After 35 years of dedicated service, SPT Director of Operations Maria Serrano is retiring. As many of you know, Maria has been the rock and the heart of Social Planning Toronto for decades. Her leadership, her expertise, and her tenacity ensured the survival of the organization through turbulent times and made possible the continued success of SPT to this day.
In 1988, Maria joined the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto (“the Council”), one of SPT’s predecessor organizations, after working for five years as the Manager of Support Services with the Canadian Gallup Poll of Canada and completing a Business Administration and an Office Administration Diploma at George Brown College. In those early years, she established her reputation as a hard-working, thoughtful, and committed worker. She rose within the organization, taking on new responsibilities and negotiating challenging situations.
In 1997-98, as the provincial government moved to amalgamate Toronto, the Council also went through a transformation, merging with its local planning partners into a new organization, Community Social Planning Council of Toronto (CSPC-T). During amalgamation, Maria showed a masterful command of human relations, melding support personnel from five organizations into one cohesive staff group. Maria was no soft touch on the daily challenges that personnel management offers, but she understood what staff needed to do their jobs well and made every effort to provide guidance and support. For EDs managing stakeholder relations in the community, it was a great relief to know that the home base was being well looked after.
“If there was one constant about the Metro Toronto SPC, CSPC-T, or SPT, whatever the name, and however many EDs came and went, Maria Serrano was always there. Alas no more, but the standard Maria set for selfless service to this important community institution is her proud and undeniable legacy.”
—Peter Clutterbuck, Executive Director, Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto, 1991-1997; Co-Director, Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, 1998-2001; Interim Executive Director, Social Planning Toronto, 2018.
As Director of Operations, Maria took on many challenges of the amalgamated organization as it forged new directions. As a manager within a unionized organization, Maria played a leadership role along with the ED, negotiating collective agreements with the bargaining committee. Within the amalgamated organization, it meant negotiations with a new and larger workforce. Her fair and frank approach earned her respect across the bargaining table and was essential to fostering positive relationships with the union.
Maria also put her skills to use organizing many events and initiatives: bringing together social planners from the GTHA and across the United States, organizing AGMs and awards ceremonies, and facilitating Board nomination processes. She lent her keen insights to hiring processes, coordinated submissions and reports to funders, and developed organizational policies to keep SPT in compliance with the many requirements of nonprofits. Her essential work brought us together and moved us forward.
“Through both challenge and opportunity, Maria has provided steady, dedicated support and leadership at Social Planning Toronto for over three decades. Her commitment, professionalism, and dedication to the organization have been the foundation on which so much of the important social policy and social justice work of SPT has been built over the years.
Maria is one of the unsung heroines of progressive action in Toronto and well beyond, and it is virtually impossible to imagine SPT without her compassionate, supportive presence. It is no exaggeration to say that Social Planning Toronto owes its continued existence to her stalwart commitment to the organization and its mission.”
—John Campey, Executive Director, Community Social Planning Council of Toronto/Social Planning Toronto, 2003-2014.
During times of leadership transition, Maria stepped in to stabilize the organization, support staff, and take us in the right direction. She approached difficult moments with a dedication to the organization, its staff and the community, reflecting her long-term commitment to SPT and its mission. She brought her years of experience, understanding of the sector, and compassion and care to the work.
With the emergence of COVID-19, Maria worked quickly to ensure a seamless transition to remote work, ensuring staff had the resources they needed to continue to do the job. Most recently, she organized the mammoth undertaking of the office move — the second office move in her career with social planning — to our new location on the 17th floor at 2 Carlton St. As one of her last major projects, Maria has set us up for success in the new space.
Throughout her 35 years with the Council, CSPC-T, and SPT, Maria welcomed, supported, and advised no fewer than 13 executive directors — we lost count! — shared her governance expertise with dozens of board members, and offered her knowledge, support, wise guidance, warmth, and humour to hundreds of staff members, students, and volunteers. Her legacy of good works extends through each one of us. We will miss her very much. Join us in wishing Maria Serrano a wonderful and well-deserved retirement.