2016 Activities

Holiday Party

December 15, 2016

We wound up our calendar year with a beautiful festive celebration. Our party at the Dundas Legion was well attended with members, spouses and friends.

This year's event was chaired by Imelda Esporlas-Jewer

We had other volunteers involved who helped make this party a very memorable celebration.

We were very fortunate to have "Swedish Santa" stop by with gifts and good cheer including support for the carolers in the below photo.

This was the second consecutive year in which Rose-Anne St. Jean spearheaded our charitable drive for "Shoe Boxes For Shelters".

Through Rose-Anne's passionate vision and with her guidance, our club members donated enough new items to fill 12 "shoe boxes", as per below photo.

Thank you to every one who organized and participated in our Christmas Party and the "Shoe Boxes For Shelters" Drive.

Holiday Carols with Swedish Santa
Imelda Esporlas-Jewer who is pictured on the left in the photo singing Christmas Carols with club president Karen Wood
A festive evening
Show boxes for Shelters

Youth Leadership Project Graduation

November 26, 2016

The Youth Leadership Program, headed by coordinators Imelda Esporlas-Jewer and Jaime Jewer, concluded another successful 8-week session at the Ancaster Library.

Thank you to everyone for their participation and support in this great community event.

Pictured from left-to-right are: Imelda Esporlas-Jewer, Kyle Bozyk, Amrit Sidhu, Karen Wood (advisor), Carla Antenor, Kavya Mulgund, Rene Riad, and Kenrick Chin (advisor). Absent in the photo were Arjun Sidhu and Jaime Jewer.

Growing Together

November 24, 2016

Club president Karen Wood (right in photo) congratulated the members who achieved Toastmaster International education awards.

The photo shows the four Toastmasters who earned the Competent Communicator Award during the 2015-2016 year.

So far, for the current 2016-2017 year, the club members who have achieved Competent Communicator Awards are Dale Skvereckas, Jacob Lethbridge, John Veerman, Marg DeBoer and Tony Bratschitsch.

Congratulations to our members who are growing together!

From left to right: Tony Bratschitsch, Rose-Anne St.Jean, Sergio DiGiovanni and Karen Wood. Karen obtained her Advanced Leadership Bronze Award

We Remember

November 11, 2016

Members of Valley Town Toastmasters represented the club at the annual Remembrance Ceremony at the Dundas Memorial Cenotaph.

Jacob Lethbridge and Dale Skvereckas placed our wreath at the foot of the cenotaph.

This event has become a time-honoured tradition of our club initially conceived by Kenrick Chin a number of years ago. Kenrick also attended this ceremony equipped with his camera.

Another member of our club, Tony Bratschitsch, was also at the Remembrance Day Ceremony as a member of the Dundas Legion Colour Party.

Thank you to Kenrick for taking the photos.

Lest we Forget
Jacob Lethbridge and Dale Skvereckas placed our wreath at the foot of the cenotaph
Tony Bratschitsch, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion's Colour Party

Scary Meeting

October 27, 2016

We had a spooky meeting in which some of our members embraced the spirit of Halloween.

The scariest part of the meeting was that no one found out who "Freddie" was.

From left to right: Kelly Nash, Freddie, Dale Skvereckas, Kenrick Chin, Marie-Louise Kallsen and John Veerman.


October 24, 2016

Members of Valley Town Toastmasters provided important educational sessions in communication skills to a class in the St. Charles Adult Education Centre in Hamilton.

Long time member, Mark Mullins spear headed the Toastmaster Speechcraft program with the support of John Veerman, our club VP Education, and with advisory help from Karen Wood, club President, and Artur Filc, Treasurer.

Speechcraft is a structured eight-week educational series in which students learn to organize and present their messages in an organized way that suits their own unique styles.

Thank you to our members for providing another valuable contribution to the members of our community!

Mark Mullins (2nd from right, back row), spear headed the Toastmaster Speechcraft program with the support of John Veerman (far right, back row)

Area 51 Champions

October 17, 2016

Valley Town Toastmasters won both of the Area 51 contests that were held in Brantford.

