On behalf of the Board of Directors for Mills Community Support, and with regret on the one hand and many well-wishes on the other, we announce Mike Coxon’s retirement as CEO of Mills Community Support Corporation, effective July 7, 2017.

Mike Coxon has been the Chief Executive Officer for Mills Community Support for nearly a decade, since 2008, and has had a huge impact on the Lanark County community throughout those years.  From the early days of his tenure, Mike demonstrated his passion for community, his knowledge of the issues facing communities, and an ability to bring people together towards common goals.  Mike brought his expertise in governance, facilitation, person-centred thinking and community development to the organization, and shared these gifts with the broader community. He generously gave of his time to build capacity in other organizations and leaders, teaching by example how we can achieve more by working together. Mike has made things happen in our community, while building a strong team of professionals, volunteers and partners, who now have a deeper understanding of community development principles. Our community is better for Mike’s contributions, and his impact will be felt for years to come.

Members of the communities we serve in Lanark County, as well as those who worked with Mike or benefited from his expertise, can pass on their personal farewells at the first 5Wednesdays in July concert in Almonte on the evening of July 5th. Mike and his family – and, we hope, you – will be there to enjoy an evening of free music, a Civitan BBQ, and the great vibe of the 5Wednesdays in July event. Set in Augusta Street Park, these Wednesday evening concerts are now in their 5th year.

With the support and encouragement of Mills Community Support and other project partners, the Friends of Augusta Street Park have turned this neglected space into a revitalized and welcoming community gathering place which epitomizes the strong community development ethic brought to MCS by Mike. The Park is located in Almonte on the corner of Augusta St. and Marshall St. For more information on the concert series, please check the Facebook pages of Friends of Augusta Street Park or Mills Community Support.

Mike has left some very big shoes for our next CEO to fill, but also a strong foundation from which to build. We are grateful to Mike Coxon for his invaluable contributions during his tenure as CEO of Mills Community Support, and wish him the very best on his retirement journey, wherever that may lead.

A message from Mike

For the past 9 years it’s been my privilege to lead this organization – although I hasten to add, it’s never been a one man show.  To me, and, I hope to staff and Board members, it’s always been about shared leadership.

One of the themes of my time with Mills Community Support has been, and continues to be, We are better Together! So, to those Board members, Board chairs and staff who have been among the “people helping people” – Thanks!

Although I don’t want to create a bigger time-gap between you and some of Omar’s excellent Pizza, I do want to take a couple of minutes to speak about the thinking that might help Mills Community Support on the journey from “good” to “great”.

MCS needs to continue “working in the gap” between institutions (government) and citizens. Projects such as Augusta Street Park, the Neighbourhood Tomato, and Bridging Generations are about much more than basketball courts, raised garden beds or improving water and sewer capacity. It’s much more than potlucks and parks, it’s also pot-stirring to see what positive solutions we can cook up.  These projects have been about people discovering each other’s gifts and making very good things happen.  This is the essence of asset-based community development – and I can decode this term with the following key points:

  • the “assets” are people’s gifts of time, talent, and treasure
  • relationships help people to discover these gifts and to share them
  • building on what we have vs. focusing on what we don’t have creates an abundant and appreciative community

This positive approach to community development is the opposite of something I see happening more and more and which concerns me a lot about society in general – which is how willing people are to trash institutions and individuals especially through social media, without really doing anything to make a positive difference.  I’ve been glad to be a part of encouraging and supporting appreciative community building.

I think this organization has earned a good reputation, regionally and provincially for its “person-centred work”.  In my view, it’s our focus on supporting each individual to move from being a client to a contributor – a citizen – that sets what we do apart from the institutional homes that seem to make the news and which make us feel “the system isn’t working”.  You see, we know Service systems are no substitute for real relationships and real lives.

Whereas, it’s nice to get the accolades of professional colleagues, the truly meaningful evidence comes through the evidence of a positive impact in people’s lives. Our Assisted Living service being top of the chart (by a good average) in the Champlain LHIN’s customer satisfaction rating 3 years running.

One of the challenges for MCS moving forward will be how to negotiate a different relationship with local and regional governments.  We see barriers to inclusion in our communities, such as the need for affordable housing, access to wellness and leisure services, and using transportation assets better to increase mobility.  MCS plays a big role as a service provider in all three areas but the truth is, removal of each of these barriers to truly welcoming communities requires collective effort. 

We still experience too many silos and too little real strategic change. 

Change ain’t easy, but to paraphrase a wise American woman named Hildy Gottleib, we have to believe that we can create the future by:

Creating a shared vision of “what’s possible”? We need to look for collaborators and ask ourselves, “Who else cares?”

We must let go of ways of thinking that limit us, as well as defensive behaviours that actually handicap our capacity to build community

We need to remember to think and ask, “what do we have together that none of us have on our own”?

Finally, thanks to all of you for making my time with Mills Community Support

mostly fun,

certainly a learning experience

and a time in which I believe that some good stuff occurred.

I look forward to seeing MCS continue to play a leadership role in building welcoming communities.  

Please remember: we can create the future AND we are BETTER TOGETHER!