7 members of Threads of Life current board of directors stand wearing Green t-shirts.

Threads of Life’s Board of Directors gather at a meeting in June 2022. l to r: Jackie Manuel, Shelly Dauphinee, Bill Stunt, Erin Pitruzzella, Sean Alger, Wendy-Ellen Nittel, Peter Deines. Absent: Wally Power.

Twenty years ago this month, Threads of Life-the Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support, was created. We always say we wish Threads of Life wasn’t needed but while it is we will do our very best to support those affected by work-related tragedies. From its beginning, Threads of Life has been fortunate to have committed and passionate volunteers serving on our Board of Directors, to guide the organization. In honour of the 20th anniversary, we asked our current board members what they foresee for Threads of Life’s own journey in the coming years.

Bill : I see the organization ... continuing to lead the charge for ... societal change

“I remember so well my first Threads of Life Family Forum. I attended with my spouse Renata. We were both so fragile in the wake of our son Karl’s death and apprehensive of what we would experience. That first forum turned out to be a transformative event. Not only did we find a caring, safe community, but we also found a purpose. I was so inspired by the mission and vision of Threads of Life, I knew I had to get involved. First, as a member of the speaker’s bureau and later as a member of the Board of Directors, I’ve had the honour of being a part of the organization’s growth and maturity over the past 15 years. I’ve seen the impact we’ve had on families, and how the organization has earned the respect and support of the health and safety community and public and corporate donors. I see the organization expanding its ability to reach more families, offer better support through well-designed programs and initiatives and continuing to lead the charge for the kind of societal change that makes workplace illness, injuries and fatalities unacceptable.”

-Bill Stunt, Board Chair
Family Member, Ontario

Peter: ... we need to find a path to greater reach and impact

I believe that to honour the organization’s first 20 years, we need to find a path to greater reach and impact in the coming years. We must expand fully in pursuit of our vision of inspiring a culture shift as a result of which work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths are morally, socially and economically unacceptable.  I think to really accomplish this, we have to look at MADD and other significantly influential organizations that have successfully led cultural shifts in Canada.  We need to learn how they amplify their voice and the reach of their message.  I believe we can build the funding base (with an appetite in the market to grow it further) to drive this, but the real challenge is to evolve our thinking about what Threads of Life can be.  Unfortunately, the number of workplace deaths hasn’t decreased and workplace injuries and illnesses continue… the cultural shift we’ve envisioned has not been achieved yet.  We do a wonderful job at our mission – we foster an amazing community of support for family members, and I believe in our ability to maintain this standard of excellence.  I believe that in the next five to ten years we need to expand our mindset and expectation of what Threads of Life can really achieve in Canada, in order to truly achieve our inspiring and ambitious vision.”

-Peter Deines, Vice Chair
CEO, CannAmm Occupational Testing Services, Alberta

Jackie: The growth and breadth of reach over the last 10 years has been amazing

“The growth and breadth of reach over the last 10 years has been amazing, I can only imagine where Threads of Life will be with another 10 years of efforts!!  Each and every day, we get closer to making sure that every Canadian family is aware of our organization and the services and programs we offer.  Like the old shampoo commercial from the 80’s, when you tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on and so on – suddenly, the proliferation is incredible!

-Jackie Manual, Treasurer
CEO, Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association, Newfoundland and Labrador

Wally: I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to help the organization move forward with our mission

“When I went to my first Family Forum, it was a life that I myself had lived, but the stories that I heard and the families I met made me realize how differently many people respond when faced with the devastating results of their own injuries, or the death of a family member. Sometime after Mary’s death I was asked to become a member of the speaker’s bureau. It wasn’t the first time that Shirley asked me, and I finally agreed to accept to take the training. Public speaking had not been something I was comfortable with, which is probably why I put Shirley off the first time. I thank her for her perseverance because in the end taking the training and writing my story down was good for me. The first few talks were difficult but I was told it would get easier and soon I wouldn’t even need my notes. I doubted that, but after 30 or 40 talks now, I have to admit they were right. I have become a more confident speaker and I appreciate the opportunity to share my story and hopefully help these companies improve their workplace safety. Very few safety procedures were in place in the company where my accident took place but in the months and years afterwards, safety became more important and things improved. I was very much involved in that process to support my colleagues, initially through the local workers’ compensation committee, serving for almost 30 years, and later as a member of the provincial Workers’ Compensation Board. It has been an amazing experience working on behalf of Threads of Life and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to help the organization move forward with our mission.