Our club member, Mark Mullins , won the Humorous Speech Contest and he will represent our club and Area 51 in the Division L Humorous Speech Contest on November 4.

Jacob Lethbridge won the Table Topics Contest and he will also compete in the Division L Contest on November 4. Jacob is pictured with Jennifer and with runner-up Diana Parker (former Area 51 Governor) of McMaster Toastmasters.

Congratulations to Mark and Jacob! Thank you to all of our members who attended the contest.

Valley Town Proud!

Mark Mullins is pictured beside Area 51 Director Jennifer Aucoin and contest runner-up Cody Novak from Brant Toastmasters.
Jacob Lethbridge is pictured with Jennifer and with runner-up Diana Parker (former Area 51 Governor) of McMaster Toastmasters

A Taste of Class

October 8, 2016

Valley Town Toastmasters were invited into the home of fellow member Jinani Herath and her husband, Eranda (centre and left, respectively, in above photo), for enjoyment of Sri Lankan food. Also pictured is Marg DeBoer.

This event was another example of the warm generosity that our members show each other.

It was another opportunity for us to mingle and to connect outside the club.

It was also a delight to gobble up another one of Dale Skvereckas' legendary Lithuanian cakes that simply defies imagination!

Thank you, Jinani & Eranda, for your kindness and friendship!

Thank you to Karen Wood for the photos.

Valley Town Proud!

Youth Leadership Program

October 8, 2016

Hosted by the Ancaster Public Library, Valley Town Toastmasters started another Youth Leadership Program (YLP) for youths in our community.

Imelda Esporlas-Jewer, once again has organized this important educational session. Imelda has done so, many times, and she continues to donate her time and effort selflessly for the benefit of young students and their families.

Jaime Jewer, Imelda's daughter and also an experienced YLP coordinator, conducted a part of the opening meeting.

Jaime is a graduate of Valley Town's original Youth Leadership Program in 2009.

Tony Bratschitsch was a guest speaker and a contributor of ideas.

Thank you, Imelda & Jaime!

Imelda Esporlas-Jewer (center) organized this educational session
Jaime Jewer conducting part of the opening meeting

Club Contest Success

October 6, 2016

In what's been declared as our best contest in many years, Valley Town Toastmasters conducted its annual Humorous Speech and Table Topics Contests.

Organized by Chair Marg DeBoer and supported by Chief Judge Dale Skvereckas, the event gave our members opportunities to laugh and learn in a competitive environment.

Top place finishers in the Humorous Speech Contest were, Artur Filc, Mark Mullins and John Veerman. Mark will be representing Valley Town Toastmasters in the Area 51 Contest.

Top place finishers in the Table Topics Contest were, David Hayes, Jacob Lethbridge and Sergio DiGiovanni. Jacob will be our Table Topics representative at the Area 51 Contest.

Thank you to everyone who participated!

from left-to-right, Artur Filc, Mark Mullins and John Veerman with Chair Marg DeBoer
from left-to-right, David Hayes, Jacob Lethbridge and Sergio DiGiovanni with Chair Marg DeBoer

Visiting Belleville Toastmasters

October 5, 2016

Club President, Karen Wood, took the opportunity to attend a distant area contest in our eastern neighbouring District 60.

Karen (far right in photo) enjoys traveling and, whenever possible, calling upon other Toastmaster clubs. In this instance, she was visiting her sister in Belleville.

All Toastmasters should heed and follow Karen's example and take the opportunity to drop into other Toastmaster clubs, anywhere throughout the +120 countries that have them.

Way to go, Karen!

from left-to-right, Artur Filc, Mark Mullins and John Veerman with Chair Marg DeBoer

The Toaster Returns

August 22, 2016

Members of Valley Town Toastmasters pulled off a successful raid at Brant Toastmasters in Brantford. David Hayes, John Veerman and Kenrick Chin (right to left in above photo along with Area 54 Director Jennifer Aucoin) "stole" the prized Golden Toaster when they presented a speech and an evaluation at Brant's meeting.

Our members did quite well with David winning the Table Topics, John earning Best Evaluator and Kenrick winning the Best Speaker awards.

