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 2900 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.

Safetynet is a registered Canadian charity, business number 853458966RR0001

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 has acted as the sole employee of Safetynet for ten years, surrounding himself with a team of 50 volunteers.  His selfless, tireless contributions were recognized in late 2017 when he was presented with the prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship Award by the three Oakville Rotary Clubs.

Bill lives in Oakville, with his wife Rhonda, and has four children.


Doug Flowers

Doug  graduated from Sir George Williams University with a B. A. in Applied Social Science.   He then travelled throughout Europe and Africa and, returning home, became involved with a private study to examine the efficacy of one to one tutoring to help a struggling elementary school student.  After working for a large multinational company he joined the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, where he completed his apprenticeship and earned a gold seal on his qualification exams.  As a carpenter during the next 30+ years he solved problems for people using his trade, tools and experience.

When the refugee crises in 2016 became critical, Doug was tasked with finding an opportunity for the Oakville Lions Club to provide support and assistance to those in need.  Doug soon discovered Safetynet and began volunteering while developing ties with the Lions Club.  His professional expertise in Carpentry and over 30 years of knowledge has been invaluable.  Doug has remained a volunteer, helping to pack, move, and evaluate sites.  His  carpentry skills remain an ever increasing ‘tool’ in the creation of our new larger store and services.


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 has allowed this initiative to succeed, and has expanded the scope of Safetynets offerings. 

Chris has also developed the online client and inventory management software for Safetynet.  He is a volunteer, not a board member.



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.


Shari Patterson

Shari  is employed by the Halton District School Board and has taught for the past 27 years.  She has been a Ministry of Education Guide to Effective Instruction facilitator, an ETFO Summer Academy presenter, a Math Coach, and received the Board’s Award of Merit in 2006 .  As a member of Safetynet’s Board, she is able to combine her love of learning, commitment to social justice issues, and desire to give back to her community.


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.

Sophia acts as secretary of the board of Safetynet.


Katrina Holms

Katrina has worked in the financial industry for over 20 years.
When she is not working she loves to travel with her daughter Heather, spend time at their family cottage up north, read and play golf.
Katrina, along with her young niece Sophia and nephew Brayden, started volunteering at Safetynet in 2016.  She joined the board in November 2018 as our Treasurer.
She has made a lot of new friends at Safetynet, friendships she hopes to have for many years to come.