Sherry Novak: Honourable Mention, Community Leader Award at 2022 OHS Honours
Health & Safety 2022 OHS Honours Community Leader Award Sherry Novak
For Sherry Novak, watching COVID-19 evolve from a distant curiosity to a crisis knocking on the door was a surreal experience.
“We saw it was emerging in Asia, and we would go ‘I wonder what’s going on over there?’ And then we started seeing the cases in Canada,” said Novak, 2022 winner of Honourable Mention for the Community Leader Award at OHS Honours and the director of inclusive housing and complex supports at Brantwood Community Services in Ontario.
Then came a flood of information from the World Health Organization (WHO), international travel bans and local lockdowns. It also meant a scramble to keep staff and clients safe — Novak works with people with development disabilities and complex medical conditions.
“We took all the guidance we could from the Ministry, and we put it into effect right away,” she said. “We were writing policies every day — even Saturdays and Sundays for weeks. All to keep the staff and people we support safe.”
She gives employers a healthy passing grade for the way they coped with the pandemic, because there was so much change and uncertainty throughout.
“If you followed all the guidance, the screening, the six feet from people, enhanced cleaning – then you’re stopping COVID at the door,” she said. “We might have been a bit more stringent than a normal employer, but we kept people safe.”
They even ran pop-up booster clinics at their location to help ensure vulnerable people could get vaccines faster.
She’s also proud of the fact that 11 community partners came together to do rapid antigen testing under one roof, rather than having multiple sites doing their own testing.
“In three weeks, we had it up and running and we were conducting over 100 tests per week,” she said.
All of that made the pandemic, as hard as it has been, a highlight of her career because it led to so much collaboration.
Winning the award means a lot to her, even though she felt like she was just doing her job over the last couple of years.
“This is work I do every day, so I don’t think of it as anything different,” she said. “So to be noticed and have someone highlight all the things I have done, it’s a proud professional moment. It’s been hard the last couple of years and just for someone to appreciate all the work I’ve done, it just puts a smile on your face and it keep you wanting to do good work every day.”