The Covenant House Vancouver Board of Directors is thrilled to announce the appointment of Deb Lester to the role of Chief Executive Officer.
Lester has over 30-years of expertise building and leading organizations, governmental initiatives, and groundbreaking projects serving vulnerable and marginalized communities around the world. She is both an established clinician and visionary leader perfectly suited to lead Covenant House Vancouver into its next chapter. Her most recent role was as Director of Health Services for the Canadian Red Cross.
In addition to a degree in Nursing, Lester holds both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration. She teaches Global & Public Health and Leadership & International Development at the Universities of British Columbia and Victoria. Her career has spanned advisory, co-chair, and leadership positions with some of the sector’s leading global bodies.
Lester’s tenure began June 15th 2023. Covenant House Vancouver’s Board Chair, Allan Seckel, noted that she is “an extraordinary and visionary leader who will bring us to the next stage in our progression. Her background in executive leadership with national and international experience will bring a new set of skills, ideas, and connections.”
Seckel added that Lester is “directing all operations in collaboration with the Senior Management Team and staff at Covenant House Vancouver. She will guide our continuing mission of caring for young people and our values of unconditional love and absolute respect throughout the increasing challenges our youth are experiencing as our agency grows from strength to strength thanks to the incredible support of our very special donor base. She is committed to those young people who are experiencing homelessness, those at-risk for homelessness and those who have experienced human trafficking.”
Lester’s appointment follows an extensive recruitment drive by the Board engaging an external agency in support of the search. Lester’s predecessor, Brenda Kumar, shared that “it has been a real honor to serve youth” as Interim CEO. At the end of her successful tenure, Kumar welcomed her successor saying, “our best years are still ahead.” She underlined that Lester’s “values mirror our Covenant House principles.” Kumar returns to her role as Director of People & Culture with “still so much to give.” Seckel thanked Kumar describing how she “capably stewarded the organization” as an “inspirational leader.”
On her first day, Lester noted feeling “huge gratitude and humility to be joining Covenant House Vancouver,” and that, “Covenant House Vancouver’s mission speaks to my heart.” Reflecting on the increasingly high demand for youth services and the uncertainty with sources of funding faced with the cost of living crisis, Lester acknowledged that “the needs of our homeless youth are growing and are in a state that we have never seen before.” She recognizes that the current mental health and psychosocial needs of youth “make youth services the challenge of our time.”
Excited to lead the agency’s work through new programs like Foundations and the ongoing successes of the Community Support Services among many others, Lester concluded by saying that “Covenant House Vancouver’s work is invaluable and fills a huge need in the province and internationally through Covenant House International. I am so looking forward to meeting the community.”
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