-Wally Power, Secretary
Family Member, Nova Scotia

Sean: The focus will be on the quality of the support and education provided.

“Threads of Life will continue supporting families that have suffered a workplace tragedy and educating folks to help prevent future workplace tragedies occurring. The focus will be on the quality of the support and education provided.”

-Sean Alger, Director
SVP Corporate Services, Ledcor, Alberta

Shelly: The responsibility is great, but the purpose is even greater.

“Turning 20 is a milestone for many. It marks an exciting time in our life where our physical formation is complete, our identity is shaped yet malleable, and our future possibilities are in sight as we move from adolescence to adulthood. With our foundation established, our 20s often result in rapid social and economic growth as we embark on careers, marriage, new homes and even children to fulfil our purpose.

On its 20th birthday, the foundation of Threads of Life is solid and ready to support similar growth. Our purpose is clear. If we do nothing, by the time Threads of Life turns 30, 10 thousand families in Canada will say good-bye to a loved one who will never come home from work – and they will navigate the journey alone. We can’t let this happen.

In the next 10 years and until no family ever again has to experience a workplace tragedy, Threads of Life will expand its reach. That means that every year more families will know about us and will access our support; more individuals will heal and help prevent further tragedies.  Every year we will grow our financial resources, partnerships, and networks of support to make this happen. The responsibility is great, but the purpose is even greater. We welcome our 20s!

-Shelly Dauphinee, Director
Director Workplace Services & Specialized Adjudication, Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia

Wendy-Ellen: Safety needs to be ensured for all.

In a Utopian world I would see Threads of Life winding down its operations ten years from now.  But unfortunately, Utopia, is not our ever-changing world. Our organization will have to continue its efforts to change society’s attitude regarding the workforce. We need to change the mindset so that all people will come home safely at the end of their workday.  Threads of Life’s vision needs to be adopted by all owners, employers, and employees. Everyone needs to believe that work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths are morally, socially and economically unacceptable. We need workers to realize the importance of their own safety and the safety of others around them. We need to be able to remove the word ‘accident’ or ‘incident’ from the workplace environment. Safety needs to be ensured for all. It is my hope that anyone impacted by a workplace tragedy will find Threads of Life.  It has been my ‘safe place to land’ where I have met many like-minded people.”

-Wendy-Ellen Nittel, Director
Family Member, Alberta

Erin: We need to continue to be the voice for those voices who have been silenced.

“As we look forward to the next five to ten years of the future of Threads of Life and celebrate the organization’s 20th anniversary of helping families of a workplace tragedy, I can’t help but look back at what I have learned, what I know, and what I envision for the future. Our family’s world was shattered the day my husband Leonardo was killed in a workplace tragedy. I learned that with the help of Threads of Life my family and I were able to connect and find peer support with our Family Guide, healing and hope through the workshops offered through the Family Forum, and through the Speakers’ Bureau. What I know since finding Threads of Life is how much people need people. I have seen the positive impact Threads of Life has had on our family members. I knew I needed to give more to Threads of Life and joined the Board of Directors. Learning more about the strength this organization has in its people, family members, and hardworking staff shows their resiliency. As we have seen through the pandemic Threads of Life pivoted in a short amount of time to continue to offer the programs virtually to our families. No small feat. At the core of our organization is our steadfast Mission and Vision. At every board meeting we reflect on them and this reminds us how far we have come as an organization and how far we need to go to bring our vision to fruition. What I envision for the future is seeing an increase in awareness of Threads of Life and membership through networking, technology, in person or virtual presentations and forums, increasing our visibility so families of workplace tragedies like mine receive the help they so very much need.  We need to continue to be the voice for those voices who have been silenced.

-Erin Pitruzzella, Director
Family Member, Ontario

Susan Haldane
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