At Empower Simcoe, we love to Be Inspired

Inspirations Unleashed: The Poetic Journey of Graeme Thomas

graeme thomas

Meet Graeme Thomas, a young and talented poet whose words weave magic and inspire all who encounter them. With an unyielding passion for poetry, Graham’s journey is a testament to the power of creativity.

Graeme has traveled all over Canada with his two sisters. He credits his mother, a poet who also taught English as a second language, for instilling in him a love for language. Apart from writing, he enjoys bowling, playing softball, and video games with friends.

When asked about his creative process, Graeme humbly admits that poetry ideas just come to him naturally. His advice to budding poets is simple yet profound: “Write whatever comes to mind and let the pen do the work.” This approach embodies pure creativity and encourages others to embrace their unique voices without fear.

Graeme’s story highlights the importance of nurturing creativity and supporting individuals with a passion for the arts. Empower Simcoe’s S.I.L program fosters an environment where aspiring artists like Graeme can flourish and share their gifts with the world.

Let Graeme inspire you with his passion for poetry and his journey of creativity and growth. Join us on this captivating experience and stay tuned for his next poem.

New Friendships Made Through Music

playing music

Retired O.P.P. Officer Paul Marshall knows about the transformative power of music. He also knows a fellow music enthusiast when he sees one. While browsing recently at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Barrie, he couldn’t help notice volunteer helper Patrick Hawgood keeping time to the store’s background music.

As Paul and his wife were downsizing their family home, he came across exactly what he felt Patrick might be interested in to help keep time with his favourite songs. With the assistance of Salvation Army Thrift Store Manager Amanda Costa, Paul reached out to Empower Simcoe to gift his vintage washboard, customized with cowbells and tinhorn, to a grateful and appreciative Patrick.

“Music has always been a big part of my life from childhood to high school, and then to my adult life, first with the washboard and then the ukulele. To see Patrick finding joy and his rhythm….well, it’s a big deal to me,” says Paul.

For Patrick, who’s supported by Empower Simcoe’s Community Support Services, learning this new instrument and exploring its different rhythms and sounds has been a unique, creative way to express his love of music. “It’s very nice,” exclaims Patrick. “I love playing my washboard to my favourite band, Nickelback!”

Thank you, Paul and Patrick. Here’s to the miracle of music in action, and even more important, to new friendships made. We can’t wait to hear more of this duet soon.

Dreaming Big To His Own Beat

Jimmy Saengone has been dropping a beat almost all of his life. Supported by the Empower Simcoe Family Home Program, Jimmy originally began taking music therapy to help with some speech challenges. By the age of 12, he was writing his own songs. Strong friendships made through his musical community in high school further galvanized Jimmy’s passion for creating music. Inspired by artists like Drake and Eminem, he learned how to rap by spending countless hours researching and emulating his hip hop heroes.

How serious is Jimmy about his musical craft? Thanks to a recent passport funding purchase, Jimmy’s new Rode NT1 Cardioid Condenser microphone is the latest addition to a home studio already equipped with soundproofing acoustic panels that enhance the production environment needed to make these cool sounds possible.

Once he records a new track, Jimmy uploads his music on the Distrokid distribution platform to stream his music onto Spotify, iTunes, TikTok, YouTube, and more.

By watching what other music producers are posting on social media, Jimmy stays on top of the latest hip hop trends. He even has his own website at, where tracks like Came From Nothing – Give It To Me (have a listen below) are available for purchase and to further showcase Jimmy’s gift for making music.

2021 promises to be a big year. Jimmy’s adding new tracks to his website every day. Plans for an album are in the works for later this year.

Empower Simcoe will keep you posted on that release date. And his advice to new artists who want to follow in his footsteps? According to Jimmy, “Don’t give up too easily. Be resilient and never give up.” Sounds like Jimmy has his next new song title, doesn’t it?

Select the Play button to listen

Good things come from the earth

Corey Huggins takes great pride in hard work, getting his hands dirty, and nurturing something from seed to harvest.

Supported by Empower Simcoe’s Community Support Services program, Corey looks forward each year to another season of growing pumpkins and sunflowers on his family’s farm. Prepping the plants begins in the spring, about five weeks before seeds go in the ground. First, the seeds are planted into labeled starter boxes that identify the different varieties of plants. Supplied by no one but Mother Nature, the next essential ingredients are sunlight and lots of water. Before the transplanted seedlings go into the ground with a shovel full of manure, under Corey’s supervision, the soil is turned with a cultivator and tractor. Then, it’s months of early morning watering and weeding before the summer’s sun gets too hot. By September, Corey’s farm field is a vast sea of orange as the pumpkins are ready for harvest. Here’s a little pumpkin patch fun fact. Once a pumpkin is picked, it’s dunked in a barrel of water and bleach to preserve it and help it last through the autumn months. Corey also loves picking his farm’s bright and cheery sunflowers so he can give out bouquets to family and friends. In addition to generous donations of his farm’s fall harvest to a local café and his neighbours, Corey was thrilled to provide pumpkins to Empower Simcoe’s Community Support Services program along with a beautiful Thanksgiving floral arrangement.

