2018 IW Winners

Influential Community Trailblazer - Sudbury

Lise Armstrong

Lise Armstrong

Writer and activist Audre Lorde said: “When I dare to be powerful to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

That is the lesson Lise Armstrong has learned over three decades at the YWCA Sudbury’s Genevra House transitional and housing support program, in helping families escape emergency situations.

But dedicated to her job meant she never gave it much thought until recently. “I just keep plugging at work, and looking at all the things I’ve done over the past 31 years at this agency. You can’t put it into words what you have done, but this has given me opportunity to say I’ve done quite a bit,” she said.

With many testimonials describing her as humble, brave, hardworking and devoted, she was quick to agree but acknowledges that she can’t do this alone.

Past managers and executives have influenced her on she deals with women and families in the program.

“Our role is to pass that on and pay it forward.” Armstrong s dedicated because she is open to learning.

In the transitional housing program, they help women and families fleeing dangerous situations, often with little but the clothes on their back, and provide a safe environment.

She described what the women go through is akin to running a marathon.

They come in and have to rebuild their lives from scratch. The program empowers them, helps them reorganize and find shelter so they can start over.

“It’s a transition, but a heavy transition,” she said. “When they first come in, you see the depression. But when they leave, that’s where we see the reward in the work. They had that pilot light in them and it came on.”

Even though the process is daunting, she said she is forever amazed by how well people do in the program once they are given the tools they need and start to see what they can do on their own.

They tap into their strengths and find a way to transition back into the community.

The program also help community clients, ones still living at home. If they feel stuck in a situation, the program helps them find a way out.

“The transitional program helps them free themselves of abuse by an intimate partner.”

Armstrong remembers many career highlights over the years, including meeting Princess Diana, who spent considerable time talking to staff and clients, and their dragon boat team, the Pink Pirates.

Overall, she said the best highlight is the women she works with, and the strengths all of them bring to the program.

“People see women as victims, but I see a lot of strong women who have come in here and survived. I get a gift from them because they give a little of themselves when they come in.”