As usual, Brant Toastmasters were great hosts but there was a little incident - as pictured - when Kenrick had to wrestle the Golden Toaster away!

Well done, David, John and Kenrick!

from left-to-right, Area 54 Director Jennifer Aucoin , Kenrick Chin, John Veerman and David Hayes
Kenrick wrestling the Golden Toaster away

Cactus Festival Parade

August 18, 2016

On this beautiful evening, 26 Toastmasters, friends, family (including grand kids) from four local clubs took part in the annual Cactus Festival Parade.

Every year, we participate in this event to raise awareness of the Toastmaster program and to mingle with members from other clubs. This year, members from Brant Toastmasters, First Waterdown, Ambitious City and Access Toastmasters joined us in the parade.

We wish to acknowledge the kindness of our local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion for lending the wheel chair for David's use.

All around, a lot of people from different clubs got together in the true Toastmaster spirit of cooperation and fun.

Thank you to everyone!

Leading our group in the above photo, from left to right, are David Hayes, Artur Filc and Kelly Nash from Valley Town Toastmasters along along with Division L Governor Veronica Taylor, who has been personally supporting this event since 2008. Also within the group is our Area 53 Director Jennifer Aucoin.

New Member

July 21, 2016

Valley Town Toastmasters were pleased to induct Rafa Rettore as a new member. Rafa is from Brazil and is a communications specialist with a MBA in Marketing. She joined Toastmasters to improve her presentation skills.

Rafa enjoys outdoor summer activities, such as hiking and skying.

Welcome, Rafa!

Rafa Rettore (centre) with Area 51 Director Jenn Aucoin on the left and VP Membership Rose-Anne St. Jean on the right

New Member

July 7, 2016

We were happy to welcome Lucas Rettore, as a new member. Lucas is an electrical engineer and he lives in Hamilton. He works in the industrial automation field and he joined Toastmasters to develop his presentation skills to help him advance in his career.

Like many of our members, Lucas enjoys traveling to new places and outdoor activities.

Welcome, Lucas!

Lucas Rettore with VP Membership Rose-Anne St. Jean

2nd Annual Golf Tournament

June 25, 2016

(At the New Knollwood Golf Course in Ancaster)

Valley Town Toastmasters, family and friends participated in our 2nd Annual "Best Ball" Golf Tournament under ideal conditions.

Three teams of four players competed for the "Green Jacket" and was won by (left to right in photo) Al Wood, friend Dave (wearing the Green Jacket) and incoming club president, Karen Wood. The fourth winner, another friend named Dave, is not in the photo.

Afterward, most of us were able to go to the Collins Hotel in Dundas for meals and refreshments.

Generous donors had provided enough gifts for everyone to enjoy.

This fantastic tournament and dinner was organized by Sergio DiGiovanni for the 2nd year in a row.

Thank you, Sergio! It could not have been any better!

(left to right): Al Wood, friend Dave (wearing the Green Jacket) and incoming club president, Karen Wood
This fantastic tournament and dinner was organized by Sergio DiGiovanni (pictured 2nd from left)

New Member

June 23, 2016

We were thrilled to welcome Mbula Enobong as a new member!

Mbula is a Hamilton resident and works as an Early Childhood Educator at a local elementary school. She joined Toastmasters to improve her communication skills and to build her confidence and self esteem.

Mbula Enobong with incoming VP Membership Rose-Anne St. Jean on the right

Annual Barbecue

June 16, 2016

Valley Town Toastmasters had our annual barbecue which was graciously hosted by Carrie and Mark Mullins.

We had live entertainment provided by members of our club: Kenrick Chin, Kerry Dolan, Mark Mullins and Kenrick's future son-in-law, Dan, and Kenrick's son, Patrick. Thank you for a wonderful performance!

There was a lot of fantastic food contributed by everyone.

Thank you to Al Wood (Karen's husband) for being the barbecue chef.

Everything you grilled was perfect, Al!

Outside the Club - On Stage

June 4, 2016 (Submitted by Kelly Nash)

I have been with Valley Town Toastmasters since January 2016 and I have done one speech. One. Despite actually enjoying sharing my ‘Icebreaker’ speech, I cancelled my scheduled second speech three times due to significant anxiety. Each time I decided I was not ready to take that leap. I solved this problem by doing a crazy thing – I signed up for a local speaking engagement where my name was put on a poster, my bio on a website and there was no turning back!

