The Donna Holwell Legacy Award has been created to honour individuals who, through their dedication and commitment to Retirement Community Living, have created a legacy of work resulting in positive change and measurable difference for the sector.
Nominations are invited for individuals who have a demonstrated history of service in various capacities: exceptional people who have contributed both personally and professionally to the betterment of our sector.
If you know someone who fits the criteria, recognize them with a Donna Holwell Legacy Award nomination!
The award is presented annually at ORCA Conference in September.
Donna Holwell's Legacy
Donna’s contribution to the Retirement Home sector is a shining example of her passion for seniors housing demonstrated by her countless volunteer hours and activities. Her commitment was made both locally in her hometown of Orangeville and on a broader scale through her Ontario Retirement Communities Association (ORCA) Board, Ontario Seniors Secretariat and Retirement Home Regulatory Authority (RHRA) committee work.
Donna was always the first to raise her hand when an opportunity arose to ensure seniors continue to have choice, autonomy and quality of life. Donna’s legacy will remind us that she was truly an extraordinary person.
Honourees include Debbie Doherty from Debbie Doherty Enterprises Inc. (2017), Millie Christie from Verve Senior Living (2018), Ron Schlegel from Schlegel Villages (2019), and Karen Sullivan from Chartwell Retirement Residences (2020).
Karen has over 33 years of experience in seniors housing and is known for her influence, guidance and friendships across the sector, and for the countless individuals she has mentored, inspired, and championed throughout her career.
Currently, she is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Chartwell Retirement Residences. Prior to joining Chartwell in 2008, Karen worked for the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA) for 21 years, including six as CEO, building extensive knowledge of seniors housing in Canada, a strong reputation, and deep respect from operators, national association peers and government across both the retirement and LTC sectors.
Her leadership experience across both sectors and associations is vast, and some of her career highlights include:
Joining ORCA’s Board of Directors in 2009 as Vice President, Government Relations, to help navigate the impending Retirement Homes Act;
Guiding ORCA through a renewal of its core mandate on governance, advocacy and member education to sustain and mitigate the substantial changes and risks to the sector in the transformation phase of becoming a regulated sector;
Launching the Canadian Association for Long-Term Care, a model that the retirement sector today follows through the Canadian Association for Senior Living to seek national alignment, collaboration, and shared learnings across our provincial retirement home associations; and
Developing Together We Care into Canada’s largest Canadian seniors housing conference, allowing ORCA & OLTCA to expand strategic alignment and member benefit.
More recently, Karen has worked with unwavering resolve not just to support Chartwell, but the entire sector, throughout the pandemic. She enlisted support from a group of large operators to create The Senior Living Cares fund “CaRES” – an emergency financial assistance program for senior living employees facing extraordinary circumstances. To date, almost $2 million has been awarded to more than 400 employees across Canada.
Karen would be the first to say that nothing compares with the sacrifice of workers on the front lines. And yet, her influence has undeniably affected countless employees across the entire sector.
Ron Schlegel, 2019
Ron has been supporting the seniors in his communities since he was a boy serving meals in the seniors’ home his parents operated in London, Ontario. The values instilled in his heart at a young age have guided his path through life, and the retirement villages he has built that bear his family name are a testament to his ongoing quest to offer the best of service in retirement living.
Some of his accomplishments over his 70 years serving seniors include:
Opening his first retirement community in Kitchener, Ontario, more than 25 years ago;
Founding Schlegel Villages, the successful long-term care and retirement community organization that currently operates 19 villages across Ontario;
Pledging $10 million in seed money to launch the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) in 2005; and
Marrying the RIA research and its practical application in all aspects of Schlegel Villages communities, from the unique Program for Active Living, which helps residents maintain strength, mobility and independence, to the physical design of the living environment.
Ron’s commitment to the social approach in retirement living has created opportunities for countless residents to not only find security and comfort in a true continuum of care, but new opportunities for growth, joy and meaning in their lives.
To this day, Ron is still active in the villages, meeting with team members and residents alike, asking questions about what is working and where there are strengths to be built upon. He enjoys working alongside his three sons, Rob, James and Brad, all of whom are actively involved in the everyday operations of Schlegel Villages.
Millie Christie, 2018
Millie has been a leader, an influencer and a passionate supporter of the retirement living sector in Ontario for over 25 years. She has experience in both Operations and Human Resources through her leadership at Verve Senior Living/Diversicare, giving her great insight into the detailed day-to-day workings of different retirement residences, the sector and, most importantly, the people who work and live in retirement homes.
In collaboration with other leaders in the sector, Millie has applied her knowledge of what the sector needs to thrive and better serve seniors to positively shape the future retirement living environment in Ontario. She served several terms as President of the ORCA Board of Directors covering:
Amendments to the Assessment Act classifying retirement homes as residential;
Development and introduction of the Retirement Homes Act (RHA);
Improvements to fire safety through changes to the Fire & Building Codes; and
The new Building Code classification for retirement homes.
She currently serves as a Board member of the Retirement Home Regulatory Authority (RHRA), bringing an operator’s voice and perspective to the table and in earlier years, was a VP of Education on the ORCA Board of Directors and member of the Standards Committee.
At Verve Senior Living/Diversicare, Millie is responsible for Human Resources & Labour Relations, leading a talented team dedicated to ensuring that their passionate staff live and breathe the company’s promise of delivering inspired senior living every single day.
Debbie Doherty, 2017
Debbie has made significant contributions to ORCA and the sector through her leadership at Lifestyles Retirement Communities, Specialty Care Inc. and Sienna Senior Living, her involvement on the ORCA Board of Directors, and her many years as a volunteer member of ORCA committees.
In 1996, as Chair of the Standards Committee, Debbie spearheaded the introduction of the ORCA standards and guided the implementation process, during which all members of ORCA were required to obtain accreditation.
During round table discussions while the Retirement Homes Act (RHA) was in development, Debbie was a key contributor to recognizing that, with regulations approaching, ORCA must move from 254 standards to essential operating standards that all homes could meet. The standards were then streamlined to 79.
These mandatory standards were key for both ORCA and the entire sector in many ways, including:
Enriching our knowledge and reputation as a sector;
Earning recognition by government and an invitation to the table when developing provincial regulations;
Preparing ORCA Members to implement and manage those regulations; and
Creating public awareness that an ORCA certificate in the lobby is a mark of distinction.
Through the accreditation program, homes were prepared for the incoming regulations and the ORCA standards were recognized in the development of the RHA regulations.
Debbie chaired the Stakeholder Advisory Board of the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA)for a full term of 6 years and continues to work with operators to assist them with a variety of operational areas including meeting compliance, restructuring and redevelopment, risk management and operational reviews.