This article is part of our 2020 Annual Report

“Social housing was very new to me, and I didn’t know anything about it.” Our Chief Operating Officer Charlene Thornhill recalls her first day working at Victoria Park Community Homes. “Did you know that Patti and I started in the same year in 1990?” Charlene asked, referring to Patti Thomas, who started at the company in the same year.

From a little town with 6000 total population called Wainfleet, Ontario, Charlene started her first career in affordable housing in June 1990 as Property Manager Support/Reception. “I still have my original hire letter. It was an entry admin position.”

“I still remember we were using this archaic system called Filbitron, and all the management software was on there. I remember them very well. The arrears report would be printed once a week, printed on papers with those little holes on the side where you have to rip them off. That’s how we used to track arrears.” Charlene is laughing as she recalls “those days”. “Times have changed, but we’ve done well with change” she explains. “We were heavy into development at that time and shortly after I started, we took over two of our buildings 831 Queenston and 1 Hamilton Street. I remembered we had a lot of property openings and a lot of grand openings and ground breaking ceremonies.”

However, there are things that have never changed. “When I first started it was great with a lot of fun good people in the office. Everyone just gets along very well. And throughout the years it has been the same – great people, good consistent people, or else I would have left!?”

In her memory lane, there were funny moments. “Y2K was a big deal in 1999. That was when we got rid of the Filbitron and moved to Yardi. I still remember because the management software was going to explode! When you think back, that was funny and insane.”

But there are moments that were hard to swallow, especially projects that are close to heart. “I remember there was one time when we did lose a property contract that I was pretty attached to; that one really hurt. That was a sad moment for sure.”

“This is a company that I’ve grown up with, I had my family grow up with. In the 2000’s when I had my kids, I remember a lot of the times on the weekends I would pack up the kids and go down to the office to try and get some work done. The kids would run around, draw pictures, and leave them on everybody’s desk.” Victoria Park has a been big part of her life. “I grew up here, my kids grew up here with me. It’s just always been a part of my life.”

In 2023, Charlene plans to retire together with Patti. But like Patti, she doesn’t want to fully leave Victoria Park. “I’ll miss the people the most; the tenants and the staff. Both Patti and I are fighting over becoming reception relief when we retire. When the reception calls in sick, or books a vacation, we can come in and cover the reception!” Charlene jokes, or is she?

“Times have changed, but we’ve done well with change.”

Charlene envisions the company will continue to grow in the right direction. “Lori-Anne (our Chief Executive Officer) will take VPCH and run with it. We will be bigger and stronger. Her ideas are endless. There’s going to be growth and she will lead the ship.”

Personally, she has great hopes for the future of Victoria Park. “I hope in the next 45 years, we will continue to have that good name to build on. To build on what we have and continue to have a good reputation.” She adds, “I really like our strategic plan right now, which is to become the employer of choice, the property management company of choice, the housing provider of choice; that we’re the provider the tenants are picking, the employer that people are looking for jobs and that they want to work for us. It is all about the people.”