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Background on Board Members and Staff

Barb Hicks, President


Barb Hicks was one of the founding members of REAL in 1989. Barb moved to the area in 1987 and was working in the computer field, but having graduated from a university program in Environmental Studies, was interested in putting that background to use. Little did she know what was in store for her! Barb has been on the board for most of its history, apart from a few years when her four children were small. Barb took the President’s position from 2007 until summer 2013,  became Secretary-Treasurer in July 2014, and assumed the President position September 2016. She has had a hand in many REAL activities, such as the newsletter, web site, Environment Centre, REAL Deal, Pitch In, and fundraisers. She also works part-time in an optometric office and is on the board of the Otty Lake Association. Barb enjoys reading, movies and cottaging in her free time, and has held many positions on local school councils.

Peter Au, Vice-President

Peter Au


Peter Au, along with fellow educator Ron Stewart, were the inspiration for the formation of REAL in 1989. At that time Peter was a science teacher at SFDCI. Peter served as President of REAL from 1989 until 1997 and again from 2001 until 2007.  In July 2017 Peter  accepted the Vice-President’s position.

Peter is a major player in a number of other organizations, including the Rideau Roundtable, the Chinese Community Association, Trinity United Church and the local immigration partnership. Peter has been recognized as Smiths Falls Citizen of the Year and was presented with a 20 year award from the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, to name just a few of his accolades. Peter “has never met a project he didn’t like” and excels in seeing linkages and getting people of diverse backgrounds involved.

Peter lives in Rideau Lakes with his wife Daisy, and has a grown son and two grandsons.

Jason Takerer, Board Director

Jason Takerer

Jason Takerer joined the REAL board in the fall of 2014, and served as  Vice President from September 2016 to July 2017.  Jason  has engaged in environmental advocacy for a number of years on a professional level and in his private life.  He holds a Masters Degree in Sustainable Energy Policy, and in the past did energy audits for Clean Nova Scotia.  He first heard of REAL in 1999 and considers it an “early adopter”.    He is looking forward to contributing “towards the development of a more resilient community in light of current and emerging adverse environmental impacts at a local level.”  Jason is owns a home in Drummond North Elmsley, and works in Ottawa for CMHC as a Senior Researcher.”

Karen Schecter, Treasurer


Karen Schecter joined the REAL Board in 2006 as Secretary, became Secretary-Treasurer in 2011,  was elected Vice-President July 2014 and became Treasurer effective September 2016.. By day Karen is the Chief Librarian of the Smiths Falls Public Library. One of the original REAL members, Karen has been involved in the newsletter, finance, executive and recruitment committees to name a few. She also played key roles in the Spooner and Chimo School Councils. Karen lives in town with her husband, Jack, has two adult daughters, and enjoys reading and cottaging.

Donna McKenna, Secretary


Donna McKenna joined the Board in 2011, and became Secretary in September 2016.   Donna has volunteered and worked in the delivery of social programs in this community.  Donna retired in the fall of 2015 from a position with the North Leeds area for Community and Primary Healthcare as a Coordinator for Community Support Services for Seniors and Disabled Adults.  Now she has more time on her hands, she volunteers a day a week in REAL Deal smalls.

Donna developed her connection with nature and gardening growing up on a small dairy farm in the area.  She, husband Peter, and three children continued the family farm until 2007 raising Dexter cattle, chickens and turkeys. Donna is committed to growing and preserving her family’s food: “I know everything about how this was grown”.  Donna decided to join the REAL Board after her daughter Marla was a summer student with the organization.  “It was such a positive and great learning experience for Marla working with the staff and volunteers at REAL that I wanted to give something back to them.  I have always been interested in preserving our environment and believe that the work that REAL does to ensure a positive footprint in our community is something that I want to be a part of.”

 Keely Maddock, Board Director

keely again




Hi everyone! My name is Keely.  I am a graduate student at Queen’s University working towards the completion of my M. Ed. As a local Smiths Falls resident, I grew up experiencing the positive impact REAL had on our local environment. I was fortunate enough to spend two summers working for REAL as a summer student assisting with projects and delivering environmental and educational programs. I strongly believe that education extends beyond the classroom and I see informal learning spaces, like REAL and the outdoors, as those that have the ability to connect the public to the environment in interactive, engaging, and meaningful ways.  By serving on the Board of Directors for REAL, I hope to develop new programs and events, and hopefully attract some new supporters! If you would like to talk about program ideas, our local habitat, or amazing hiking spots be sure to send me an email at [email protected]!  