For Corey, it’s a way for him to give back to his community, nurture his social skills, and share in something he loves.

Thank you, Corey, for this special gift of gratitude and sharing in those good things that come from the earth.

A Decade of Homelessness

Raised in foster care, Michael frequently moved between homes throughout southern Ontario. By the age of 15, he found himself in Toronto living in temporary shelter accommodation. Over two years ago, Michael moved to the Midland area to be close to his daughter, but found himself couch surfing and accessing a transitional shelter.

After trying unsuccessfully for over a year with his housing search, Michael sought out assistance. When the Housing Access Worker met with Michael, it was determined that he would be a good candidate for the Housing First Program through Empower Simcoe. After the initial application process, Michael was assigned to a caseworker from the Rapid Re-Housing Program. Through advocacy and calls to multiple landlords, Michael was able to find an apartment with a rental subsidy to eliminate the financial barrier that was holding him back from being successful.

Michael is very grateful for all the support he received from the community. His focus is now on personal goals like getting his Ontario Secondary School Graduation Diploma, full-time employment, and being the best parent possible to his two-year-old daughter Olivia.

Overcoming Challenges

Sydney was born premature at 29 weeks with a birth weight of 1 pound 15 oz. The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto cared for her for the first 9½ months of her life. In addition to cardiac surgery at four months, Sydney at eight months of age had surgery to insert a tracheostomy and gastrointestinal tube.

Once home, Sydney became involved with Empower Simcoe Infant Development Program for in-home developmental support, family support and to help encourage community integration for Sydney and her family. Specialized funding for Sydney was received through Respite Enhancement Funds and Special Services at Home. The Innisfil Professional Fire Fighter’s Association graciously donated a generator as a backup power source for Sydney’s medical equipment to ensure she is in the best possible health at all times.

She is an energetic, playful and strong-willed little girl who continues to overcome challenges. According to Mom Jennifer, “Our family is so incredibly grateful for the support from Empower Simcoe. Because of this support, we have been able to adjust to Sydney’s needs and maintain an active and stimulating environment for our family.”

Barrie Advance carrier connects with neighbours

Do you know who delivers your newspaper?  Maybe it’s Darren. One of the people whom Empower Simcoe supports, Darren delivers the Barrie Advance, and has gotten to know just about everyone on his route as evidenced by the friendly greetings from each and every customer in this east end Barrie neighbourhood.

Prior to delivering, Darren assembles his papers. According to Empower Simcoe Support Worker Matt Jeffries, “Darren likes to rock it out in the basement, playing music while sorting the papers. He takes a lot of pride in his job.”

He’s also proud of the relationship he has with the neighbours on his route.  Darren will once again this year purchase Christmas cards to give out for the upcoming holiday season. “I know my neighbourhood pretty well”, says Darren. “I like to go out and talk to people the most.”

He’s also proud of the relationship he has with the neighbours on his route.  Darren will once again this year purchase Christmas cards to give out for the upcoming holiday season. “I know my neighbourhood pretty well”, says Darren. “I like to go out and talk to people the most.”

According to neighbour Kevin Graham, “He’s a good person and always makes me smile. We always talk about his day, and he always cheers up my day.”

Thanks to Darren, this is one neighbourhood that’s hot off the press. Why not? Having him deliver the paper is always good news.

Finding Your Voice

Meet Melissa! She receives support through the Empower Simcoe Employment Support program. Thanks to the support she received from Empower Simcoe, she was able to secure a job at Starbucks.

According to Melissa, “Work has given me a sense of purpose, I’m more happy. I enjoy going to work. It’s been like giving me a gift by belonging to this work family. Working at Starbucks, I feel like part of a team, they treat me like I don’t have a disability.”

Beyond the job itself, Melissa says “[Empower Simcoe] has helped take away a lot of my stress, helped me deal with my rights, and it feels like a burden has been lifted by looking after me and my best interests.  [Empower Simcoe] gave me the fundamentals to speak up, helped me find my voice and backbone. They allowed me to talk, showed me how to do things without doing it for me, acknowledged my disability, but didn’t treat me like I’m disabled and encouraged my independence.”