Activist community

Reza Khoshdel brings passion for service to his role as new General Manager of Community Center 55

Community Center 55 introduced a new general manager, Reza Khoshdel, on Tuesday, November 1. Following the retirement of her predecessor, Debbie Visconti, Khoshdel brings a wealth of expertise that will help her effectively fulfill her new role and provide assistance to the community.

“I’ve been fortunate to have experience in a number of industries that span both public and private sectors,” he said in an interview with Beach Metro Community News this week.

After earning his MBA/MPA from the University of Manitoba, Khoshdel landed a position in the constituency office of former Richmond Hill MLA Reza Moridi. Khoshdel said his time working for the MLA fueled a growing passion for community engagement. He then moved to Queen’s Park as a legislative councilor after Moridi became a minister.

“It was great because I was just knee deep in how the laws were made and got a sense of how much work that goes into that,” Khoshdel said.

In 2018, he then attempted to use his knowledge of the workings of the political system to secure a seat on the Toronto Council. Although unsuccessful during his campaign, Khoshdel continued to be heavily involved in community affairs. He is currently president of the West Rouge Community Association, an organization focused on advocacy for this east Scarborough neighborhood.

As a child, growing up in Scarborough, he spent countless hours in various community centers. He said this nostalgic connection to such centers contributed to why he felt drawn to a position at Community Center 55.

“It’s very near and dear to my upbringing,” Khoshdel said. “For me (the community centers were) a real anchor in my life and gave me very good experiences. It was like a second home for me. »

Becoming executive director of Community Center 55, Khoshdel landed a job that focused on his passion for community activism.

He knows he has big shoes to fill after Visconti’s retirement. Since its creation 46 years ago, Community Center 55 has seen only two general managers (Visconti and before her Bob Murdoch). Khoshdel is now the third chief executive in the center’s history.

Located on Main Street just south of Gerrard Street East, the center plays an important role in the lives of many community members.

“We have people who were brought here by their parents and now they are bringing their own children here,” he said. “It’s a huge responsibility on my shoulders.”

As the new executive director, he plans to build on the good work Visconti has already done. Khoshdel said there’s still a lot of work to do, but he’s happy with the programs currently on offer.

“Right now we have a pretty good amount of programs for our seniors,” Khoshdel said. “But I will be looking to see if there are other programs we can add to our list to further enrich their lives.”

He then revealed plans to scale the children’s program, however. Plans for new programs are currently on hold as it finalizes the appointment of a new program director after Evonne Hossack, who worked at Community Center 55 for more than 20 years, retired at the start of the year. ‘summer.

Since beginning his new role, Khoshdel has worked to engage the community to broaden his understanding of the people he has promised to help.

He acknowledged that the experience of some of his senior managers who have been at the community center for many years helps him “fill in the gaps” in terms of some of the things that a new team member like himself , might not have. to be aware of.

“It’s challenging but fun to be able to learn more about all these individuals, who they are, their story,” Khoshdel said.

Filling the important role of Program Director has been a priority since joining Community Center 55. But now that a suitable candidate has been chosen, Khoshdel is shifting his focus to helping families facing food insecurity issues during this holiday season.

He discussed changes to the Share A Christmas program, which has helped many east Toronto families over the years. Usually workers and volunteers distribute food, “but logistically it was very difficult to manage,” Khoshdel said.

The program has since transitioned to using gift cards that families can use to purchase products of their choice for their Christmas celebrations.

“My goal is to ensure that people who have relied on this program for the past few years will get the same, if not better, service this year,” Khoshdel said.

Khoshdel is also looking forward to the Santa Claus parade on the beaches on Sunday, November 27, which he describes as one of the biggest events in the community.

This year’s parade will see a slight change in route, he said, due to operational issues. The parade’s starting location has been changed following the installation of a sprinkler system at the starting point. His team is currently finalizing the updated course.

Although Khoshdel has only been in office for a short time so far, he told Beach Metro Community News that he intends to replicate the collectively respected legacy of his predecessors and dedicate himself to community. Center 55 in the long term.

“You have to have a long-term perspective,” he said. “It takes time to do something good with a place like this. It takes time for us to understand what the community wants. We need time to develop that response, whether it’s a program or a service. And it takes time to build those relationships.

Khoshdel’s hope for the future of Community Center 55 is to see even more people get involved. He aims to help the organization expand its footprint in the community, which, in turn, will help him and his team serve more people more effectively.

“I think it will take time, but there is a lot of room to grow in this aspect,” he said.

Amarachi Amadike, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Beach Metro Community News