On Saturday, June 4th, 2016, I had the privilege of telling a personal story at Steel City Stories in front of fifty people. This organization presents 4 or 5 storytelling events a year where real people from the Hamilton area share a ten-minute (!) story according to the theme of the night. On Saturday, the theme was "Plan B".

Was I anxious, maybe even terrified? You bet!

Did I faint on stage? No!

Did I make some mistakes? Yes!

Did I enjoy myself? Well…..YES!

Will I do it again? Yes, I am already researching storytelling opportunities across Canada!

What is most important is that I was able to break through my anxiety barrier using the techniques and skills I have acquired performing TM meeting roles and through attentive observation of and listening to my fellow VTTMs as they shared their speeches and stories. You were all a big part of my success!

A special thank you to my mentor, Tony Bratschitsch, for giving valuable advice, feedback and being there to support me that evening!

Kelly Nash telling a personal story at Steel City Stories

Tour, Taste, and Toast

May 26, 2014

Twelve members of Valley Town Toastmasters, thirsty for knowledge, met at the newly established Shawn & Ed Craft Brewery in Dundas an hour before our regular club meeting. After paddling our way through the various craft flavours, we listened to Brewmaster Rob Creighton's lore of the art and craft of microbrewing.

At the right time, we wobbled down Hatt Street to the Town Hall whereupon we conducted our usual weekly meeting properly motivated by the "tastes of toasts".

After our meeting, we then reconvened at the Legion to enjoy another round of "barley discussions".

"Laughing & Learning" (our club vision) done right, safely and with good taste!

Career Presentation

May 25, 2016

Again, another club member, Tony Bratschitsch, stepped outside the club to provide a "Careers in Manufacturing" presentation on behalf of the Halton Industry Education Council to 30 Grade 10 students at MM Robinson High School in Burlington.

Fellow club member Jacob Lethbridge is the HIEC education coordinator.

Tony gives presentation to Grade 10 students

Young Toastmasters

May 15, 2016

Our incoming President, Karen Wood, was the Chief Judge for the Brampton-Mississauga Gavel Clubs Evaluation Contest. Gavel Clubs are a "youth version" of Toastmasters and operate year-round.

This was another instance of one of our members stepping outside the club to expand her comfort zone.

Well done, Karen!

Karen Wood was chief judge for this up and coming toastmasters

Happy Birthday Kenrick

May 6, 2016

Surrounded by friends and family, Kenrick Chin celebrated his 65th birthday in style and good taste. His wife, Julie Byrne (left of Kenrick in photo), welcomed all of us in their home to honour our VP Education and long-time club stalwart.

The centerpiece of the birthday cuisine was the superb cake made by fellow member, Dale Skvereckas, which consisted of "lots of butter and other ingredients" and baked "with great appreciation and gratitude".

For all of the great leftovers that he would have to eat later, Kenrick was gifted with a 1/2 gallon "growler" of beer.

There was great entertainment provided by Kenrick's friends from the choir.

Of course, to top it off, what's a Toastmaster party without a great toast - as provided by the lovely ladies in the below photo?

A great debate event

May 1, 2016

Five members of Valley Town Toastmasters were judges at the 13th Annual Ontario Air Cadet Competition which featured 26 squadrons from Central and Western Ontario. The competition took place at Mohawk College in Hamilton.

We were very impressed with the skills, intelligence and determination of all of the young men and women who debated in this event. It was an honour to serve!

Valley Town Proud!

Valley Town's members, pictured from left to right in the above photo, dressed in civilian clothing, are Karen Wood, Dale Skvereckas, Kelly Nash, David Hayes and Tony Bratschitsch.

Toastmasters In the News

(Every once in while, our members make the news such as the local newspapers, professional journals or association newsletters. Valley Towns Toastmasters strive to recognize those accomplishments in this Activity Centre page.

(Previous articles can be found in this site's "Toastmasters in the News" page.)

