David Cohen has spent the past 20+ years working diligently on behalf of Reena to improve the lives of individuals with diverse abilities. Recently honoured with the Board Member of Distinction award, given to a board member who has shown exemplary leadership and has made a significant contribution to the agency, David Cohen has sat on every committee and have been part of every board in the Reena system.
As both the parent of a child with diverse abilities and a Richmond Hill City Councillor David has always been an advocate. “I felt there was a responsibility, that I had abilities that could be used to help people with developmental disabilities.” Then David met Sandy. “Sandy Keshen was so driven, so smart…you don’t meet many people in your life as smart as Sandy Keshen. I was in politics for 22 years, I met a lot of people, I met a lot of people who run organizations, and Sandy Keshen is at the very top.” Sandy put David on a Reena committee for quality care and the rest is history. David, who most recently chaired Reena’s Governance and Nominations committee, has been a member of the Executive committee, Finance and Audit committee, Government Relations committee and Batay Reena board, while also being Reena’s representative at the provincial Faith Culture Inclusion Network and the Provincial Network for developmental disabilities. “I was interested in understanding things about how Reena worked,” says David, and jokes, “Sandy had a thing back then that if you missed a meeting, you got put on another committee! She got me involved in so many things.”
David recalls the 90’s and early 2000’s on Reena’s board as a lively time. His relationship with government helped him help Reena, including lobbying to get developmental disabilities listed in the Federal Housing Act to receive money for housing. “We grew in part because we looked for what the government of the day was looking for,” says David, “and we would do a project that fit into it but also fit into Reena.”
In 2007, David Cohen also helped Reena fulfill its mission of Tikun Olam by helping to organize assistance for a project to help Pakistan’s developmentally disabled. “David is a person of passion and wears his emotions on his sleeve,” says Reena CEO Bryan Keshen. “The work is personal, and David has made every effort to support Reena. In my years at Reena, I know no one who shows up more often and everywhere for Reena, flying to Israel as part of our Canada Israel inclusion mission, driving in the morning to Ottawa to advocate on the Hill and turning around the same day to come home for a committee meeting. David makes sure to attend fundraisers, political events, openings and anywhere else he can be to support Reena.”
Despite his long-time commitment to Reena, David remains humble about his contributions including introducing Reena to many people. “I’m not the credit person, I just do. I have brought on board many board members, many committee members. I have created relationships by being an intermediary with people I know on the outside with Reena on many projects. I have been constantly providing people or political contacts that have helped Reena be able to do whatever they needed to do.” David says having a well-educated, diverse board allows for better decisions at the board level because it helps to be able to question projects coming forward.
David’s daughter has been a Reena resident since 2005, and he continues to work diligently on Reena’s behalf. “We are leaders in housing, we are leaders in healthcare, we are leaders in many aspects throughout the province and we should be so proud. I am so proud to have my name associated with Reena because Reena’s name is just made gold.”
David Cohen currently sits on the board of Batay Reena.