Honouring Passionate Volunteers of Victim Services

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 6 a.m. December 30, 2020

For the last two decades, Beata Angyal has donated her time, expertise and language skills to Victim Services Toronto (VST).

A woman holding a glass award
Beata Angyal was honoured as the Victim Services Toronto Volunteer of the Year

The long-time volunteer was honoured with the Sandy Cappadocia Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award at the organization’s annual general meeting and awards ceremony held virtually on December 9.

Angyal has generously donated over 2,000 hours.

“This is truly remarkable,” said VST Program Director Sarah Rogers who met the award winner about 14 years ago when she was a frontline crisis councillor. “Beata is, if not more, enthusiastic and passionate about our agency as the first time I met her. She has been by our side through it all. She has worked side-by-side with our crisis counsellors, providing crisis intervention and emotional support to victims.”

In addition, Angyal offers her Language Interpretation Skills in Hungarian to ensure VST services are accessible to Hungarian-speaking clients.

“Just last week I received an email from her, saying she had translated the entire safety planning booklet,” said Rogers. “That really made my day. She has watched us grow as an agency, adapting to every situation and has stuck by our side through some of the agency’s trying times such as the Yonge St. Van Attack, the Danforth and Eaton Centre Shootings and now through a pandemic. With each situation, Beata has risen to the challenge without hesitation. 

“Whenever we put the call out to volunteers for extra help, she always steps up to the plate, being one of the first to respond. She’s adaptable and grounded, never fazed by the challenge that lies ahead. She’s welcoming and a supportive colleague to all and warms whatever room she walks into. Her charisma, passion, generosity and kindness is infectious. As well, her grounded and steady nature puts us all at ease. Although we have been separated through physical distancing, Beata makes sure we know that she is still there to help, frequently sending positive and encouraging emails of support. It is these acts of kindness that keep us all going in these trying and difficult times.”

Angyal began volunteering with VST while working for the Ministry of the Attorney General Criminal Law Division.

“The Victim Services program was on our floor and one of my friends was a victim of domestic assault,” said Angyal, who retired 10 years ago. “I wanted to do something tangible and was referred to Victim Services Toronto. My 20 years association with the program has been very fulfilling.”

Cappadocia was a 10-year VST volunteer who succumbed to brain cancer in December 2005 at age 33.

For Linda Massey, it was tragedy that introduced her to Victim Services.

Prior to May, 9, 2012, she knew nothing about VST and the extraordinary work they do to comfort victims of crime and sudden tragedy.

Earlier that day, police showed up at her residence with the devastating news that her son, James, had been murdered a short distance from the family home.

The 32-year-old was killed in a midtown park by a gunshot blast at close range.

Shortly after the police left, Massey and her husband, Trevor Massey, received a call from VST.

“The support they offered was not only important to Trevor and me, but to our daughter and her family,” the required school Principal recalled at the time. “All of us benefited from a crisis counsellor who came out to talk to us in our homes, and a grief counsellor was also provided. They were very professional and kind and our family deeply appreciated that.”

Nearly a year after her son’s death, Massey joined the VST Board to perpetuate her son’s memory.

In her last meeting as Outgoing Board Chair, she was presented with the Leadership Excellence Award.

“In Linda’s volunteer application, she indicated she would be interested in any position we had,” said VST Executive Director Bonnie Levine. “With her leadership experience as a retired Principal, she was quickly selected for a Board position.”

In her six years on the Board, she served as Vice-Chair from 2016-17 and Chair for the last three years.

In her position as Associate Director of Professional Learning at the Ontario Principals’ Council, Massey facilitated more than $312,000 in grants to the T.E.A.R (Teens Ending Abusive Relationships) program through partnership projects in the last five years.

She has also donated to the Chief’s Gala, the Yorkville Run and the silent auction.

“When it comes to generosity, Linda is the cream of the crop,” said Levine. “She is always giving, but most generous of all she gives of herself, her time and her expertise. Victim Services Toronto spent what feels like five minutes helping Linda and her family and she has spent the last six years paying us back. Her generosity is truly astounding.”

