Bonnie Harkness

Bonnie Harkness

2015 Innovation Award - York Region

360 Kids

Nominator Comments:

Introduce ideas – As the Director of Programs, she is always looking for creative ways to enhance programs while keeping costs low, while not impacting the quality of service to clients.  We have introduced (3) significant programs to our organization over the past 3 years.

Enhance efficiency – She is constantly evaluating programs for their effectiveness and working with the staff teams to ensure we are providing the best possible service to our clients.  When changes are needed, she is quick to evaluate and work with staff to address necessary changes and educate why they are needed and streamlining program responsibilities to various staff.

Contribute creatively – she is a valued senior leader of the organization and is sought for her expertise and guidance whenever we are considering new programs or services and how it best fits within our framework and will it achieve our objectives. 

Introduce changes – she is an effective communicator to staff whenever organizational changes need to be made to improve programs and increase efficiencies and staff appreciate her candour and openness.

Challenge assumptions – she works together with Managers and their teams to constantly challenge how they can improve programs, and give them independence to think of new ways to reduce costs where needed, provide input and recommendations and without jeopardizing quality.  In addition she has developed amazing working relationships with funders and supporters and is effective at working together to achieve each org’s objectives.

Calculated risks/Promote Adjust solutions – an effective leader is someone who is willing to take risks for the benefit of the organization, and Bonnie certainly does this on a daily basis.  Not always do things work out exactly the way one envisions, but she never easily gives up, and works closely with teams to modify programs, services, staff to constant meet these challenges, and exhaust all possibilities and considerations before ever giving up.

It’s not hard to be a part of something big when it comes easy. For Bonnie, she had a goal in sight, she knew of the great need for a youth shelter in southern York Region, and although it was over a 12year process to see it through to reality, she never gave up. She was instrumental in getting the Town of Richmond Hill to allocate a $1million gift towards the property location of our new youth shelter. She is currently the lead on the opening of the shelter, and is looking at best practices across the country for bringing proven programs and innovative ways to set up the comprehensive centre and offer a host of services that best meets the emerging needs of homeless and at-risk youth. Through different leadership changes, she prevailed, always bringing passion and a voice to the table for homeless youth.  She is often referred to as the “heart” of 360°kids. When it comes to our kids, Bonnie isn’t okay, if they are not.  She’s a force in motion when it comes to finding programming that will help our kids out of crisis. She’s innovative in thinking outside of the box. In the past 3 years, our organization has almost doubled in size in staffing and budget as a result of additional services under her leadership. Starting out as a CYW at our Residential program, Bonnie has helped hundreds of youth escape homelessness, realize their self worth, find employment, and reunite with families. She has coached hundreds of staff over the years, to reach their potential, learn from their mistakes, and flourish. Bonnie is always striving to do more for our kids and orgn.  She’ll never rest until every last one of them is off the street and in a safe and loving home. Home is an important concept and she works hard to make sure all of our programs present a “home” like feel for our kids because they are deserving of a home like everyone else. Bonnie makes a huge impact on our org and our team, kids and community are better due to her persistent efforts and passion.

OHANA means family. She uses this term relentlessly at 360°kids.We often say its her personal mantra because she believes in it so passionately.  She believes that every kid, no matter what background, or circumstance they are deserving of the love and support of a family regardless of whether its their maternal family or 360°kids.  She makes sure that every employee is aware that to some youth, we are their family and why we are here doing the work we do. She is dedicated to ensuring programs are set up like a “home” and are inviting and taken care of with pride and that every employee understands this philosophy. Every youth she interacts with, she treats with respect and dignity and why so many youth gravitate to her and why we are trusted by youth as a safe place for support. Bonnie’s dedication continues to grow and she is constantly looking for new ways to enhance our programs for children and youth, develop stronger relationships with partners and take 360kids to new heights

We are pleased to provide this nomination for such an extraordinary leader in our organization.  Not only is she one of our longest serving staff members, she is a true leader in every sense of the term.  Her dedication to the youth and families we serve gives her strength each and every day she says, and why she says there is no other agency that she has worked for that she feels so connected to, and why she also tells us all the time, that she will not stop doing this important work, until she knows that every young person on the streets has a safe place to call home. I have never worked for someone so committed to the values of an organization and the work that we do.  She shares these values with staff and pushes staff to be considered innovators and the best that they can be for our organization and for the community.  We feel that 360°kids has developed a reputation as a leader and innovator within our constituent community and Bonnie is one of the reasons for this.

Have you been helped by a human service champion? We would love to hear about it.

Submit your story