Our Story

Friendship that reaches out, encourages, and helps find balance, through:

Providing support for building character, meaningful lives, strong families, community and a better society,

Through: educational activities that engage the heart, mind and spirit, with passion … one person at a time.

Our Mission

Inspiring Women to Lead Meaningful Lives

Neeje Association for Women and Families is privileged to offer women an inspiring range of programs, resources and activities to challenge and encourage them to greater growth. From childhood through school, into the workplace and as parents, we seek to empower women to give the best of themselves to their families and society. We strive to provide each woman with the resources to help her develop character, creativity and compassion, toward a brighter world.

“Neeje” means friendship in the Ojibway language. We believe it is through friendship that each woman can be helped to reach her goals and make society a more human place.

Board

Nicole Scheidl, LLM has been a member of Neeje since 1995 and has served on the board in various capacities. Her current role is President of the Board.

Nicole is passionate about helping women grow in all aspects of their lives – she has served as an on-site director for Chilawee Trails and as a mentor for TREnDS, a unique club that is led by teenage girls helping other teenage girls discover their unique identity as young women. She is also a case facilitator for the International Federation of Family Development, presenting in various cities across Canada. She sits on the Board of the Work Family Foundation.

Nicole is the CEO of Fit Minds Cognitive Health Products Inc., an Ottawa based company with global reach. Nicole speaks at conferences across North America about brain health in seniors. Nicole and her husband have seven children.

Contact Nicole at president@neeje.ca

 

Teresa Bouvier has been a member of Neeje since 1992 as part of its outreach in Kingston and the surrounding areas. In 2000 she joined the Board to represent Kingston. She currently serves as the Vice-President.

Teresa has been very involved in Neeje’s Kingston activities, leading the Rosewood Girls Club, coordinating the Family Catechism program from 1997 – 2012 and Chairing the Neeje Dinner since 2000.

Teresa has a Recreation Leadership Diploma from Sanford Fleming College and works at St. Lawrence College with students with special needs. Teresa and her husband have eight children and five grandchildren.

Contact Teresa at vp@neeje.ca

 

Eleanor Warren, RN, BScN has been a part of Neeje Association for Women and Family since its founding and serves as Secretary of the Board/

Eleanor is also a fashion consultant, working as a Fashion and Wardrobe Coach and has presented seminars to teens, young adults and women of varying ages. She has done one-on-one coaching, helping women discover their personal style and develop a suitable wardrobe that meets their personal and professional needs.

Eleanor has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) from the University of Ottawa and recently retired after a long career in pediatric nursing. Eleanor and her husband have five children and four grandchildren. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, crafting, reading and gardening.

Contact Eleanor at secretary@neeje.ca

 

Colleen Daly, BA has been a member of the Neeje Association for Women and Family since 1990. In 2011, she served as Secretary and in 2013 took over the role of Treasurer.

Colleen has a BA from Carleton University and has worked for Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada since 2002.

Colleen is an active member in Toastmasters where she recently completed her Competent Communicator series of speeches and served as Sergeant-At-Arms and VP Membership on the Executive committee from 2013- 2015. Colleen and her husband have six children and six grandchildren.

Contact Colleen at treasurer@neeje.ca

 

Kara Johnson, JD has been involved in mentoring women of all ages for over twenty years, in school, church and community settings. She currently serves as the Director of Development for Neeje.

Kara’s interest in education led to a Master’s degree in English from the University of Toronto and nine years as a teacher and school administrator as Assistant Head of School and Director of Character Education at an independent girls’ school in Toronto.

From 2006 to 2011 Kara worked as the Director of Special Projects at a Toronto-based public affairs and public policy consulting group, including a time as senior consultant to a US management, communications and development consulting group seeking to strengthen civil society. In 2012 Kara helped launch a magazine about faith in common life sponsored by Canada’s leading Christian think tank.

Kara is currently employed with the law firm of Drache Aptowitzer. She is fluent in English, French, Spanish, and conversant in Italian.

