Darlene Bessey is a broadly experienced leader in the non-profit/charitable sector. She lives in Saskatoon and is recently retired having worked for the past sixteen years as a private consultant with public sector and not for profit organizations in the areas of board governance, strategic planning and organizational effectiveness. Through both her employment and volunteer experiences over the past 45 years, Darlene has had extensive involvement in women’s equality, health, housing, environmental and youth issues professionally and through membership on many local and national committees and boards, including the Saskatoon and District Health Board, the Saskatoon Social Housing Advisory Committee, the University of Saskatchewan Community Advisory Board, St. Andrews College, Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan, the Regina YWCA, the Regina Social Development Grants Board, Saskatchewan Council for International Co-operation, Canada World Youth, the Saskatchewan Community Initiatives Fund, YWCA Canada, McClure Place Seniors Residence, Valley Hill Youth Treatment Centre, Crossroads International and Families with Children from Asia. She has been a periodic mentor with the Loran Scholarship program and Leadership Saskatoon.
Darlene was Co-Chair of the Meewasin Matters Campaign (2013-2015), Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Saskatchewan Community Initiatives Fund (2008-2014), Chair of the Board of Crossroads International (2006-2013), Chair of the Board of the Valley Hill Youth Treatment Centre (2011-2013), Chair of the Board of YWCA Canada (2001-2005), Chair of the Saskatoon Citizen’s Centennial Committee from 2003-2007, Vice-Chair of the National Voluntary Sector Forum in 2005 and a member of the Premier’s Voluntary Sector Initiative (2005-2007). She has received the Canada 125 Medal, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal, Saskatchewan Centennial Leadership Award, a YWCA Woman of Distinction award in recognition of her involvement in the Non- Profit sector, and a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
She previously held Executive Director Positions with YWCA Saskatoon, the Saskatoon Community Foundation and McClure Place Seniors’ Residence. She has worked as a program consultant with the Saskatchewan Department of Health, as Regional Program Officer/Provincial Coordinator with the international education program Canada World Youth and Assistant Director of Public Relations for Up With People Inc. educational program for youth. She has had the opportunity to live and work in India and Pakistan and develop partnership relationships with organizations in Asia and Africa.
Darlene has a strong commitment to women’s rights and the achievement of social justice both locally and internationally. As Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Saskatchewan Community Initiatives Fund, Darlene was responsible for providing leadership with respect to the investment of $10 million annually in community based initiatives and as Chair of the Board of Directors of Canadian Crossroads International she worked in partnership with the board and staff to create a strategic plan which focused the organization’s mandate on women’s rights and strengthened its relationship with partnership organizations in Africa and South America. While Chair of YWCA Canada, Darlene worked to achieve consultative status for the YWCA with the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (ECOSOC) and to strengthen the organization’s mission to focus more strongly on advocacy for women’s rights in support of YWCA member organizations throughout Canada. She was Chair and a founding member of the Board of the Valley Hill Youth Treatment Centre (VHYTC) in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, a partnership between the Government of Saskatchewan and the Prince Albert First Nations Grand Council.
The VHYTC opened in September, 2012 and provides treatment and rehabilitation services to Saskatchewan youth aged 12-17 dealing with alcohol and drug addiction. In 2014 and 2015 Darlene co-chaired the successful $8 Million “Meewasin Matters” campaign raising funds to extend the Meewasin Valley Trail in Saskatoon adding 16 miles of trail which is also part of the Trans Canada Trail.
Darlene is currently Chair of the Crossroads International Karen Takacs Fund for Women’s Leadership in Africa which provides an annual grant and educational scholarships to support women’s leadership in Africa.
She is married to Ken Pontikes and the proud mother of an active 21 yr. old daughter, Zoë, who is currently undertaking a Political Studies degree and certificate in Global Studies at the University of Saskatchewan.