contributing gifts and providing makeup behind the scenes for the models. “It brings us a lot of joy to see the excitement of the Empower Simcoe models every year. Seeing them happy and excited is so nice to be part of that.” 

Woman Headshot Smiling
Margaret Good

In 2022, Empower Simcoe was pleased to accept another generous donation from Margaret and the Mary Kay team. Dozens of Mary Kay Boxes of Bliss now allow Caregivers supported through the Empower Simcoe Respitality Program to receive the ultimate pampering experience.

And still, Margaret continues to spread the word.  Thanks to her promotion and advocacy of Empower Simcoe, new handmade blankets and afghans lovingly crafted by her sister and many blanketeers are being put to comforting use by the people and families supported by Empower Simcoe.

Giving back makes me feel that I’m contributing a little bit to making life better for other people. It’s my small contribution. I want to make life a little bit easier and happier for people, to know they are loved and cared about and are important.

Learn more about how you can make an impactful and lasting contribution to help the people and families we support live meaningful lives.  Contact our Empower Simcoe Foundation at foundation@empowersimcoe.ca.


Financial Highlights 2022-2023

Assets, Liabilities & Fund Balances

in 000s

No Data Found

Why Give?

Many people with intellectual disabilities are living at or below the poverty line and barely have enough money to cover rent, food and basic health expenses. This means recreational activities and specialized equipment that would contribute to a better quality of life are simply out of reach.

With the support of many generous donors, our fundraising campaigns support the purchase of accessibility equipment; cover the cost of specialized housing needs; assist families with respite; provide youth with skills development; offer adults and seniors recreational and leisure activities.

Your donation helps make it possible for people of all abilities to live a meaningful and inclusive life.

Expenditures (in 000s)

Total $124

No Data Found

Sources of Revenue (in 000s)

Total $365

No Data Found


Gift of the Heart Awards

For giving selflessly to improve the quality of life for people supported by Empower Simcoe, please join us in congratulating the 2022 Gift of the Heart Award recipients.

  • Community Partner
  • Employee
  • Family
  • Self-Advocate
  • Volunteer
empower simcoe

People That Make The Difference

Donors & Sponsors

A Heartfelt 'Thank You' to all of the people and local businesses that helped support Empower Simcoe in 2022 - 2023

Service Awards

Empower Simcoe staff are the heartbeat of our mission and we celebrate those that have reached a milestone this past year

Supporting Organizations

Thanks to all of our valuable sponsors!