Gary Gladstone got his start working with charities and not for profits as a teenager with BBYO (B’nai B’rith Youth Organization) where he served with distinction at the Chapter, Regional and District level. He continued to involve himself in Jewish communal life throughout University at Wilfred Laurier and then University of Waterloo. In 1992 Gary turned his passion into his occupation becoming a professional fundraiser.
Gary’s connection to Reena’s CEO, Bryan Keshen began when they met in 6th grade at Bialik Hebrew Day School in Toronto. It was through his work with UJA Federation of Greater Toronto that they first worked professionally when Gary, fortuitously, ran into Bryan at a fundraising event in 2016. “I mentioned that I hadn’t been seeing Reena’s name on as many grants as I had in the past and I just wanted to come by and speak with Bryan and see if there were opportunities that he wasn’t aware of that Reena could use.” Gary met with Reena senior staff and discussed a number of possible grants that they might consider applying for in the future. The timing couldn’t have been better, especially for someone with government advocacy and grant writing skills. In April 2016, Gary Gladstone began working with Reena. “When I started with Reena there was a big focus on housing with the government, so I was brought in to do both grant writing and to get housing for developmental disabilities onto the agenda Federally and Provincially.” Reena partnered with six organizations all looking to build housing for individuals with diverse abilities, and The Intentional Community Consortium (ICC) was born.
Working with Bryan, Reena’s Government Relations Committee, and the ICC, Gary helped to successfully advocate for the entire sector resulting in at least 2400 units for those with developmental disabilities announced a year and a half later in the National Housing Strategy. Reena’s mission, explains Gary, is to support those with diverse abilities, not only to support those supported by Reena. “As we were advocating for housing, we had a meeting with the senior policy advisor with whom we had met a number of times with regard to our proposal,” says Gary. “And at this one particular meeting he was very agitated because Bryan and I were there with Carolynn Morrison and Tamir Agency from Ottawa and the staff person kept on asking what does Reena want? What does Reena want? and Bryan answered, ‘We’re not here on behalf of Reena, we are here on behalf of the sector, and we want 5% of all new housing dollars to go to support those with developmental disabilities. So, I responded to him to say what Bryan says is true, we’re here for the sector, that’s the only reason we’re here, however only because you’re pushing to such an extent, I want you to know the minute it’s approved that the sector gets the money, Reena will be right there with the application to access that pot of money. And he said, ‘You are the first organization that has ever come to see me for more than one meeting that hasn’t asked for something for themselves, thank you.’” Needless to say, the minute the National Housing Strategy came out Reena was one of the first organisations to apply for the funding for the Lou Fruitman Reena Residence.
In 2019, Gary Gladstone left Reena to run for public office as the Federal Liberal candidate in Thornhill. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful, but returned to Reena to continue his work as Lead Stakeholder Relations. Another unsuccessful run for office followed in 2021, after which Gary, once again returned to his work at Reena. With a significant hand in generating over 50 million dollars for Reena, Gary says “I am walking on the shoulder of giants of all the work done before me building Reena’s incredible reputation at all levels with everyone in and out of the sector.”
Gary’s work with Reena has raised millions of dollars for diverse programming needs and for the construction of new housing projects while spearheading efforts in getting recognition for those with developmental disabilities in Canada’s National Housing Strategy and National Dementia Strategy. Gary is currently chair of the Intentional Community Consortium, which has now grown to over 30 partners, Chair of the government relations committee of OASIS representing 200+ developmental services member agencies across Ontario, and a recent recipient of the Order of Vaughan.
“From the day I was hired, Bryan said, with any meeting we ever have, as long as one individual with developmental disabilities, regardless of how they’re supported or who they are supported by, ends up being better off at the end of the meeting, you have done your job.”
Gary Gladstone continues to work with Reena as Lead Stakeholder Relations also taking on special projects including overseeing Reena’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations.