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Photo courtesy of United Way Ottawa

Community Builders: Doug Pawson’s passion is taking him all the way to Newfoundland

By Skye Walker and United Way East Ontario on March 12, 2019

Skye Walker is one of Apt613’s correspondents at United Way Ottawa. With its Community Builder Award program, United Way Ottawa honours Ottawa’s outstanding volunteers: the organizations, partnerships, agencies, neighbourhood groups and individuals who work tirelessly to make our city a better place for everyone.


In every initiative Doug Pawson has been a part of in Ottawa. Doug actively works to fight the root causes of poverty—with the goal of achieving a better future for everyone.

Doug’s volunteerism and work spans across the Causeway Work Centre, the Centre for Social Enterprise Development, the Alliance to End Homelessness, United Way Ottawa (including the Employment Accessibility Resource Network), and beyond.

Doug is also a co-founder of the Financial Literacy Action Network of Ottawa (FLANO), a group whose mission is to increase financial literacy for vulnerable groups in Ottawa. They led a campaign that influenced the City of Ottawa’s decision to limit the number of pay-day lenders permitted to operate in Ottawa.

Doug has been integral to numerous organizations in Ottawa fighting to make this city a great place for everyone.

When United Way Ottawa got the news that Doug would be leaving Ottawa to become End Homelessness St. John’s new Executive Director, we knew it would be important to recognize him for his achievements before he left. So we thought it would be fitting to:

1. Surprise him at his own party, and

2. Talk to people who worked with him about how great he is.

On Tuesday, February 19th a collection of community volunteers, non-profit leaders, and Ottawa changemakers gathered to see off Doug, one of their own. At this party, surrounded by people from Doug’s work and volunteer life, we surprised him with a Community Builder Award.

Doug joked about his incidental attire, “I’m wearing my United Way red and my Causeway blue!”

“Someone who walks the talk.”

Doug has worked closely with United Way Ottawa’s Vice President of Community Impact, Dennise Taylor-Gilhen, on issues that are important to our city, so it was natural to have Dennise present the award to Doug.

“Doug, the impact you’ve had is difficult to summarize–you’ve done so much that is worth celebrating,” Dennise said. “You have been a wonderful example of someone who walks the talk.”

Passionate, devoted, innovative

While Doug called Ottawa home, he championed causes that empowered our city’s most vulnerable. On one hand, his departure will be a huge loss for Ottawa. But on the other hand, we are certain Doug will do amazing things in St. John’s, and make a difference in many people’s lives.

Anyone who knows Doug has only glowing things to say about his character and kindness:

“Doug is so passionate about the work he does,” said Jan Goatcher, who served on the EARN Steering Committee alongside Doug, “He genuinely wants to make a difference. I often think successful agency partnerships or committees are based on whether you like who you are working with and Doug is someone I really like to work with!”

“Doug is an active and devoted advocate and partner in creating greater economic opportunity and inclusion for people in Ottawa living on lower incomes,” said Rhonda Bradley, Senior Advisor, Public Affairs at United Way Ottawa.

“From his anti-poverty advocacy to his leadership in the field of social finance, Doug is a true social innovator,” said Dennise Taylor-Gilhen.

We are both amazed by and grateful for the work Doug accomplished during his time in Ottawa. Though we’re sad to see him go, we look forward to seeing what this Community Builder continues to achieve with End Homelessness St. John’s.

Congratulations and thank you, Doug!


Through research, evaluation and partnerships with community experts, United Way Ottawa identifies the root causes of the biggest social challenges facing our community, and helps find solutions that change tens of thousands of lives for the better. One hundred percent of donations stay in Ottawa to help those most in need.