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Gil Pharand connecting people to what they need

"There are a lot of great causes in this community so its important for people to get involved and get behind them.”

“Rooted” is all about the people and places that make us proud to call our community home.

Connecting people to the services they need. That has been the trend Gil Pharand has set during his time in North Bay which has made him such a valuable member of our community.

“I’ve always been someone who wanted to volunteer and help a cause that I really believe in and a lot of organizations need that help,” says Pharand.

He says, “There are a lot of great causes in this community so its important for people to get involved and get behind them.”

Born and raised down the highway in Sudbury, Ontario. Pharand arrived in North Bay in 2001 landing a job working at Nipissing University as a Senior Development Officer and his focus was to raise money for different scholarships and bursaries for students.  

There is a lot of work that goes into setting those up for the university. As Pharand describes it, there is research into which area needs some assistance and what donors they can approach. He says they often would get people who would set up scholarships on a memorial basis or honour someone who did something memorable.

He says, “I took great pride in that because it is such a necessary piece of a students journey in post-secondary because it makes that education more accessible and allows them to go through it with a lesser burden.”

Pharand was at Nipissing University for 13 years and says there are many of those scholarships and bursaries that are still being handed out to students today that he had a role in developing. As well he sat on the Capital Projects team that developed the Harris Learning Library.

“Everything that happened was student-focused,” he says. “It was a great time to be there as there was a lot of growth being seen and it was exciting to be a part of that.”

There was a stop in between but Pharand went from helping students financially as they get set to begin their “adult life” to helping people in the last stages of their life as he is currently the Executive Director of the Nipissing Serenity Hospice. A service our area did not have until just this past year.

“This is a service that was much needed in North Bay,” says Pharand. “You see families come through here and you watch our care team and how they support and comfort these people who are on their last months and last days and it has just been a really important place.”

He adds, “There is a lot of appreciation the patients and the families have for what’s being done here.”

Pharand’s role is to keep the facility growing and ensure they have enough funds to do that through fundraising. He says, “It is amazing to see how supportive and generous this community is, even during a pandemic, they continue to show their support and they realize the great things we are doing here and the value that we have.”

Before this position, Pharand was a Senior Manager with the Canadian Cancer Society for five years. It was through a personal loss, in which Pharand found his path towards CCS. “My mother passed away from cancer in 2006 and I always said that if I had the opportunity to play a more meaningful role in helping people in through their journeys than I would do that.

“It truly is an amazing place, you get to help people and hear stories of survival and celebrate the lives of the ones we’ve lost and it’s amazing to see not only at the local level but at a national level, the people rallying for the same cause and really come together not only with their funds but their volunteer hours and their support of events.”

Pharand was a part of nine different Relay for Life events in different communities and says, “that was a great time to reflect and see the emotion that people had and it is continuing on the legacy of the ones we’ve lost and continuing towards that goal of finding a treatment.”

Everything Pharand has done has been geared towards helping others. He says, “I think that relates back to my parents. Since I was young, they were always involved in things like our outdoor playground association when I was playing outdoor hockey back in the day. That’s where I got a lot of these values from in that community-driven piece.”

He adds, “Because they were a part of that, as soon as I had kids I wanted to get involved in things like coaching hockey and I have coached hockey since they were young. I helped with the North Bay Minor Hockey Association. I’ve coached baseball, I’ve coached football and a lot of that just comes from those grassroots and everything that was instilled in me as a child.”

Outside of helping out in the local sports scene and his areas of employment, Pharand has been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters and says, “Anything to do with kids I like to get involved with because I know the importance these organizations can have. And I try to get involved in all of the events that happen. If there is a hike for hospice, I’ll come out. I like to do the community runs and bike events and its just a natural extension of mine to try and raise some money for these organizations.”

When Pharand moved from Sudbury to North Bay he didn’t think it would be a spot he would still be in 19 years later as the position was just a nine-month contract, but he says, “North Bay is definitely my home.”

“It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with this city,” he says. “I love the location, the people, the feel. You go outside and you’re surrounded by lakes and trails and bike paths. To me, that is worth so much. And my commutes to work have always been five minutes or less depending on traffic.”

But he says one of the biggest factors that captures his heart about the Gateway City is the way people here support each other.

“The way people get together and get behind ideas is so important, I love this community,” he says. “It is never hard to find something to do in North Bay if you’re looking in the right place and I encourage people to be active and get out and support the organizations in this community. There is so much going on and so many great people making things happen. This stuff is contagious, and anyone can make a difference, they just have to get out there and support.”

When asked about being nominated to be featured in this series he says, “I take pride in the things I do for the community through my employment and my volunteer work. It is nice to get noticed even though it isn’t necessary because you do these things because you care about this community and you want it to be the best place for everyone to live.”

If you have a story suggestion for the “Rooted” series, send Matt an email at [email protected]

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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