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Community Builders: Celebrating Pride (Part 1)

By United Way East Ontario on August 2, 2022

On July 19, in collaboration with Apt613 and a special partnership with Capital Pride, we recognized six more incredible community builders. Today, you’ll read about three of them. The other three will be featured on the blog tomorrow.

Our July presentation was extra-special because we awarded recipients who are a part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, plus allies dedicating their work to creating more inclusive communities. Toby Whitfield, Executive Director of Capital Pride, hosted the presentation and helped us surprise these unknowing recipients. From supporting youth through their gender transition to creating an online book club and curation service focused on gender-inclusive and diverse characters or families, local community builders are constantly showing selflessness and care during these unique times.

These recipients are community leaders and fearless advocates who have stepped up and demonstrated a local love that has not gone unnoticed. Award recipients have demonstrated a strong ability to mobilize their communities, going above and beyond their regular volunteerism. They also represent the kind of quiet determination and heroism that inspires others to act—leading by example.

We thank everyone who takes the time to nominate everyday heroes, and we thank you, community builders, for your exceptional contributions.

Amanda Jetté Knox

Amanda Jetté Knox. Photo provided.

Amanda is a bestselling author and award-winning advocate for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. They became involved with United Way when their family received support from Family Services Ottawa’s Around the Rainbow program and Camp Ten Oaks. Amanda became involved in advocacy after they supported their middle child Arden, who came out as transgender and later non-binary, and their partner Zoe when she transitioned just under a year later. Amanda also came out as non-binary a year ago. Their family’s story demonstrates resilience, support, and unconditional love.

In 2017, Amanda’s family was profiled in United Way’s Path to Pride series. Arden says Amanda was supportive with an open mind and willingness to learn every step of the way. When Zoe came out shortly after Arden, Amanda had the research prepared, but had to navigate how to support a partner through their transition instead of a child. It was all worth it to Amanda, who says they watched their loved ones begin to display true joy as they could express themselves authentically.

“I’m speechless, thank you, thank you so much, I really wasn’t expecting this at all.” — Amanda

Since becoming involved with United Way, Amanda has been a stalwart supporter and a dedicated volunteer. As a spokesperson, Amanda has shared their story with many companies, businesses and organizations that support Path to Pride. Amanda supports United Way online, attends events, and advises the United Way team on interacting with the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Along with their family, Amanda shares their story about the power of acceptance, understanding, vulnerability and unconditional love. Amanda’s family recently fostered and adopted Arden’s friend, a 17-year-old girl. Amanda is working to normalize the existence of 2SLGBTQ+ families, and their work has been covered extensively by the Canadian media. Amanda’s book, Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family, was a national bestseller and a finalist for the 2020 Ottawa Book Awards. In 2021, Amanda was awarded the Order of Ottawa.

Amanda’s love and fierce support for their family demonstrate to Ottawa’s 2SLGBTQ+ community and beyond that living as your most authentic, joyful self is never a mistake.

Patrick Bondo

Patrick Newton Bondo. Photo provided.

Patrick is a reliable and motivated individual who cares about his community. He lives by the mentality of “it’s not about leaving a legacy, but rather living a legacy.” His passion for reducing gender-related inequities is what drives his volunteering. Patrick has contributed to several projects supporting youth, women, and education.

Patrick has volunteered with Outreach Social Care Foundation since 2021. This nonprofit organization supports communities facing racialization, people with disabilities, and 2SLGBTQ+ people. Fellow volunteers describe Patrick as a hero because of his promptness to give his time, skill,s and knowledge to the work at hand. Outreach Social Cares Foundation empowers Black women and youth to reach their full potential after facing complex challenges such as poverty and domestic violence.

“We’re living in a beautiful country where everyone is welcome and able to bring their skills and knowledge so our country can move forward, so I’m just looking forward to seeing the great work ahead of us.” — Patrick

Additionally, Patrick volunteered as a grant writer and coordinator with the Canadian Centre for Men and Families from 2017 to 2018. CCMF is a non-profit health and social service centre that supports men through challenging life experiences. During his time with them, Patrick supported fundraising initiatives, drafted proposals, and researched appropriate grants and corporate donation opportunities. Thanks to Patrick, CCMF received substantial funding to offer important programs and services.

Patrick is tackling intricate social issues head-on, ensuring minorities are at the forefront of government policies, and does this with utmost dedication. He’s a valued part of his team and our region.

Romeo Penheiro

Romeo Penheiro. Photo provided.

In his well-established role as a community leader, Romeo strives to represent the values of inclusivity, equity, and diversity above all else. In 2021, Romeo played an integral role in launching OurShelves, an online book club and curation service. OurShelves creates a support system for youth through literature, focusing on gender-inclusive and diverse characters or families. Fellow volunteers with OurShelves say Romeo’s best quality is his ability to create a safe space for insightful, educational, and inclusive dialogue.

Over the summer of 2021, OurShelves hosted three virtual events. Each youth who participated received a free copy of the reading material to ensure inclusivity and accessibility. These events saw more than 40 youth registrants who engaged in discussions around gender in an inclusive, informative, affirming, and safe space. Through OurShelves, Romeo and other volunteers facilitated the support of 300 unique Ottawa youth in just three months.

“I am over the moon for having won this award and I think a lot of this praise not only goes to me, but the people I work with. There is always something small that we can do to make the lives of others better.” — Romeo

Much of the praise delivered by participants in OurShelves summer events was thanks to Romeo’s passion for literature and creating safe spaces for discussion. Participants reported that author Q&A sessions hosted by Romeo were the highlight of their book club experience. On top of his work with OurShelves, Romeo regularly volunteers with GBT2Q men’s health organization Max Ottawa. Through Max, Romeo has facilitated mental health workshops addressing anxiety management for the GBT2Q community, as well as a series of workshops on body image.

Romeo accommodates the needs of all, regardless of their identity, to ensure everyone feels accepted. His work creating inclusive and safe spaces where Ottawa’s 2SLGBTQ+ youth can feel heard makes Romeo an integral member of our community.

Do you know a volunteer who has gone above and beyond to support their community? Our Community Builder Awards program accepts nominations year-round! Nominate a Commuunity Builder today.