General News » News

Portraits of Giving’s Class of 2021 honours frontline workers

June 3, 2021   ·   0 Comments

Jennifer Milford knew from an early age the heroic work undertaken every day by our frontline workers.

As a young girl, she watched with marvel as nurses went the extra mile caring for her middle sister, who was diagnosed with leukemia aged just 13.

“I wanted to be like them,” says Milford. “I wanted to help them and do what I could to make their lives better, longer and healthier.”

These formative experiences led to a career as a personal support worker at CHATS (Community & Home Assistance to Seniors), and now as one of the honourees in Portraits of Giving’s 2021 photographic exhibition.

An initiative of Richmond Hill photographer Karen Merk, Portraits of Giving has honoured community leaders for the better part of a decade. The travelling exhibitions pay tribute to those who have gone the extra mile in giving back to their communities, in turn making them a better place.

This past year, however, has been extraordinary and the resulting exhibition is extraordinary as well, paying tribute to several of our frontline heroes who have stepped up in the face of the global pandemic – people just like Jennifer.

This year’s exhibition honours 14 individuals and teams, including Aurora resident Kristen Dajia who was honoured for her work with the Aurora Sports Hall of Fame, and former resident Andre Crawford who was singled out for his long-time work with the York Regional Police, including a term as Deputy Chief.

“It is certainly an honour, but most importantly it recognizes the role and value that personal support workers and other frontline workers bring to community supports and enabling, in our case, older adults to continue to live in their own homes as long as possible,” says Christina Bisanz, President & CEO of CHATS. “This kind of initiative really profiles the dedication, compassion and professionalism of frontline workers in supporting the clients in the way that they do.

“The fact that Jennifer was nominated is a testament to the appreciation and gratitude that our clients have towards a number of frontline staff and Jennifer has demonstrated a particular commitment. We are very proud of Jennifer and what she does day in and day out in providing support and caring for her clients.”

For Jennifer, working with CHATS and providing care to her senior clients isn’t just a job, it is a passion.

Over the course of the global pandemic, Ms. Milford says she has seen attitudes shift towards frontline workers, particularly gratitude for the work being carried out each and every day.

“We have a diversity of clients where we go in and help them shower, go in and make their meals for the week, and sometimes it is just social support – someone to come in and visit them because they basically have no family or, in the pandemic, families can’t get in to see them,” she says. “It is supporting families by giving care to their family member so that they can live alone, go in grocery shopping, or just get away for a little bit and have some time alone.

“We have seen hostility against us because our clients are frustrated and they want to go out and see their family members. We get the brunt of it, but, on the other hand, we also get the benefit that they are happy to see us and we try to give them a little extra TLC while we are there in place of the family. We need more PSWs and we need more that care and are not just there for the job and the paycheque but for the clients as well.”

In addition to Ms. Milford, Ms. Dajia, and retired Deputy Chief Crawford, additional honourees from York Region’s nine municipalities include Raj Sethi (Lifetime Achievement), Deb Kelly (Newmarket), Susan Applebaum & Delmanor Staff (Richmond Hill), Dr. Barb Winslow (King Township), Nisha Punja, Evan MacDonald and Sophia Kotsopolous (Markham), The Longo’s Team of Rocco Agostino, Saverio Cipollone, Reno Palermo, and Frank Sangirardi (Vaughan), Mike, Laurie and Crystal Carriere (Georgina), Angel Freedman (Stouffville Chamber of Commerce), Michael Lavee (East Gwillimbury), Shanun Godward (Fire/Paramedic Services), and Naila Varawalla (Young Adult).

For more, visit

By Brock Weir
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Page Reader Press Enter to Read Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Pause or Restart Reading Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Stop Reading Page Content Out Loud Screen Reader Support