Lynda Reinhart will have a new experience or two when her June 27, 2014 retirement day arrives.
The executive director of Port Cares for the last eight years and an employee of Port Cares for 25 years, has said, “I’ve never spent a day saying I do not want to go to work…”
After June 27, 2014, she will likely be saying those words once or twice, especially with all that time on her hands to spend with her 12 grandchildren.
Eight months ago, she rendered her notice of retirement and admits “you’re thrown off kilter once you say you’re leaving, every day is full…I’m planning on being a little less busy!”
“This is a BIG job – I have really good managers in place who will be able to provide the support that’s needed. The agency has grown a lot since I started as executive director eight years ago,” said Reinhart.
“My skill set is in developing, building, and my staff would say renovating while building partnerships. Now it needs a different skill set.”
Reinhart became involved in the concept of community development while working in Bolivia, South America, teaching English, and upon her return to Canada, took those skills, enhanced them with courses in Laubach Literary Training and a college diploma in social work, marking the beginning of her career in Port Colborne.
It was a part-time position with Port Cares in the beginning as Reinhold worked with women in non-traditional jobs. The agency was supportive of her return to college as she pursued her diploma.
“I’m a lifelong learner, completing my education in bits and pieces,” she said.
Her journey, with her vision of building a one-stop shop for umbrella partnerships, thus began.
“I could really see this (the need for education) in the people I was working with and my passion was to help people. I became an employment counselor. My project manager always said I had that soft spot – this umbrella service works the best for a rural community.”
One on one services were not available in Port Colborne when Reinhart started with Port Cares and the women she worked with had to travel to St. Catharines. With Reinhart’s vision and passion leading the way, she initiated bringing the Literacy Council back to Port Colborne by literally starting anew.
Partnerships were forged with Niagara Catholic District School Board (NCDSB) and later, Niagara College, but the NCDSB actually dispatched a teacher to help with the pre-employment program as Reinhart’s clients worked to achieve their high school diplomas. Later, the program grew to include men, growing in size to an actual class at the Port Cares Action Centre. Several hundred clients successfully attained their high school diplomas according to Reinhart.
A drop in centre was next, designed to help with resumes, supporting the federal government’s employment centre, which, when it closed, Port Cares, in 1996, moved to 92 Charlotte St. and there began a job finding club.
“It was a time when a handshake and boundaries were respected,” said Reinhart.
“Now we have service agreements and over 20 partners delivering services in this building.”
“We hired Port Colborne people whenever possible,” she said, adding, “it pays off to support locally as much as possible. The link between employers and our agency is stronger than it has ever been.”
“A lot of our poverty programs are not funded, so we fundraise, for example, we are currently working with the New Humberstone Speedway in fundraising initiatives. We are now a full service employment centre, meeting government targets and the staff are really passionate about what they do.”
“It’s more than a job.”
Reinhart illustrated two highlights of her career with Port Cares, one being the deep satisfaction of “nurturing her staff, seeing them develop and seeing them, in turn, nurture others and two, bringing the continuum of care into frontline action or service delivery through addressing clients’ housing, food, education, employment and transportation needs.
“Brick by brick, seeing the pieces fit together, that was a highlight,” said Reinhart.
About the future, Reinhart says, “I’m a doer and I’m just weighing out the future” and, as she reflectively looked upwards while in thought, she mentioned maybe having more time for her book club once retired. With 12 grandchildren? Well…maybe.
Congratulations Lynda Reinhart and thank you for your phenomenal contribution to Port Colborne and to all those who have come through the doors at Port Cares.
You have set the bar at excellence and you have helped a lot of folks.
Good luck, we wish you the best as you retire.