Our Board was established in November 2022. We are a Federal Corporation under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. We are a 100% grassroot organization that relies on individuals’ donations. We do not receive grants nor donations from organizations. You can contact us at [email protected]

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Our Board

Mélanie Ouellette, MA, MBA, Chair and Founder

Mélanie created the Ottawa Wildflower Seed Library to foster Indigenous reconciliation, address climate change and empower women through the collecting, sharing and growing of native plants.

Her vision is to create a grassroots movement that is reused around the world so that humans responsibly fulfill their stewardship role in nature through education and sharing seeds for free. Mélanie is the 2023 recipient of the Ecology Ottawa Active & Accessible City Award, given to a member of your community that works to improve urban quality of life and inspires you and your community to advocate for an accessible, sustainable, livable, Ottawa.   

Mélanie has a Master’s in Political Science from Université Laval, a Master’s of Business Administration from University of Ottawa and a Bachelor’s Degree, Joint Honours, in International Relations and International Development Studies from the University of New Brunswick.

She worked for the federal government for Natural Resources Canada and Library and Archives Canada in policy, programming and communications on various issues. She also has experience working with Indigenous communities. 

Her current job is Manager, Strategic and Operational Planning at Engineers Canada where she is responsible for consultations, risk management, planning and reporting. She was previously Manager, Qualifications, in the same organization, where she developed national guidelines to foster harmonization across provincial and territorial engineering regulators. She lives with her husband in Orléans.

Cynthia J. Benjamin, MA, Vice-Chair

Personable, energetic, with a zeal for connecting people, Cynthia lives by Theodore Roosevelt’s adage, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”. As Vice-Chair, Cynthia will put her 35 years of work experience in strategic planning, networking, performance metrics and
training to help the OWSL share its vision and experience with other groups across Canada and beyond; to empower them to do what they can, where they are. She is looking forward to working with a range of stakeholders from citizen scientists, to experts from local groups, through to large international organizations to raise the profile of native plants and their critical role in sustaining habitats, ecosystems and lives.

The natural world is profoundly important to Cynthia. Her favourite project to-date was spearheading the “Inspiration Playground/Community Garden” project from 2012 to 2017, which transformed over 7,000 sf of pavement into an outdoor classroom, community garden (vegetable gardens for the students and their families, and edible shrubs and trees), native plant and pollinator gardens, and a playground. It drew together hundreds of volunteers from all walks of life, found funding and in-kind donations and scored the approval of many levels of bureaucracy to make it happen. For this work, Cynthia received a House of Commons Volunteer Award in 2016 and 2017. The space continues to thrive.

Cynthia has a B.Sc. from McGill University, B.Soc.Sci from the University of Ottawa and an M.A. from Queen’s University. She is the Senior Director of Business Development and Senior Instructor for SETC Training, which delivers IT and professional skills training across Canada. Previously, she worked for 15 years in the federal public service, and 10 years working with a range of NGOs, and private and public sector organizations in Canada and the US. She lives with her partner, a pack of interesting and loveable teens, and a menagerie of creatures in Ottawa.

Erin Kelly, Treasurer

Erin has worked in the non-profit sector for over 20 years, in both culture and health. She worked as an independent bookkeeper for 5 years. She has held positions in small- and mid-sized charities as Director of Finance and Finance Manager, and has also held volunteer Treasurer positions. 

She is educated with the Certified General Accountants of Ontario, has a diploma in Museum Management and Curatorship, and has an undergraduate degree in Geography. She has managed substantial organizational transitions and financial challenges, including charitable registration, COVID-19, natural disasters and structural deficits. 

Having been involved in both local and international charitable organizations, she looks forward to making a difference at the local level with the Ottawa Wildflower Seed Library. While her native garden is still being established, she views her growing relationship with the plants and the local environment as a source of hope. She is a lover of plants, a mother, a sailor and a world traveler.  

Emily Akikodjiwan Brascoupe-Hoefler, Director at Large, lndigenous Community Leader

Emily Akikodjiwan Brascoupe-Hoefler is a mixed media artist and educator who creates pieces of art inspired by her family, community teachings and her experiences on the land. Emily is greatly influenced by plant knowledge shared by her family and is reclaiming lost art practices and traditions to weave new cultural understanding and healing into her work. 

Emily has a vision of promoting First Nation culture and increasing representation in the public space. When Emily is not creating, she may be working as a policy analyst. Emily loves gardening and appreciates learning more about native species and their traditional uses. 

Emily lives in unceeded, unsurrendered Anishinabe territory with her husband and three children. She is a member of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and has Anishinabe, Haudenosaunee, and Irish ancestors.

Margaret Unger, Secretary

Margaret Unger has a Bachelor of Computer Science from Carleton University and pursued further studies at the University of Iceland. She lived for 20 years in Iceland and considers it her other home, continuing to work there remotely for fintech company Five Degrees. Margaret returned to Canada just before the pandemic to assist her aging parents. 

Taking up gardening during lockdown, Margaret found she really enjoyed it and was able to combine her love of nature by gardening with native plants. Additionally, she reads, knits, and is an avid volleyball and beach volleyball player. She lives in Nepean with her partner and two cats. 

Bryana Katz, Director at Large, Event and Community Experience Strategist

Bryana Katz has certification in volunteer administration and extensive experience in event management and social enterprise, and has worked for over 20 years in health promotion program coordination and volunteer management in a non-profit setting. She has a lifelong love of nature and gardening and has long had her hands connected to the earth. Being raised on a small family farm, she sold home-grown vegetables as a child at the local farmers’ market, partook in conventional flower gardening, and then discovered the joy of creating native habitat in her urban microgarden. She regularly chats with all the life in her garden and can be seen at events wearing her monarch butterfly wings to educate and entrance. Creating native ecosystems is her love song to nature.

Shelley Ford, MA, Director at Large, Communications

Shelley has worked in communications for over a decade, in government, charity, and association environments. Currently, she is Assistant Manager, Communications, at Engineers Canada, where she leads a team of Communication Specialists in providing strategic communications support to advance the organization’s work. She holds a Master of Arts in International Affairs from the Normal Paterson School of International Affairs, and a Bachelor of Arts, Combined Honours, in Communications and Political Science from Carleton University.

A lifelong resident of Ottawa, Shelley lives in Ottawa’s west end with her mini schnauzer Abby. Shelley loves to garden, and has been inspired by the Ottawa Wildflower Seed Library to learn more about native plants and seeds. In the summers, Shelley can often be found in her backyard vegetable garden, and in the early fall, she can be found in the kitchen, trying to can, freeze, and eat everything the garden produced. She also enjoys cooking and baking, knitting, crocheting, and painting, and never shies away from taking on a new craft project.