Back in September 2020, we started a weekly series called Employee Spotlight, where we feature the staff here at The Storefront and what they do. This spotlight is on Abena Martin, our Community Resource Specialist at The Storefront!
Name: Abena Martin
Job Title: Community Resource Specialist
What do you do at The Storefront?
I am a Community Resource Specialist and Coach at the Storefront
Favourite quote or motto you like?
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be” – Maya Angelou
The reason why this quote resonates with me is because we only have one life to live, so why not try to live it to our fullest and live in our own visions instead of allowing other people’s visions to tear our own?
What did you do prior to working at The Storefront?
I studied community development work at Centennial College, then one day I contacted The Storefront to do my placement in my third and fourth semester. Thankfully, they allowed me to come on board but then we were hit with Covid 19. I just made sure to stay connected with the organization and any projects or things that I was a part of. I made sure I stayed connected with them because I believe that building your social capital is always important. Also before coming to The Storefront, I worked with the community at YMCA in Halifax, Nova Scotia as that is where I’m originally from. I always knew that I wanted to work with people as I had a background in personal support work, which I did for a number of years. Now, I truly believe that personal support work and community development work is similar, the only difference to me is one is narrow and one is broader.
What does it mean to you to be part of a Community Backbone organization?
To me working at a Community Backbone organization is a great thing because they help so many people from all walks of life. Not only are The Storefront leaders to agencies and other organizations, they’re also trend setters to countless others. They support so much grassroots leadership and they do so much for the KGO area, as well as other residents that may come from other areas. The Storefront will always help. To me The Storefront uplifts people, encourages and motivates them.
What’s your favourite movie or book?
I have a few favorite movies but the ultimate one I would have to say is Lean On Me by Michael Schiffer. It’s an old school movie that came out in the early 90’s/late 80’s. To me, it symbolizes everything that I am working so hard to be. A person that never gives up, has perseverance, helps people in need, just being that advocate, that voice of reason. Sometimes we just need a push and then we can get where we want to get.
What do you enjoy most about working at The Storefront?
I enjoy connecting with residents and community members, as well as being part of such a dynamic team. I also enjoy helping connect people with resources, opportunities and the possibilities that are out there that sometimes they may not know of. Some of these opportunities include: Settlement services, ID clinic, monthly Mobile dental bus, register for Employment services, register for job search or computer classes, and many other benefits.
What is a project that you are working on at The Storefront?
I’m currently involved in delivering a 13-week program, Working with People in the Social Sector. The program uplifts the participants, providing training, self-reflection and motivation, supporting people to achieve their aspirations and goals of working in this sector. This program also helps to bridge the gaps that have limited these participants from gaining access to the resources that they may need to reach their goals.
Where is your favourite place to eat or your favourite food/cuisine?
I like a lot of foods: West Indian food, Greek food, Italian food. That’s the great thing about living in Toronto, it’s a multicultural city and we can try all foods, so I never shy away from one. I always try different things, so it’s hard to say which one exactly is my favorite cuisine.
Apart from your work at The Storefront, what hobbies do you have outside of the office?
I enjoy walking my dog, doing arts and crafts with my children, I also like to bake, I like to journal, spending time with my family and pets.
If someone were looking to join the team at The Storefront, or looking for work in a role similar to yours or in the nonprofit sector in general, what advice would you have for them?
I would just say be passionate about your work, strive to build on relationships with the community as well as your colleagues. Actually what I would say to anybody is: do something that you love, when you find something that you love, it feels like you’re not working at all cause you’re really doing it from your heart and your soul. Be open minded, be a team player, be supportive and build meaningful connections.
Where would you like to travel to and why?
I haven’t been to too many places, but I have been to Dominican Republic which was a very fun experience. I hope to get the chance to go to Africa, that is my goal that I plan on making a reality, because I am going to get there one day. I also will say that there’s a lot of beautiful places in Canada that I’d love to visit. I would love to go across The Maritimes, out West as well I haven’t been there. I would love to get a chance to go to Alberta or Winnipeg.
What is on your wish list for the next five years?
Honestly, I would say continuing to grow within this sector, develop new skills, help community members, help impact people’s lives, and look for new opportunities to expand my knowledge and responsibility and work towards my goals. I would love to pass the torch on to my daughter, and she and I both work within this sector.