Not only does the mother of three work at CONNECT Hamilton helping people redesign their lives after brain injury and stroke, but Denise is successfully educating people in Hamilton about homelessness and human trafficking through a foundation she started three years ago.
“I love CONNECT and I am built for this Life Redesign work,” says Denise, following an eight-hour night shift but still, somehow, full of energy and happy to chat. “The whole philosophy behind CONNECT and helping people redesign their lives after brain injury and stroke really speaks to me.”
Denise was hired in October, shortly after CONNECT opened its doors in Hamilton, and she quickly earned fans throughout the organization for her magnetic personality and energy.
However, life has not been easy in her past. When she moved to Canada from the UK in 2014 with her children, a series of events left her homeless for a time.
“I found myself with no home and it was eye opening because there was a time in my life when I had keys to multiple properties I had invested in over the years,” she said. “It was a humbling experience. Then someone took me in and I lived in their basement with my children for nine months.”
Denise ended up renting a home that was on the market to be sold, which opened her up to another act of kindness.
“The real estate agent told the owner of the house a bit about my situation and he decided to take the house off the market so I could rent it for two years.” She shakes her head and broadly smiles at the memory.
Once Denise got back on her feet, she felt compelled to pay the kindness forward and do something to bring awareness to homelessness.
In 2017, she started One Accord Foundation, an organization raising money and awareness for homelessness. She contacted several churches, brought a choir together, found a director, contacted local businesses for donations, including robes and matching “Hamilton is Home” shirts, and organized a fundraiser.
Funds raised by the foundation go to Good Shepherd in Hamilton and its efforts to combat homelessness.
Denise and her choir through the One Accord Foundation did it again in 2018.
In 2019, Denise expanded the cause to include human trafficking, which has become a passion project for her.
“I have realized that the more I bring awareness to trafficking, the more I talk about it, I am starting to reach people, especially young people.”
She said the threat of cyber trafficking through mobile phones is something many young people have experienced and something more people need to learn about.
Denise ended up moving to Stoney Creek. She was working at Brain Services of Hamilton at that time and her landlord told her about a place being built across the street where she might want to apply for a job.
“He took me outside and pointed at CONNECT. Directly across from where I was living,” laughed Denise.
The rest, in terms of applying for a job and winning fans throughout the building, is history.
She is not sure how One Accord Foundation will evolve and grow in the future, but already this year people are asking to join the cause and opportunities are presenting themselves.
You can learn more about One Accord Foundation at www.oneaccordfoundation.com.