Niagara College Community Employment Services 905-641-2252 ext 4670
Ellen Schonewille, Niagara College

Our Leader Spotlight – Ellen Schonewille

Development Officer, Major Gifts, Niagara College

This series is dedicated to introducing and celebrating the participants of the ACL+ 2021 program. Each week, we will focus on one of our leaders, sharing a little bit about them and what motivates them to explore community leadership in Niagara.

Ellen is a professional fundraiser with over ten years’ experience facilitating charitable support for organizations in the arts, healthcare, and post-secondary.

She and her husband moved to Fort Erie from Toronto in 2017 when she was hired to her current role as a Development Officer at Niagara College, and she has since fallen in love with the region.

In her personal time, Ellen thoroughly enjoys her role as a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Niagara. She is also a past board member of the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. She is thrilled for the opportunity to grow professionally while giving back to her community through her participation in Accelerate Civic Leadership.

Why are you personally motivated to explore civic leadership?

Niagara became my home three years ago when I was hired as a Development Officer at Niagara College. Through my work as a fundraiser for the College and as a volunteer Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Niagara I have learned about the complex challenges faced by various people and organizations in our community. I have also met incredible people who are committed to helping the most vulnerable members of our community. They inspire me to do more.

My involvement with Niagara College and BBBS over the past three years has been transformational for me. These experiences have given me a deeper understanding of the many factors that influence a person’s trajectory in life. They have spurred my interest in civic leadership, particularly in poverty and helping young people from hard places meet their full potential.

What, in your view, is the most significant issue/opportunity facing our community? Why?

I believe Niagara’s lack of affordable housing is the most pressing issue facing our community.

Without access to safe and reliable housing, people do not have a secure foundation from which they can build a life. Affordable housing reduces a family’s chance of becoming homeless and allows them to save for the future.

As someone with a particular interest in children and young people, I am concerned with the negative effects of unstable housing on child development. The Habitat for Humanity website says that access to stable housing should not be viewed as an individual-level intervention; a stable home is a community-level intervention. We all benefit. The positive effects of providing access to stable, affordable housing demonstrate the opportunity Niagara has to ensure a thriving future for all its residents.

What individual attributes do you hope to develop or expand upon?

I believe I am a creative person, but I would like to further develop my innovative mindset through this program.

I can also be shy to speak in groups of people I do not know, so I am glad this program will bring me out of my comfort zone and help me develop my outgoing side.

April 19th, 2021