Learn about the Stella’s Circle Board of Directors, Stella’s Circle Foundation Board, and Executive Leadership Team.

Stella’s Circle Board of Directors

A dedicated volunteer Board of Directors oversees the governance of the organization. Learn more about our board members HERE. The Board operates under a committee structure. Committees are: Executive Committee, Governance Committee, Risk Management Committee, Finance and Audit Committee and the United Church Liaison Committee. Terms of Reference have been developed for each of these committees. Board members serve a three-year term.

Executive: Connie Duffet, Chair; Ian Froude, Vice Chair; Jacqueline Kudla, Treasurer; Jim Carroll, Secretary; Jasbir Gill, Past Chair
Members: Leslie Brown; Andrea Chirinos; Suzanne Fitzgerald; Kevin Galway; Michelle Hawco; Mica McCurdy; Jennifer Parsons; Drishti Patel; Stephen Penney; Stephen Thorne; Faith March MacCuish, Ex-Officio; Stephen Jewczyk, Member Emeritus.

Stella’s Circle is committed to the highest ethical standards. We do this by conducting our business with maximum integrity, treating all individuals with dignity and respect and by complying with Stella’s Circle policies and all applicable laws, rules and regulations. In line with this commitment we provide an avenue for employees (current and past), students, contractors, volunteers, and other stakeholders to raise concerns associated with disclosure around issues such as gross mismanagement, accounting fraud, misuse of funds, an offence under any legislation or an act or omission that creates a danger to  life, health or safety.  We assure that those who raise concerns in good faith will be protected from reprisal or retaliation.  For more information, please see the organization’s Disclosure Policy – Nov. 25 2019.

Stella’s Circle Foundation Board of Directors

The Stella’s Circle Foundation raises funds for programs and services of Stella’s Circle. Learn more about the work of the Foundation here.

Andy Fisher, Chair; Vanessa Newhook, Vice Chair; Jacqueline Kudla, Treasurer & Liaison to the Governance Board; Bob Carter, Past Chair; Keith Bailey; Maria Clift; Robert Decker; Susan Drover; Paul Griffin; Ted O’Keefe.

Executive Leadership Team

Laura Winters, Chief Executive Officer (She/Her)

Laura joined Stella’s Circle as its leader in 2022, managing the operations of the organization and also serving as CEO of the Stella’s Circle Foundation. She provides executive leadership and management of the organization’s strategic plan, administration, and programs and services. Laura holds a PhD in Sociology and a Diploma in University Teaching from the University of New Brunswick. She is also an alumnus of Memorial University where she completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Psychology and Master’s in Sociology. Laura is active in her community and is a member of various local and national committees. Fostering partnerships and collaboration are foundational to all Laura’s work, along with deep-seated beliefs in the power of harm reduction, the pursuit of social justice, and a philosophy of the collective responsibility of social systems to uphold the human rights and dignity of all community members.

Melanie Walker, Director of Corporate Services (She/Her)

Melanie joined the organization in February 2020 and is responsible for the provision of financial, human resources, information technology, health and safety, and administrative services to the organization. Melanie is also responsible for overseeing all contracts for service and advising the management team on all the contractual obligations of the organization. Melanie has a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) from Memorial University and is a CPA. Melanie has worked in the Ottawa technology sector and many other sectors, including fishing, offshore industrial maintenance, commercial real estate, and beverage bottling.

Denise Hillier, Director of Clinical Services (She/Her)

Denise, MSW, RSW, has worked in the field of Social Work for over 25 years. In her role as Director of Clinical Services, she oversees the clinical and training direction for 40 staff in three programs: the Just Us Women’s Centre, which provides services and support both in the community and in the provincial prison to women with a history of involvement in the criminal justice system; Emmanuel House, a 4-month residential treatment program offering counselling and life skills supports; and the Community Support Program (CSP), which provides intensive wrap around supports to adults with complex mental health issues. Denise is a trained facilitator in the area of Compassion Fatigue and the Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR). She also has a Diploma of Journalism.

Rob McLennan, Director of Employment Services (He/Him)

Rob, MSW, RSW, has overseen a variety of public and private programs and partnerships assisting people with career development and overcoming barriers to employment. In addition to employment and literacy programming, Rob is also responsible for social enterprise activities within Stella’s Circle including the popular Hungry Heart Café and Clean Start, a commercial cleaning business. As an original member of Stella’s Circle Inclusion Choir, Rob coordinates this non-audition community singing group. His current and past volunteer activities include field instruction with Memorial University’s School of Social Work.  He is past Chair of the Professional Development Committee for the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC). He is currently a Mental Health First Aid Instructor.

Karen Noel, Director, Property and Development (She/Her)

Karen is responsible for capital development projects and the property management of Stella’s Circle existing 20 buildings and 79 units of affordable housing. Karen provides leadership, oversight and manages each step of the capital project process. With more than 25 years of experience in this industry, Karen has overseen in excess of $16 million of capital projects for Stella’s Circle and frequently shares her knowledge with other non-profit organizations embarking on their own capital projects. Karen is responsible for Home To Stay (HTS) a social enterprise which focuses on Aging in Place, which gives individuals the ability to remain in their own home comfortably, safely and independently as they age. Karen oversees the Trades Helper and Cleaning Training Programs which directly help Stella’s Circle participants increase their skills and become more employable in the private market. Karen has a Maintenance Management Certificate, is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), and has completed courses in risk management. She represents Stella’s Circle with the Canadian Home Builders Association-NL as a committee member of the Renovator’s Council.

Gail Thornhill, Director of Housing Services (She/Her)

Gail, MSW, oversees the housing division of Stella’s Circle, managing temporary and permanent housing solutions for hundreds of participants each year. In her role, Gail leads the Brian Martin Housing Resource Centre, which offers counselling, advocacy and many other services which help people find secure housing. Gail also manages Naomi Centre, Stella’s Circle’s emergency shelter for women aged 16-30. Gail also guides the use of 79 Stella’s Circle housing units throughout St. John’s which provide affordable housing for those who face barriers to traditional renting options. In all areas of her role, Gail leads program and resource development, participant care, government & health care relations, and staff management & training.

Gail has also served as a national trainer with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. Gail’s dedication to ending homelessness not only accounts for 25 of her 30 years as a social worker, but also is demonstrated through her volunteer work. She has sat on a number of boards and committees that strive to end homelessness in the local community, and is a founding member of the Community Advisory Board of End Homelessness St. John’s. Gail cites her passion for community capacity building and sharing experiences with local, provincial and national agencies as a key to her work at Stella’s Circle.


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