Harley Mintz always encouraged employees at Mintz and Partners Accounting to become involved in charity work. He himself supported several charities but it wasn’t until long-time Reena supporter Alex Eisenz”l , from whom Mintz grew up across the road, asked him to lunch one day that he became involved with a charity hands-on. Mintz soon joined the Reena Board with the unique perspective of someone who was not the parent of a child with diverse abilities. “When I was first on the board,” says Mintz “all the board members were parents and were focused on individual complaints. I tried to get them to focus on the bigger picture and figure out what we need to be doing, where we’re going…the grander vision…but day to day stuff would take up the whole meeting and didn’t leave time for dealing with how we are going to get more group homes and funding.” Mintz says Sandy Keshen helped steer the boat with her strong vision, “So once she had a couple of like-minded people on the board, things started to happen… So that’s how it started to evolve to a more structured organization.”
But his support didn’t end in the boardroom. “It’s easy when you’re not a parent to be on the board and never really get involved with Reena individuals. You could raise money, look at financials, put on events.” Mintz’s first in depth interaction with Reena individuals took place on a snowy day outside his home where several individuals, from a Reena group home on his street he never even knew existed, were looking for snow shoveling work. Mintz says the group impressed him with their work ethic and gave him a better understanding of their capabilities.
By 1988, Harley Mintz was Chair of the Reena Board working with strong fellow advocates. “I’ve never met people like Sandy Keshen and Bert and Marilyn Raphael,” says Mintz, “that dedicated themselves to such a cause. I remember in the early days 24 hours a day, Sandy would be working, the Raphaels, the same, and they just inspired all of us to build what Reena has become. “Mintz recalls corporate lawyer and long-time Reena supporter Bert Raphael in particular as “a giant of man, personality wise and physically” who knew how to take things to the next level.
“There were discussions going on at board levels about how Reena clients were living longer, and we didn’t have a facility to deal with older Reena clients,” says Mintz, “We decided we would build elder homes and I volunteered to help build the first one. We had a dinner where my parents were honoured, and I was chairing, and we raised a lot of money, and we built the Al and Faye Mintz Elder home which still gives me a sense of pride when I drive by it.” The Al and Faye Mintz Reena Elder home is located in Thornhill near the Toby and Henry Battle Developmental Centre. The specially equipped, 9000 square foot residence is wheelchair accessible but designed to blend in with the neighbouring homes in the community allowing for older adults with diverse abilities to age with dignity in their own community.
As for the future, Harley Mintz says he really wants Reena “to be able to expand and take care of everybody that needs our services.” That, and to continue to “shep a little nachas” every time he drives by the Al and Faye Mintz Elder home so lovingly named in his parents’ honour.