Where did you grow up?

I grew up in downtown Chatham. My grandparents lived close by. I went to St. Joseph Catholic School, my father worked at city hall and my mother in real estate. Her office was also downtown, growing up everything for me was really just around the corner. 

What was your first job?

Corn detasseling, as many other Chatham-Kent youth did. However, for me, I worked for the family business. My dad and his siblings started the crew. My dad still runs the crew and continues to employ CK youth. 

What is your favourite Chatham-Kent pastime?

We are family that enjoys spending time in and near our lakes. Growing up we spent a lot time in Erieau. Each summer we would rent a cottage for a week or longer to enjoy all Erieau has to offer. This tradition of spending family time in Erieau has continued with swims in Lake Erie, suppers at one of Erieau's amazing restaurants and no trip is complete without stopping for ice cream at Frostbites in Blenheim. 

What is your favourite season, and why?

I look forward to moderate weathers in CK and really love spring. I love seeing the community come alive after winter, from the first signs of spring in nature to the start of CK festivals season. Starting with Retrofest, the CK Youth Festival, Cherry Fest to name a few, it is great to see CK come together to celebrate us, to celebrate community!

Name an experience that has positively motivated you.

When I was 16, my mom was working at United Way. It is during this time that I started volunteering with the organization. I was motivated and inspired by Karen Kirkwood Whyte. She made sure that the community had help during all stages of life, to make sure the resources were in place to give residents a hand up during the worst moments of life. This left a deep and lasting impression with me. It steered me towards not only volunteering for not-for-profit organizations but also giving back as a professional and working in the field. 

What did you do after high school?

After high school, I moved to Kingston to study politics at Queen University. After I was done, I moved back to Chatham-Kent to run my first election campaign! Politics brought me home.  

What are you doing now?

Currently, I am the Executive Director of Chatham-Kent Victim Services.

In a volunteer capacity, I am the Vice Chair of Chatham-Kent Public Library board and President of Rotary Club of Chatham Sunrise. As a family, we are heavily involved in Habitat for Humanity. I sit on the Family Services Committee that supports the family throughout the entire process from application to home ownership. 

What challenges did you face in moving baCK2CK?

When I first returned to CK, my then boyfriend (now husband) had settled into a career here, and we were trying to find our place in the community.

It was hard, because even though I grew up here, most of my friends had left CK and it left both of us struggling to make friends and make a place for ourselves. The Young Professional Network really saved us from leaving the community. If you do not find that fit in a community, it doesn't matter if you or your partner has that great job. Connections, networks and a sense of belonging are extremely important for resident retention. The Young Professional Network gave us that sense of belonging and new friendships in the community.   

What has made you happy about your move baCK?

I would have to say it's family. I come from two very large families in Chatham. It is great to be living close to my parents, grandparents and extended family members. I am very grateful to be close to my parents and have them involved in my daughter's life.

CK gives my family and me a better balance in life. I returned to my roots, to my family, and now have the ability to spend quality time with them. I can participate in the community in many different capacities while having a great career. My dad was integral in the development of the Portuguese Canadian Social Club of Chatham. The club host monthly events and my daughter loves attending, these events and the community are part of my life. All of these precious moments and achievements, I could not have happened if I lived in Toronto.

What advice would you give to someone considering coming baCK2CK?

Take any opportunity that comes your way, even if is an admin job and your hold a masters degree. Even if the job does not sounds as appealing as you were hoping for - take it. You have no idea who is going to see your abilities, your potential and what doors that can open up for you. Put one foot in front of the other and get yourself out there. Building connections and networks can be tiresome and feel like a chore, but keeping going to events and meet new people, find your community. Some of the best connections and friendships I have found have been from events that I did not want to attend or was scared to attend at first. Possibilities are endless if you put yourself out there. 

What is your #1 reason for choosing Chatham-Kent as "home"?

That I feel like I am Chatham-Kent, my family is so deeply ingrained in this community that it has, and always will feel, like home to me. Nestled between two lakes, open spaces, a diverse population and so close to Detroit and Toronto for a bit of city life, CK has everything I need.