Meet Our Foundation Team

Karen Spencer, Executive Director
Appointed Executive Director of the Agency and Foundation in June, 2017, Karen has more than 20 years of progressive leadership experience at Family & Children’s Service of the Waterloo Region – from frontline work through to executive leadership as the Director of Client Services, a position held since 2010. Karen is well known in our community for her strong leadership and collaboration among community partners. As the ED of the Agency, Karen is a change agent committed to transparency and accountability to government and the public. She believes in honouring and listening to the voices within the families we serve, along with their networks of support. Karen is committed to Truth and Reconciliation and working from an anti-oppressive practice, equity lens focused on reducing the over-representation of First Nation and Black children in the child welfare system. In her role as ED of the Foundation, Karen is continuously amazed by the dedication of our supporters, and the impact our community has when they come together to make a difference. Karen holds a Masters of Social Work and is a strong believer in professional development having completed numerous Executive Management programs. She is currently the Vice-Chair on the Renison University College Board, is the Past Chair of the Immigration Partnership Council for Waterloo Region and is an active member of the Rotary Club. Karen is a resident of Kitchener, where she and her husband John are parents of an active teenager, Ethan.

Dr. Jill Stoddart, Director of Research, Development & Outcomes
Jill is the Director of Research, Development and Outcomes for Family and Children’s Services of the Waterloo Region and as part of her role manages Family and Children’s Services Foundation. She has worked for more than 25 years in Child Welfare, Children’s Mental Health and Developmental Services, including various frontline positions. Recognizing the disparities in child and youth outcomes by race, ethnicity and other socio-demographic factors has been the driving force for her collaborative community approach to program and research design. In addition to conducting ongoing research and evaluation into the outcomes of child welfare services, Jill leads several multi-sector collaborative projects focusing on preventing child abuse and neglect. Her experience in multiple sectors serving children and families has led to positive changes in the provision of evidenced-based services ranging from resilience promotion for children and youth to decolonizing trauma based parenting programs for specific cultural groups. This work has ensured that funds raised by Family and Children’s Services Foundation benefits not only children, youth and families involved in Child Welfare, but also other marginalized populations facing adversities such as trauma, social isolation, poverty, and re-settlement issues. Jill has a Masters and a PhD in Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada and also holds a position of Assistant Professor (status only) at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. Jill’s most proud accomplishment however, has been raising three children who are now grown and have families of their own. She enjoys spending time with her husband Dave and can often be found out walking or hiking with a few of her 5 rescue grand-puppies. If you’d like to learn more about the research that supports the work of the Foundation email Jill at jill.stoddart@facswaterloo.org

Jennifer Laurie, Development Officer
With over 20 years in the social profit sector, Jennifer has a passion for community and a deep belief in the power of philanthropy. Jennifer attended Mount Allison University where she graduated with BA Honours (History/International Relations) then pursued chef training at the renowned Stratford Chefs School. After volunteering in India, Jennifer realized how much there was to do here, in her own backyard. Her interest in food and social justice led her to opportunities with a number of food-focused charities. Her roles included event management, sponsorship, fundraising, and communications…and, as is the case in small charities, “other duties as required”. An idealist who believes that together we can make a difference, Jennifer loves connecting kind and generous people with opportunities to create lasting impact and change the world. A proud (and tired!) mom of two amazing kids and a dog with no concept of personal space, Jennifer is a devoted urbanite with a rural soul, happiest when there’s a hot mug of tea, a good book, and wild ocean waves. If you’d like more information on how you can help children and families thrive, email Jennifer at Jennifer.Laurie@facswaterloo.org

Christine VanGassen, Administrative Assistant
Prior to moving to the area with her family to provide better opportunities for her two children, Christine worked for an agricultural company in the small farming community where she grew up. In 2009, Christine joined the Agency and spent two years in an administrative role with the service teams before moving to the Executive Office where she supported the Director of Service and members of leadership team. Helping people is what Christine loves to do and her optimism and determination make her a caring and compassionate advocate for kids and families. Christine plays a vital role in connecting the Foundation to the frontline workers at the Agency and to the community. When she isn’t helping others, Christine can be found patiently trying to get that perfect photo, or sitting by a campfire planning her next DIY project. If you’d like information on setting up a personal fundraising page, hosting a third-party event, or just want to know more about how you can help children and families in our community, email Christine at Christine.VanGassen@facswaterloo.org.

Sydney Tricand, Events and Community Awareness Coordinator
As a Canadian who grew up internationally, Sydney moved to Canada for the first time to complete her Honours BA in Psychology at Queen’s University, followed by a year-long trip across the pond to undertake her MSc from the London School of Economics in Health, Community, and Development. This experience furthered Sydney’s understanding of the importance of strong and supportive communities to nurture healthy and happy individuals. Combined with her passion for social justice, Sydney’s experience and education led her to a career in the social profit sector. Most recently, Sydney has worked for both the Hospital for Sick Children Foundation and the Stephen Lewis Foundation supporting groups and individuals in their communities hold third party fundraisers and promote awareness for their organizations. Sydney is always in awe of the incredible people willing to give their time, energy, and resources to causes they feel strongly about. As a newcomer to the Waterloo region, she is excited to learn more about the community and continue to encourage the wonderful ways they support FACS Foundation. You can reach Sydney at Sydney.Tricand@facswaterloo.org.