Meet Karen Goldenberg: Mental Health Advocate and Friend of Eli’s Place

Karen Goldenberg Outdoors

Introduce yourself 

I’m a passionate advocate for community mental health services and have devoted my professional career, in leadership roles at COTA and ARF (now CAMH), and my personal life, to creating a better world for people with mental health challenges. 

How did you become a Friend of Eli’s Place?

I met David Cooper (co-founder of Eli’s Place) about 10 years ago during my time at JVS Toronto where we discussed the creation of an exciting program to provide work opportunities for people with disabilities. Although the program never came to fruition, we kept the dream alive for two years through planning and advocating for the clients we had hoped to serve. I was struck by David’s passion to create meaningful engagement and improve the quality of life with people with challenges. When Eli’s Place was being created, David and Debra reached out to ask for my support and I was delighted to join them. Because my professional focus has always been on moving mental health services into the community, I knew this was a project I wanted to help develop.

How have you been involved with Eli’s Place?

My first role was as an advisor on strategy and then I agreed to sit on the Eli’s Place Board to assist with governance and the establishment of Eli’s Place as a registered charity. As the co-founder of many not for profit charities including 2 schools and several community health agencies, I had some expertise to share! After serving on the Board for a number of years, I retired from that role and continued to be a friend and advisor on a more informal basis. Most recently I’ve been involved in the creation of a fundraising campaign for Eli’s Place, a project I remain actively involved with today. 

What would you like to add to the conversation about mental health? 

Although I have seen significant improvements in community services for people with mental health issues, there continues to be a need for more accessible community resources to support families and individuals. In particular, a huge gap exists for the transitional age group of young adults with mental health challenges – precisely the group from  18 to 35 years of age that Eli’s Place seeks to serve. Unfortunately, over the course of my 40 plus years of work in this field, meeting the needs of people in this age category has seen little improvement and many young adults continue to fall through the cracks. I’m excited about Eli’s Place because it’s based on a model of excellence that will address this unmet need in Ontario. 

My personal experiences have heightened my passion to make a difference and I understand the need for such a treatment facility at a very personal level. My husband lost his life to suicide in his early 30s; as a young wife and mother of two, I watched my late husband struggle and witnessed his suffering.  Mental illness touches us all. My husband was a brilliant doctor trained in general surgery – a life of so much potential lost to mental illness. Currently, my nephew, who is in his early 30s, lives with bipolar so I know well what has changed in the area of mental health and what remains to be done in terms of offering therapeutic care when it‘s needed. 

What does our tagline “Where Recovery Grows” mean to you?

I think the tagline inspires. It gives hope. Where Recovery Grows is the vision of Eli’s Place and I am very pleased to be a part of this organization.

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This March, CanadaHelps will make an additional one-time donation of $20 for every new monthly gift of $20 or more in support of Eli’s Place!*