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Community Builder Grant

Top Finalists

Meet Our 2023 Community Builder Grant Top Finalists!

This year, as part of our ongoing commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, Colliers Project Leaders created the Community Builder Grant to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of Indigenous youth to their communities.

We heard from an overwhelming number of deserving individuals from coast to coast – all with unique and impactful ideas for community building. We engaged a panel of Indigenous leaders from across Canada, who selected this year’s Community Builder Grant recipients. 

In the coming weeks, we’ll share more about our grant recipients, but we’d also like to shine a spotlight on our Top Finalists and the amazing ways they are contributing to their communities.

2023 Top Finalists

  • Alexa Lizotte headshot

    Alexa Lizotte 

    North Vermilion Settlement

    Alexa’s passion for sharing cultural knowledge and art as a way of community building stood out to the panel.

    Alexa grew up without a connection to her Métis culture and it left her feeling confused about her identity. Now she uses her personal experiences to help bridge cultural knowledge gaps for other youth.

    “With so many Indigenous people, Métis included, going through residential schools, day schools, the Sixties Scoop, and the Millennial Scoop, many of us are not learning our cultural teachings at home, and I hope to fill a small section of that gap by doing the work that I do,” says Alexa.

    As a Métis educator and artist, Alexa creates safe spaces for others to share their life stories and cultural knowledge – helping other Indigenous people connect with their culture, who may not have grown up learning it.

    “I think being so open and honest with my story helps me be a community builder and helps others be receptive to my work. I do not hold myself higher than anyone but invite others to join me on the same level,” says Alexa.

    Alexa is an active community builder! She developed a Métis Women's Group, a Métis Sash program and delivers sewing, beading and history workshops to schools and organizations across Alberta.

    Follow her on Instagram: @desertmetis

  • Ivan Garbutt headshot

    Ivan Garbutt 

    Curve Lake First Nation

    Ivan’s multidimensional approach to community building resonated with the panel. They appreciated his desire to generate a loop of positivity for this generation and the next.

    “Community building creates a ripple effect,” says Ivan. “When we come together, we inspire others to do the same, creating a positive cycle of engagement and empowerment.”

    Ivan believes community building has the potential to transform individuals, neighborhoods and even societies. He consistently dedicates his time to supporting his community by volunteering, organizing events and advocating for important causes.

    Ivan says community building initiatives provide equal opportunities, promote social justice and amplify voices that are often overlooked. He’s a firm believer that every person should have access to the resources, education and support networks they need to thrive. And that’s exactly what inspired his idea for community building!

    Ivan plans to create educational fishing and outdoors’ videos specifically tailored to Indigenous youth and communities. These videos will serve as a powerful tool to preserve cultural heritage by imparting traditional techniques and skills for the outdoors and traditional harvesting practices. Designed to honour and celebrate Indigenous cultures, the videos will showcase the deep connection between the land, water and Indigenous communities.

    “Through these videos, we will inspire the next generation to honour their heritage, embrace the outdoors, and carry forward the legacy of Indigenous wisdom and sustainability.”

  • Jenelle LaFonte headshot

    Jenelle LaFonte 


    The panel was impressed by Jenelle’s big vision for spreading positivity and awareness about the importance of mental health.

    “Community building is important to me because it creates a sense of family and brings people together,” says Jenelle.

    Jenelle runs a t-shirt business out of her home. ‘Better Together’ offers designs that include positive affirmations such as ‘mental health matters’ and ‘spread kindness like wildflowers’.

    With a passion for bringing people together, Jenelle uses every opportunity in front of her! For every shirt sold, a portion of the proceeds are used by Jenelle to organize mental health walks, volunteer events and learning opportunities in her community.

    For the last ten years, Jenelle has been living in a school portable she renovated herself. When her place was just an empty building, she learned how to do her own plumbing and carpentry. She went on to work for Habitat for Humanity as a carpenter, teaching other volunteers how to build.

    Jenelle plans on purchasing and renovating another school portable to create an innovation centre where people can come together. She also plans to move her business into this space, so she can hire employees and offer educational classes for everything from carpentry to cooking!

    “By breaking down the steps and teaching one another we can create a very self-sufficient community,” says Jenelle.

  • Nancy Gear headshot

    Nancy Gear 

    Happy Valley Goose Bay

    Nancy’s sense of dedication to her community was clear to the panel. Giving back is always her priority.

    Nancy was born and raised in Happy Valley Goose Bay and works as the Indigenous Justice Navigator at the Labrador Friendship Centre. She is also on the Board of Directors for the Mokami Status of Women Council as a volunteer, helping ensure their programming best suits the needs of women in Labrador.

    “I have been involved in many forums and committees to speak up about gaps in our systems and to ensure that voices are heard. I often ask community members what they feel we could benefit from,” says Nancy.

    Nancy’s community building idea involves purchasing new recreation materials such as puzzles, wellness journals and volleyballs for the Labrador Correctional Centre (LCC). She says providing wellness tools could be extremely beneficial to people who are incarcerated because they do not receive as much help as other groups in the community.

    “At the LCC there’s often a majority of Indigenous folks, and I feel that providing supplies could assist in reducing recidivism by helping to make it a rehabilitative setting.” she says.

    Nancy also hopes to start a new initiative called ‘Good Mood Mondays’, where she will surprise a different local business or organization with treats each week to brighten their day.

  • Samantha Allan headshot

    Samantha Allan 

    Neskonlith of Secwépemc

    The panel was inspired by Samantha’s drive to advance her education and advocate for Indigenous communities in the future.

    Samantha believes strong communities are the bedrock of society and serve as both a source of inspiration and resilience.

    “As an Indigenous person, I recognize the importance of community building in preserving our cultural heritage, sustaining our traditions, and ensuring our stories and experiences are shared and understood,” Samantha says. “I see it as a tool to empower, uplift, and create a more equitable and inclusive society.”

    Samantha is studying Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria, where she’s gaining knowledge, credibility and legal expertise that will empower her to effectively advocate for Indigenous rights and interests.

    Samantha says equipping herself with a thorough understanding of both Indigenous legal traditions and Canadian law will help her best represent the needs of Indigenous communities, especially in matters of economic development. She plans to help negotiate agreements that benefit Indigenous communities and advocate for better policy inclusion at all levels of government.

    Samantha also aspires to create and offer mentorship opportunities to younger Indigenous youth interested in the field of law and advocacy, so she can help guide the next generation of community builders.

    “I believe in the potential of every individual, and as a community builder, I feel privileged to play a part in creating an environment that helps others realize this potential.”