Contact Kara at coordinator@neeje.ca

 

 

Neeje’s History

In 1980, three women from Ottawa, Canada had a goal.

Their goal was to provide young girls with fun, formative socializing that went beyond simply keeping them busy. They wanted culturally invigorating experiences for girls of all religious backgrounds which would inspire them to put their gifts to building a better society. With this philosophy the first girls’ club was formed. It was a monthly project, where a dozen elementary aged girls got together for an activity such as baking, sewing or crafts preceded by a talk by one of the mothers or a single professional woman about a character strength such as cheerfulness, fortitude or honesty.

Eight years later, having established several girls clubs, the founders were ready to engage the needs of university students and professional women. Recognizing the power of community, they created the Neeje Association for Women and Family, an umbrella organization for the Girls’ Club and other programs designed for women. There were lectures on social, cultural and ethical issues; international cultural evenings for university women; leisure activities for teens held in safe, healthy surroundings; seminars on the education and upbringing of children; professional development workshops for mothers; and in partnership with Opus Dei, activities of a spiritual nature, focused on applying the Christian faith to every day circumstances.

But Neeje had a larger vision. The founders wanted to establish a university residence for women that was dynamic, dignified, and home-like. They envisioned a classic domestic environment, cultural activities, volunteer opportunities, mentoring and strong inter-generational friendships.

In 1989, the Association purchased a large historic building in downtown Ottawa, and began the journey toward this dream. In addition to becoming a residence, the house would be the home base for most of Neeje’s educational and cultural activities.

The 1990s: a Decade of Growth

In the early 1990’s a group of women from the Kingston/Bellville region contacted Neeje with the idea of creating clubs for girls from elementary school to university, and into motherhood. Soon, Rosehill Girls Club (ages 7-13), Holloway Girls Club (ages 12-15) and Reel to Real Film Club (high school and university girls) were founded and attracted more young women than projected. Additionally, a thriving network of mother’s and couples’ clubs was formed.

Throughout the 1990s, Neeje’s initiatives in Ottawa grew. In 1996, the Association was approached by the Pan-American Conference on the Family to help with promotion and pre-conference study sessions for Ottawa and Kingston couples wishing to take part in this Toronto international summer convention. In 1998, Neeje members organized a parenting conference with internationally acclaimed education expert and author, James Stenson, in Ottawa.

In 1999, Neeje established its head office at Valrideau. At the time, about twenty initiatives stemmed from Valrideau in the National Capital Region and in the Kingston area, including a service project in Peru for college and university women, leadership training and a community service programme for teens.

The 2000’s: A Dream Realized

When Valrideau was purchased, many layout issues needed to be addressed if it was to become a cultural powerhouse. Students’ rooms had to be put in as well as an industrial-size kitchen, multi-functional meeting rooms, and a generous study area. The interior had to facilitate a truly human experience for all Neeje’s initiatives.

Expansion and renovation work was carried out in phases starting in 1990, the most extensive and last phase being completed in 2002. Concurrently, Neeje witnessed increasing involvement of members and friends as it saw its activities grow in numbers, variety and attendance. At every stage of expansion, the Association was fortunate enough to receive nearly-interest-free loans from various foundations. Its fundraising efforts are now focused on meeting the financial commitments it has taken on as a consequence.

In this decade an annual series for mothers began: Mom You’re Incredible. More parenting conferences with renowned speakers became a yearly tradition. Our annual summer day camp for girls, offered at a reduced rate, continues to thrive.

We celebrated our 25th anniversary in 2009 with a cocktail party and splendid piano recital at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to thank all those who have supported us over the years. A slideshow highlighting Neeje’s accomplishment over 25 years gave us an opportunity to ponder the journey, the challenges and future dreams.

The future

We go into the following decade with renewed vigour, vision and focus. We thank our donors and volunteers for their extraordinary generosity, as we continue to build on the dream of our founders.