About Rev. Denise Gillard
Rev Denise Gillard
Founder of The HopeWorks Connection
Twenty years ago, I founded The HopeWorks Connection
a non-profit organization dedicated to relieving poverty and empowering youth through the performing arts and academics.
I had all kinds of hopes and dreams but hardly any knowledge as to what it would take to build an impactful organization. I was surrounded by a small group of dedicated volunteers with good intentions but just like me, they were beginners only armed with a heart for our cause.
Each day there were new challenges to face and I often felt overwhelmed. There was so much to do and at times I didn’t know where to begin.
Although I was blessed to attend some of the best training courses and leadership programs offered by World Vision Canadian Programs and Arrow Leadership’s Executive Stream the pressures of balancing family life, and the challenges facing the youth we serve, threatened to overwhelm me.
May He send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion; May He grant you your heart's desire, and fulfill all your plans." Psalm 20: 2 & 4 NRSV
While some of the most influential leaders in my city would allow me to bend their ear for advice from time to time, there were few non-profit leaders who looked like me or shared fundamental aspects of my life’s experience that I could get support from.
So, I had to develop a new set of leadership skills, learn the intricacies of the non-profit world, raise financial support, manage contract staff and volunteers, and lead in the development of innovative programming, all while I was raising children, investing in my marriage and frantically trying to maintain a healthy body-soul-spirit balance.
As you can imagine, it was tough! When I look back on these days, I can truly say that I survived by the grace of God. I made many mistakes along the way, but I take joy in knowing that these mistakes were really learning experiences that are now translated into wisdom.