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Announcing 2021 Community Social Services Awards of Excellence Recipients

CSSEA is excited to announce this year’s Community Social Services Awards of Excellence recipients, after a one year pause. The awards, now in their sixth year, honour the work of individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the social services sector. On behalf of a member panel who reviewed and shortlisted all nominations, as well as an external judging panel who evaluated and ultimately narrowed shortlisted nominations to a single winner in each category, we congratulate the following recipients:

Rising Star: Alexandra Bissley

Quality Assurance and Communications Manager, Inclusion Powell River Society, Community Living Services

Occasionally, someone comes to an organization and makes such a lasting impression that an employer will bend over backwards to retain them. Such was the case with Alexandra, who was initially hired at Inclusion Powell River Society on a temporary job creation project. Alexandra immediately impressed her peers and supervisors with her inquisitiveness, passion and drive, leading to her permanent hire as their Quality Assurance and Communications Manager. Alexandra dove right in to her new role, taking on responsibilities that would be overwhelming for most. She led the CARF Accreditation Process, which required her to become expertly knowledgeable on 2,000 standards. Alexandra has also been instrumental in coordinating the agency’s soon-to-open Affordable Housing Project, which involves extensive liaising with community members, senior management and partners like BC Housing. Through her graceful tackling of these large-scale projects, Alexandra has shown her ability to work with others and manage complex work. Much of what Alexandra does is behind-the-scenes, and in fact, shines a spotlight on the work done by the agency as a whole. This was all the more reason she has proven to be deserving of special recognition of her own.

Hero: Florence Kao

Program Coordinator, Self Employment and Entrepreneur Program, DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, General Services

Having left her role as Senior Human Resources Manager at a global private sector company in Taiwan to immigrate to Canada, Florence found herself in an unfamiliar city starting from scratch. Her sheer determination, professional skills and desire to assist individuals in similar circumstances would eventually lead to DIVERSEcity, where she started as a Labour Market Settlement Worker and assisted immigrants and refugees in providing resources, orientation and guidance. It was at DIVERSEcity that Florence would find her perfect fit, as she would eventually lead the agency’s Immigrant Entrepreneur Program and leverage her business acumen to help newcomers find their professional niches and launch small businesses. Part teacher and part mentor, Florence helps individuals of the program develop business plans, find partnerships and gain confidence to succeed in their entrepreneurial endeavours. She is described by colleagues as a powerhouse who is always evolving her approach to program delivery but also, a confidante and friend whose sole focus is to help individuals turn their dreams into reality.

Leader: Bonnie Moriarty

Director of Homelessness and Housing, Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver, General Services

Unwavering. Focused. Steadfast. These are a few words used to describe Bonnie, who has spent 33 years – 28 of them at Elizabeth Fry – serving vulnerable people in the province. Bonnie has dedicated her entire career to focusing on homelessness, particularly on helping homeless women and children. Bonnie was a trailblazer in implementing gender specialized housing programs in BC and is a well-known expert who often sits on community task forces, steering committees and boards. These roles have allowed Bonnie to articulate the experiences of women experiencing trauma, mental health challenges, substance use and sexual exploitation, and to advocate for systemic change. Shelter providers throughout the province today provide much needed gender-specific homeless shelters and substance abuse treatment programs that were not available when she first entered the field. Her work has resulted in judgement-free supports for vulnerable women and children and has given hope to countless individuals that with the right framework, anyone can overcome the most utmost of life’s challenges.

Legend: Ellen Tarshis

Executive Director, Community Living Victoria, Community Living Services

Most employers working in community social services know the name Ellen Tarshis and for good reason. Ellen has been a fixture in the sector, having spent much of her 30-year career as Executive Director of Community Living Victoria engaging provincially, on CSSEA’s Board and Panels, Inclusion BC, Community Living BC, the BC CEO Network, among others. While Ellen holds a considerable provincial profile, her entry into the field comes from humble roots. Having a brother born with a disability and advocating for him at a time when her family was counselled that he would be best supported at an institution, Ellen possesses a deep and emotional connection to the field. Ellen’s genuine passion for social justice led to her pioneering many firsts in the sector, including the first “group home” in BC, the first employment program and the first Family Support position. Aside from her considerable professional accomplishments, Ellen enjoys the full respect of staff and is described as a caring leader who is connected to the team and always willing to share her knowledge. Ellen’s ability to inspire her staff while engaging daily with individuals served and maintaining a full plate of external sectoral commitments makes her a true Legend.

Conference Early Bird Rate Ending Soon

Our four recipients will be honoured at a virtual Community Social Services Awards of Excellence event on October 20 from 12:00 to 1:00 pm. The awards will be part of CSSEA’s virtual 2021 AGM and Conference, Resilience Builds Strength, which you can register for here. The conference early bird rate of $79 is set to expire September 24, after which date the registration fee will be $99.

Special Note about CSSEA’s 2021 AGM

We encourage all members to attend CSSEA’s Annual General Meeting, taking place October 19 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. Registration is required for voting purposes but the event is free. Please note that if you register for the AGM General Session on October 19, you will also automatically be registered for your respective Divisional Session, taking place prior to the General Session. Dates for Divisional Sessions are as follows:

Indigenous Services – October 5, 1:00 to 2:00 pm
General Services – October 12, 10:00am to 12:00 pm
Community Living Services – October 12, 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm

If you have any questions about the AGM, Conference or Awards of Excellence, please contact Doris Sun, Director of Communications, at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Communications Contact

Doris Sun
Director of Communications
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.