Susan Brandum, Environmental Projects Manager and Executive Director, REAL Deal

Sue Brandum

Susan Brandum moved to Port Elmsley from Toronto in 1996 looking for a lifestyle change. Sue instigated the LLGreen project (Lanark Leeds Green Community) for REAL, which encompassed Lanark, Leeds and Grenville Counties and was the umbrella for many hands-on programs for individuals, including Pesticide Free Naturally, the Green Home Visit, the mall storefront, and later the Well Aware and ecoENERGY home retrofit programs. Sue led the planning, development and opening of the REAL Deal Reuse Store, and today is its Executive Director.

Sue has served on the Board of the Friends of the Tay Watershed (FoTW) and on the Greening of Perth Committee, and has taken particular pleasure in discovering and bringing to light evidence of the original Tay Canal that runs behind her house.

Sue enjoys her pets, bird-watching, splitting wood and reading, and says she is “proud to be called an environmentalist”.

Lorraine Allen – Smiths Falls Town Council Liaison to REAL

Lorraine Allen

Lorraine Allen joined the Board as Liason form the Town of Smiths Falls in January, 2015. Lorraine has been a Smiths Falls Town Councillor since 2010, and also sits on the Downtown Business Association, the Friends of the Library, The Lanark County Community Services and Corporate Services Committees, Smiths Falls Community Food Bank, the Municipal Heritage Committee, Smiths Falls Municipal Drug Strategy Committee, and is a member of the Lanark, Leeds and Grenville Healthy Community Partnership steering Committee and the Historical Society. Her newest involvement is with Safe Travel to School which will start this year.

Lorraine and Larry have been active in promoting and participating in REAL activities from the beginning.  She remembers being impressed with Elva Corless, Barb HIcks and Peter Au’s many projects and was greatly changed by their leadership and expertise.

Lorraine grew up in Smiths Falls and is a retired educator who loves to read, run, hike, snowshoe, and cross country ski and the outdoors.

Angela Gulley-Northfield, Certified Water Advisor

Angela Northfield

Angela Gulley-Northfield began working with REAL in 2007 when she became a Certified Water Advisor for the Well Aware program. Through REAL’s delivery of the program, Angela completed 276 well assessments for local well owners between 2007 and 2011. Currently, Angela is working with REAL on a groundwater monitoring program for homeowners with wells located close to Recurrent Energy’s solar farm installations in Drummond North Elmsley and Rideau Lakes.  Angela has a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Geology from Queen’s University and a Master of Science degree in Hydrogeology from Carleton University. She has provided consulting services for industry, government and non-profits for many years. Angela is also a sessional instructor at Carleton University in the Department of Earth Sciences. She and her husband have twin girls in university, and spend some time maintaining an historic stone house, a garden and a dog.

Al Leonard, Certified Energy Auditor

Al Leonard

Alan Leonard has over 30 years experience in construction and renovation and twelve years experience in home energy auditing. He is knowledgeable, thorough and conscientious and wants the best for you and our natural environment. Alan has extensive education and training in building science and construction and is always striving to expand his knowledge further with additional courses and research. He is an ASNT Level 1 Infrared Thermographer. Alan lives with his wife and daughter near Lombardy.

Shelley Wills, REAL Deal In-Store Manager




Shelley Wills joined the REAL Deal Store staff in mid February 2016.  She was employed at the  Carousel gift store in Portland until the owners retired.  She comes from Newboro, and enjoys knitting and crocheting in her spare time.  Since starting at the store, she has been impressed with the volunteers and how well they work together.  She also enjoys the discovering what treasures await in those boxes that appear in our sorting area!   

Don Mathewson, REAL Deal Renovations  Manager




Don started at the REAL Deal in May 2017.  Don has been a resident of Merrickville for 15 years, having moved from Kanata to escape the congestion of the city for the calm of village life.

Coming from several generations of tradespeople and contractors Don has been involved in many facets of the construction industry. Working in both the retail and wholesale sales of construction products as well as managing construction projects primarily in the area of doors and door hardware, Don brings a wealth of knowledge in both construction materials and practices.

Exploring the villages and backroads of Eastern Ontario is a favourite pastime as well as days spent boating on the St. Lawrence.