Covenant House executive director Bruce Rivers, right, is thrilled the organization was recognized for being one of Canada’s best work cultures. Photo by Michael Swan.

Covenant House recognized as one of Canada’s best working cultures

By 
  • December 5, 2015

TORONTO - Canada’s largest shelter for homeless youth has been recognized for having one of the best workplace cultures in the country.

On Nov. 19 Waterstone Human Capital, one of Canada’s leading executive recruiting companies, announced that Covenant House was among the top 10 organizations selected for this year’s Most Admired Corporate Culture award in the Broader Public Sector category. Among others honoured were Plan Canada, Metrolinx and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

“We are thrilled and we are affirmed, thrilled and affirmed,” said Bruce Rivers, executive director of Covenant House Toronto. “It goes to the mission and values and the vision and the principles that drive us. There is a sense that we all matter here.”

What drives Covenant House is a culture of inclusion and equal inherent value, said Rivers.

“(What) I love about Covenant House is the people who clean, the people who make the food, they are as important as the people who raise the funds to support the work,” said Rivers.

“By breaking down the silos between the various departments, by engaging people around the work more broadly, people get connectivity and the importance of what we are doing. It brings about a sense that each of our jobs matter.”

Sabrina Verrilli, a development officer at Covenant House, has only been working a year with the organization but has noticed the team concept. She praised her coworkers for sharing the load.

“There is a lot of camaraderie that is formed within co-workers across all departments,” she said. “Everyone genuinely cares about the work that they do and it is obvious. From the frontline staff to the admin staff, they all work together with the same goal in mind.”

Rivers said it is a humbling achievement, and satisfying despite wishing Covenant House could do more.

“It creates a senses of satisfaction,” said Rivers. “This is a cause, it is not just a job, it is being part of the cause, and the employees feel that they are part of a bigger cause. (But) as helpful as we are, we are still full every night — typically by two in the afternoon.”

To help keep everyone on a level playing field, including the 122 clients Covenant House is able to house overnight, the 33-yearold organization hosts an event in November called The Sleep Out.

This year’s Sleep Out, held on Nov. 26, marked the fourth instalment of the popular overnight event where, with only a sleeping bag and cardboard, people spend a night on the cold pavement to help raise funds for Covenant House.

“It is a window into what it means to be homeless,” said Rivers. “It is a window into what brings youth to our doors, what it means to be here and how they’ve changed their lives because of that.”

In addition to noting the top work environments in the country, Waterstone also honoured the most admired CEOs in four categories. Under the Broader Public Sector category, brothers Marc and Craig Kielburger, founders of Free the Children, were recognized.

Neither of the Kielburgers, alumnus of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, could be reached for comment.

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