‘I’m re-wiring’: Freiheit announces plans to leave Shepherds of Good Hope

Deirdre Freiheit, president and CEO of Shepherds of Good Hope and Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation. Photo by Caroline Phillips

After nine years of guiding Shepherds of Good Hope toward greener pastures, Deirdre Freiheit is ready to pass her staff of leadership to someone new.

The president and CEO of both Shepherds of Good Hope and its fundraising arm, Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation, has announced her plans to step down June 30.

SGH provides programs and services to chronically homeless men and women in Ottawa and has been focused on getting more people off the streets and out of emergency shelters and into safe, supportive housing.

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“Upon deep reflection over the past months, I believe I have accomplished what I set out to do when I arrived at SGH/SGHF nine years ago this month,” Freiheit wrote in a heartfelt letter emailed Thursday evening to her teams, friends, volunteers and community partners. “In fact, with the outstanding teams that we put in place, we have achieved more than I could have ever hoped. We’ve done it together.”

She expressed her confidence that SGH/SGHF “will continue to support many of the most marginalized people in our community with dignity, grace, compassion, intelligence and a deep belief that there is hope for all who come through our many doors at SGH.”

The letter thanked staff, executive and senior leadership teams, community leaders who have served on both organizations’ boards, and the community partners and volunteers. She gave a special shout-out to the local restaurants and chefs. “Nobody knows the time and commitment they give to us and to so many charitable organizations across the city.”

Freiheit joined SGH in March 2014 after having served as executive director for eight years with Health Charities Coalition of Canada and, before that, president and CEO of the Canadian Lung Association for nearly six years.

“I am not retiring; rather I’m ‘re-wiring,’” Freiheit stated in her letter. “After leading three organizations as CEO during the past 23 years, I have no intentions of taking on another CEO role in my future.

“I do, however, have opportunities to pursue other interests that I’ll be exploring in the coming months.”

Freiheit described the executive and senior leadership teams that she will leave behind as “exceptional.” The foundation has been raising more philanthropic dollars and in-kind donations than at any other point in Shepherds’ history, she noted. 

The letter concludes with Freiheit expressing gratitude for being able to serve her community. “I am forever changed for the better as a result.”

Freiheit has been an “inspirational leader,” SGH board chair Dave Donaldson, retired dean of the school of business at Algonquin College, told OBJ. “She’s built a really strong team and is leaving this organization in amazingly good shape as a result of her strong leadership.”

Freiheit helped the organization double in size while also leading it through an opium crisis and a pandemic, said Donaldson. “The organization has been able to grow and still continue to do its good work to help the chronically homeless, and that can definitely be attributed to her.”

Donaldson expressed his admiration for Freiheit’s leadership and team-building skills. She has worked “extremely long hours” while being a dedicated and passionate advocate in her ongoing efforts to reduce homelessness, he added.

“But I think, at the end of the day, she’s a really nice person.”

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