A group of people holding a framed certificate
Victims & Survivors of Crime Week was marked by Deputy Chief Barbara McLean, TPSB Member Ken Jeffers, VST Executive Director Bonnie Levine, VST Board Chair Linda Massey and Supt. David Rydzik

Massey’s leadership style, said Levine, stands out and has benefitted VST immensely.

“It’s underpinned with kindness, she’s aware of her impact on others at all times and she takes great care in building relationships,” added Levine. “Her genuine care for others makes her a strong democratic leader who not only wants to hear ideas and opinions from others, but she actually goes and seeks them out. She’s measured, thoughtful and deliberate, but she is no pushover. She’s decisive, she gets things done and she can be remarkably firm when the situation calls for it. Linda is a transparent leader. It’s her genuine kindness and transparency that help us her in building trusting relationships with everyone in her orbit.”

Massey thanked VST for the award and said she will always be in the orbit of the organization.

“The work you do is just so important,” she said. “VST is an agency with heart and one that is vital for all of us to support.”

Paul Khawaja, the President of OnX Enterprise Solutions, is the new Chair. Sandra Zisckind, a Managing Partner at Diamond & Diamond Lawyers, is the Vice-Chair.

In the last year, VST helped 22,414 victims, including 8,909 children and youth. 

A total of 2,143 vulnerable victims of a major crime were served.

In addition, 202 volunteered donated 19,162 hours. It costs $84.18 to help one victim of crime or sudden tragedy and $218.52 to operate VST for an hour.

While Toronto is one of the safest cities in the world, Deputy Chief Barbara McLean noted that victimization still occurs and volunteers are needed to step in assist victims.

“Being a volunteer means that you give something of yourself to others,” she said. “It means you are doing it when it’s not required or obligated and it really means you are working with others and in that work, you make those human connections. This year, COVID-19 has really highlighted the challenges and the need for those human connections. You efforts supporting our victims in those darkest moments working side-by-side with members of the Toronto Police Service is important.”

Since the COVID-10 lockdown in March, VST has modified the way in which it offers its unique and innovative programming.

A total of 12 volunteer mentors were mobilized to remotely support frontline services.

“Your volunteering has been slowed, but that is for now and not for ever,” McLean pointed out. “I too welcome the time when we will be back together doing the work that needs to be done in our city.”

Toronto Police Services Board Chair Jim Hart also acknowledged the crucial role of VST volunteers during these challenging times.

“While in many ways life has changed dramatically during this time, the role of Victim Services Toronto remains significant and necessary, providing critical support, counselling, advocacy, advice and guidance  to those whose lives have been touched by violence and crime,” he said. “We know that people are feeling alienated and isolated right now as well as grappling with a range of issues and emotions associated with this pandemic. Sadly as we know, crime hasn’t stopped during the pandemic and the victims of crime still require compassion and care, indeed in some ways more so than usual.”

VST provides crisis response, trauma and support services to victims of crime and sudden tragic circumstances 24 hours a day. 

Supervised by crisis counsellors, volunteers provide crisis intervention and referrals, assist on the telephone or attend the scene as requested, and also help with fundraising and other community outreach initiatives.

Last January, VST was called upon to support 10 families identified in the Toronto area whose loved ones were aboard Ukraine Flight 752 that was shot down minutes after take-off from Tehran. A total of 57 Canadians were among the 176 passengers and crew members who were killed.

The organization and Toronto Public Health also engaged with community stakeholders to develop a collaborative and integrated referral pathway for frequent critical incidents in the city with the potential to scale up to larger mass critical incidents.

Six years ago, VST purchased a trauma dog that has been quite active on the job.

In the last year, Dandy provided support and comfort to 192 clients, mostly young women in the 20s and teenagers. The victims are primarily human trafficking and sexual assault survivors.

The dog often is with clients while they do court preparations with the Crown Attorney and while they testify in court.

TPS crest watermark