How Safetynet was Founded

Growing up in Willowdale (Toronto) in the late 1960s, Bill was raised by a single mother, and understood at a very early age in life what it feels like to be marginalized.

Bill took a natural leaning to doing social service work. In his career he has worked with street youth and children with disabilities. He worked for the Children’s Aid Society in Toronto for nine years before moving to Oakville with his wife in 2003. He soon realized that in his new community there was a real need for assistance and followed his desire to be able to give back to the community he lives in.

Since Safetynet Children & Youth charities opened, Bill has been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with over 2400 families. He also feels lucky to have been able to take his youngest son, Billy, to work with him every day, and be with him full time. Billy can be often seen running around playing at the charity.

Meet the Team

Bill Shields

Founder Executive Director

Bill founded Safetynet Children & Youth Charities in 2007 after 30 years in the field of social services.
He started his career working with developmentally handicapped children at the Salvation Army, as well as, working with a number of agencies servicing the homeless.
Bill then moved on to work with children/youth at the Children’s Aid society in Toronto, working in group homes, and then opening a mix modality home. Bill lives in Oakville, with his wife Rhonda, and has four children.

Chris Gabe

Chris spent 30 years as a programmer then began freelance charity work in 2016.  Over the course of 18 months he helped about 100 newcomer families - mostly Syrian refugees in Mississauga and Halton.  Soliciting help from private donors, he obtained furniture, bicycles and household items.  Working with a small network of helpers, Chris would rent trucks to deliver these items.  During this time many of the same families obtained clothing from Safetynet.  In fall of 2017 Chris joined his furniture and bicycle service with Safetynet as it expanded to a new facility.  Having a warehouse and access to volunteers and charity status will help increase the effectiveness of this initiative and expand Safetynets offerings.

Bridget Coughlin Hoffer

Bridget has extensive experience in delivering strategic integrated Communications, Marketing, and Branding programs. She has worked in agencies, as a consultant for agencies and managed large in-house agencies headquartered in Toronto and linked across Canada. She has lead growth strategy for communications and marketing practices. Bridget believes in being part of work and volunteer environments that foster collaboration, innovation, respect, effective products, sense of purpose and being part of something meaningful – a shared compass for excellence.
Currently, Bridget provides Communications, Marketing and Business Planning counsel for several clients and organizations. Bridget recently completed a Diploma in Project Management at McMaster University.

Sophia Grochmal

Sophia is an active volunteer for Safetynet, member of her children’s school parent association, and volunteer with the MS Society.
Sophia volunteers at Safetynet on a frequent basis, particularly in the clothing section.