News & Stories

BGCBigs’ Board of Directors Announces Retirement of Liz O’Neill, Executive Director and Appoints New Co-Executive Directors, Kerry Woodland & Kim Collister

Apr 22, 2024

A 45-Year Legacy Paves the Road for New Beginnings

Liz O’Neill, Executive Director of Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area (BGCBigs), announces her retirement, effective August 31, 2024.

Liz has dedicated her entire career to BGCBigs, where she has been executive director for 45 years. Across the span of four and a half decades, Liz has led the organization through periods of incredible growth and success.

A compassionate & resilient leader

In 1979, when Liz accepted the role of executive director, the organization operated as the Big Sisters Society of Edmonton, providing community-based mentorship to girls. At that time, the organization had just 1.5 staff and served 24 clients with an annual budget of $36,000. In 1990, Liz led the organization through its first big merger with Big Brothers of Edmonton, enabling the organization to expand its services to provide mentorship to boys as well. And again, in 2011, Liz helped ease the organization through yet another first-of-its-kind amalgamation with Boys & Girls Clubs of Edmonton—further expanding its mandate and services, tripling the number of children served in the first-year post-merger.

Today, BGCBigs’ is a community touchstone, providing programs and services to more than 3,900 children and youth, with more than 1,900 volunteers and more than 140 staff, with an annual budget close to $11 million. Through it all, Liz has been rooted in the organization’s remarkable evolution— solidifying her legacy of commitment, leadership, stewardship and innovation through every growing pain and hard-earned success.

“Liz’s dedication to BGCBigs, through all of its iterations, has been unwavering,” said Rick Zasada, Board President. “Her compassion and empathy for the children and families we serve, and for our community as a whole, is what has fueled her passion for the work over these past 45 years. A leader in both the BGC and Big Brothers Big Sisters movements for more than 40 years, Liz’s contributions to her community and province have helped tens of thousands of children, youth and their families. We’re incredibly grateful to Liz for her stable, consistent and dedicated leadership, which has established, maintained and grown the caring environment and success of this Agency across her many years of service.”

In fact, the Board and staff of BGCBigs credit a culture of ‘caring with intentionality and sincerity’ in the work they do—a culture that Liz herself has nurtured from day one. BGCBigs has a history of adaptability and innovation and has been able to successfully navigate all roadblocks over the years through their relationships in the community. By employing a progressive model of collaboration and partnering with others, BGCBigs has developed best-in-class ways to deliver services better and more efficiently.

The Board, staff, volunteers, children, youth and families are sincerely grateful for Liz’s lifetime of service to our organization and our communities locally, provincially and nationally and we wish her a joyful and fulfilling retirement.

A new beginning of Shared Leadership with Co-Executive Directors

Over the past year, a carefully planned and well-thought-out succession plan has been developed for the organization, with consideration being made to the future needs of our children, families, volunteers, staff and partners.

As such, on July 1st, 2024, Kerry Woodland, BGCBigs’ current director of service delivery and Kim Collister, BGCBigs’ current director of community services & support, will become the organization’s new co-executive directors.

Kerry began at the organization 28 years ago devoting her career to frontline work with children, families and volunteers, becoming truly enmeshed in the very fiber of the organization, first as a caseworker, then as a casework supervisor, then as a manager of service delivery before becoming director of service delivery.

Faithfully committed to holding the organization accountable for the important work being done, Kerry has led the development of BGCBigs’ internal evaluation processes and has even been a national accreditor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. Kerry’s dedication to our community is evident in her work, especially her involvement in the organization’s partnered program, All in for Youth.

Similarly, Kim Collister also began with the organization working at the frontlines with children, families and volunteers 23 years ago as an in-school mentor caseworker. Early on, Kim’s dedication to the vital work of the organization was evident and Kim was asked to take on a leadership role where she would help design a human resources strategy. By collaborating with local community organizations (via the HR Muttart Cluster), Kim managed a significant restructuring of the organization by implementing the BGCBigs HR management and training structure, which continues to be best-in-class in our national movements. Additionally, Kim has led the implementation of various LEAN strategies; vastly improving the procedures and systems we use today.

Kerry and Kim’s passion for both the organization and their work has left an indelible mark on our culture. Their persistent efforts for increased efficiency and productivity and their ‘changemaker’ mindsets are already invaluable assets to the fabric of BGCBigs, as they will continue to be in their new roles as co-executive directors.

“Over the past two decades Kerry and Kim have positively impacted the lives of thousands of young people in our community,” said Liz O’Neill. “I’ve been so proud of the leaders that have served on the Agency’s leadership team for the past 20 years and the fact that the Agency has named Kerry and Kim to share this role speaks to the shared passion and knowledge that exists here.”

The road ahead is bold and innovative, very much in step with the legacy of the organization.

Liz O’Neill and the Board are eager to see what more Kerry and Kim will accomplish as they embark on this new journey, and they extend their most heartfelt congratulations.