New Member

March 27, 2016

Valley Town Toastmasters were thrilled to give a green St. Patrick's Day welcome to new member Nivia Bozyk, right in photo.

Nivia is a Dundas resident and she owns and operates a hair styling business. She joined Toastmasters to improve on her presentation skills.

Welcome, Nivia!

Nivia Bozyk (right) with Toastmaster Marg DeBoer

New Member

March 17, 2016

On St. Patrick's Day, when green is the preferred colour, Valley Town Toastmasters were very pleased to welcome Lisa Anderson (right in photo) as a new member.

Lisa is a Dundas resident with a strong professional networking background. She joined our club to improve her public speaking.

Welcome, Lisa!

Lisa Anderson (right) with Toastmaster Marg DeBoer

New Member

February 25, 2016

Mohamed Abouzahra, right in photo, was inducted in Valley Town Toastmasters as a new member. Mohamad is a PhD student specializing in health medicines. He is interested in improving his presentation skills. Mohamed is seen being welcomed by VP Education, Kenrick Chin.

Welcome, Mohamed! We look forward to growing together!

Mohamed Abouzahra (right) being welcomed by VP Education, Kenrick Chin

New Member

February 25, 2016

Valley Town Toastmasters welcomed Christine Mercer as a new member. Christine is a former project manager who decided to change career paths. She has new ideas in mind and she enrolled in Toastmasters to improve her speaking skills.

Congratulations, Christine, on your new plans!

Christine Mercer (right) being welcomed by VP Education, Kenrick Chin

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway

Toastmaster Presentation at Mohawk College – February 18, 2016 – Karen Wood ACB, CL

(Before I begin my report, I wish to thank my mentor Tony Bratschitsch DTM, who has his finger on the pulse of our community, receives requests from a variety of groups for speakers and provides learning experiences and opportunities for members of Valley Town Toastmasters. So it was with my speaking engagement at Mohawk College.)

[Valley Town Toastmaster Karen Wood (ACB, CL) is shown on the left in the photo alongside the Mohawk College professor.]

A professor at Mohawk College requested a speaker to present the benefits of Toastmasters to her Executive Office Administrative students.

In the age of technology, students tend to have excellent computer skills but lack the softer skills of one-on-one conversation.

In 1924, Dr. Ralph Smedley recognized the need for good speaking and presentation skills and he designed Toastmasters to improve these skills.

Ninety years later these skills are still important and necessary in our lives.

After accepting this challenge, my presentation was arranged for February 18, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. I arrived early in order to park and familiarize myself with the school and find the classroom.

Past exposure to speaking engagements had me stepping out of my comfort zone from our club environment to that of the IODE, Masonic Lodge and Community Food Advisors. This time I managed to ‘turn a corner’ as my comfort zone expanded. One reason for this was the previous experiences and the fact that I was very familiar with my topic; learning to speak with confidence.

I was given a time element for presentation including Q&A. It is imperative that speakers respect time allotments, so I practiced at home with a timer. Since today’s presentations often include Power Point (PP), I decided to use this to demonstrate rules of PP; 4x4 (maximum four words, maximum four lines), use PP as prompt for points to be covered, not read. I took our portable lectern to demonstrate glancing at notes without actually reading them in order to connect to the audience via eye contact, facial expressions and gestures with purpose.

There were approximately 50 students from two classes who sauntered in and took their seats. Their level of focus and interest, both mental and physical, reminded me of times past when dealing with my own children as teenagers.

It was encouraging finding the students still awake and showing interest by the end of the presentation. One thing that helped accomplish this was sharing ways to overcome fear of speaking in public and introducing them to the Superman pose of power. I had them all stand and assume the position. It’s amazing just how invigorating this simple act can be.

After explaining the various components of a Toastmasters meeting, their professor will be introducing them to Table Topics. This will initiate verbal communication combined with the ability to think on their feet.

One student has been asked to be MC at a wedding in August. He was genuinely interested in preparing for the event in August. I gave him my e-mail address so he could contact me and join us when he's ready to attend a meeting as our guest.

I found this opportunity not only very rewarding but the success made me feel good about myself and confident in my abilities to contribute to our community. The learning curve continues. The comfort zone expands.

‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ definitely provides rewards and personal growth.

New Member

February 4, 2016

Our club was thrilled to induct William Peltier (right in photo) as a new member.

William is a computer programmer who enjoys composing music and playing the guitar He is interested in improving his confidence when engaging large audiences.

William Peltier (right) being welcomed by VP Education, Kenrick Chin

New Member

January 28, 2016

Valley Town Toastmasters were delighted to welcome Kerry Dolan (right in photo) as a new member!

Kerry is involved in environmental sciences. She joined Toastmasters to enhance her presentation skills.

Welcome, Kerry!

Kerry Dolan (right) being welcomed meeting chair, Dale Skvereckas

New Member

January 21, 2016

Welcome to new member Kelly Nash, pictured left in the photo, being greeted by Chair Marg DeBoer.

Kelly is a Dundas resident who joined to improve her presentation skills. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast with a passion for sharing adventure.

We look forward to growing together!

Kelly Nash (left being welcomed meeting chair, Marg DeBoer

New Member

January 21, 2016

Chuck was welcomed as a new member of our club by Chair Marg DeBoer. Chuck is a resident of Ancaster and he is an online publisher of fictional short stories. He joined Toastmasters to improve his public speaking in order to address large audiences as he promotes his publication, locally and internationally.

Thank you, Chuck, for sharing the excitement with us!

Chuck Carter (left being welcomed meeting chair, Marg DeBoer

Outside the Club

(This is a photo story written by a Valley Town Toastmaster)

Outside the Club by Karen Wood ACB, CL - January 8, 2016

Prior to leaving for our Florida vacation this year, I perused TMI’s website for clubs within a five mile radius of the addresses where we’d be staying.

In Fort Lauderdale I decided on Point Advanced Club # 808677. A phone call to the listed contact confirmed meeting time and place. Upon arrival, I checked in and was told that the person I’d spoken with was sick.

This night was their International Speech Contest and it was obvious that they were short staffed. I let them know that I was qualified for any duty and was immediately appointed a judge. This club although called Advanced had recently regrouped after years in retirement so they were small and inexperienced. Although their members lacked experience and knowledge for the major roles they held that night, they were enthusiastic and supported by experienced members from neighbouring clubs.

In Orlando I found that daytime clubs meet at odd times and some are closed. So I decided to stick with the weekly meeting of Orlando International Toastmasters Club # 8503. Again I was greeted and made welcome. This was a regular meeting for them with numerous new members filling Executive roles and Meeting Chair. It was obvious that these people were honing skills already present. On this particular evening they had more guests than members due to a field trip by a local ESL (English as a Second Language) group. Members of this group participated even though their English was limited. There were a couple former members in town on business and visited to renew friendships. This club had Jack, a very experienced member, who obviously encouraged new members to get involved and ‘run with it’.

What did I learn from these visits?

I learned that:

  • Toastmaster clubs everywhere struggle with membership

  • Clubs are renowned for filling positions at last minute for a variety of reasons; work, illness

  • The program may vary but the purpose is the same; learning to speak with confidence

  • Valley Town Toastmasters is ‘laughing and learning’ along with the rest and the best of them

  • Members everywhere are stepping out of their comfort zone in order to learn and grow

New Member

January 7, 2016

Valley Town Toastmasters were pleased to welcome Mona Leedale (pictured in the right) into our club as a new member.

Mona is a business owner specializing in customized travel programs. She joined Toastmasters to improve her public speaking skills.

Mona is seen being greeted by Chair Dale Skvereckas.

Welcome, Mona!

Mona Leedale (right being welcomed meeting chair, Dale Skvereckas

Flying High

January 6, 2016

Members of Valley Town Toastmasters conducted another Youth Leadership Program graduation ceremony involving the Royal Canadian Air Cadets.

Cadets from the 735 Firebirds Squadron in Dundas successfully completed their eight week program under the guidance of club members Marie-Louise Kallsen, Jacob Lethbridge and Jenani Herath with support from Karen Wood.

The graduation cake pictured above may not have been the most artistic but it was certainly delicious.

Congratulations to everyone!